September 22, 2017

6.00 am: Sleep had evaded me. I woke and completed various church orientated tasks that required an immediate resolution. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.45 am: Adminy things to begin, followed a fresh cup of tea and shuffle into the studio. Before induction next week, I needed to finalise aspects of the sound composition – otherwise, I’d find it difficult to pick up the threads again after the dust of inaugural talks and meetings has settled.

9.30 am: I returned to the overlaid sermon composition material, and began to fold sounds on top of each other in order to create an overall timespan of 19 minutes and 45 seconds:

Once the tracks had been stacked, I listened again to ‘The Silences’. (This is the file descriptor rather than the title for the composition. But, sometimes nicknames stick.) If I’m looking forward to hearing a track after a period of abstention, then I know that it works. There’s a tipping point at the completion of creative process when the artist becomes the artwork’s audience also. In that moment, the umbilical cord connecting the maker and the made is severed, and it becomes viable without support. Some artists consider enjoying their own work to be a guilty pleasure. I do not: There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour (Ecclesiastes 2.24).

Never neglect to examine the beginning and ending of a composition before signing off. In particular, pay attention to the relative volume levels. Once the peak amplitudes had been normalised throughout, I let go of the composition. Any longer, and I would start fiddling to little or no effect. While the composition is complete in itself, it may yet prove to be either the background or an accompaniment to something else. I hold all options in an open hand.

11.00 am: Back, then, to the overlaid sermons composition. The multiple overlay creates a Babel-like cacophony. Hectoring in the extreme. I consulted the runes (Oblique Strategies) again. My chosen card asked: Where’s the edge? Where does the frame start? There’s no frame, metaphorically speaking. And the edges of the composition (on the x-axis) are determined by the beginning and ending of the sermons. But what of the y-axis: the vertical dimension defined by the highest and lowest amplitude of the composition? The strategies always provide food for thought – an encouragement to consider the art work … well, obliquely.

I crudely mapped out the progression of each track relative to the others in terms of their amplitude shape (rising and falling from -10 dB to 0 dB):

The implementation was straightforward.

1.30 pm: I bombed into town to do homely business. A buzz was growing as students made their first tentative steps out of their accommodation and into the shops. In my day, the initial expedition was always to buy a mug tree, two mugs (just in case you made a friend), and a yucca plant. They were wide-eyed (but not yet legless), happy, and hopeful … even under the desultory light:

2.10 pm: At the mothership, I picked up the latest PhD Fine Art delivery (which came in at 4lb, I estimate).

2.30 pm: While the four-part overlay mixed down to a single track, I looked over the PhD thesis to eye any obvious anomalies before the text was soft bound and dispatched to the examiners. The mixdown sounded complete, but insufficiently engaging; it required a contrasting counterfoil. What to do? To begin, I played with MacMillan’s recitation of Psalm 23. By decelerating the sample 800%, while preserving the pitch, his voice became painfully plaintive; it’s as though the preacher was experiencing increasing difficultly in thinking and articulating (which are attributes of dementia). I could not use this outcome as an accompaniment. It was too complete in itself, as well as abundantly engaging. All that was required to resolve the composition, is to play it in the chapel and record the piece together with the ambient sounds inside and outside the building. Again, the art, in part, is knowing when to relinquish your grip on the initial idea or intent, and to allow the work to dictate its own path.

7.30 pm:

A list of ‘to dos’ as long as my arm will grow in the next few days. I cleared the decks of all outstanding admin and began to make ready for the semester ahead.