April 23, 2018

One woe doth tread upon another’s heel. So fast they follow (Hamlet)

Sunday. As I entered the church for the morning service, I was told that one of our congregation, and a friend of mine, had taken their own life yesterday. No one had anticipated it. We were in the realms of the unthinkable. She was my age. I’d always admired her spirituality. It was warm, deeply real, radiant, and irrepressible. Her public intercessions were always salutary, pastoral, and full of faith. While battling with insuperable problems of her own, she always had time to respond to the needs of others. Empathy and sympathy was something she had, like the widow’s olive oil, as an inexhaustible supply (2 Kings 4). I knew that if she prayed for me, then God would surely listen.

Her influence for good touched many lives; it was an unacknowledged ministry. She was a giant in our midst. This spirituality had been matured by a lifetime’s walk with God through many deep waters. During the the last few years, she’d trod the ocean’s floor. To her had been given a cup of suffering filled with a profound bereavement and, what proved to be, overwhelming health problems. Silence and sadness are the only appropriate response in the face of such a tragedy. (Remember Job’s comforters.)  Grief has been heaped upon grief.

After lunch, I ran my customary loop around the village of Llanbadarn Fawr, stopping off at the Church in order to catch my breath and reflect upon a great many things:

As evening approached, I looked out of the kitchen window and beyond to where my neighbour was bent over, breaking up the soil of her flower beds with a pitchfork. During the week, she’d pushed, with all her might, a heavy petrol-driven mower up and down a long lawn. Over a year ago, this young woman had lost her husband to a senseless traffic accident. She, now, has to be both a mother and the man about the house. Her indomitable ‘get on with it’ spirit has been an inspiration. I’ve never heard her utter a word of bitterness or resentment. Some people are utterly astonishing.

Today. 6.00 am: Floor exercises. Now that my arm has recovered from the operation, I can return to physical workouts. As part of the general policy ‘to change what can be changed’, and to wage war with my body (in order to forestal its inevitable, slow dilapidation), I’m alternating between mornings of exercise and mornings of running. (Weather permitting.) The indoor regime, presently, begins with a warm-up routine to stretch particular muscle groups from head to toe, followed by sits ups and press ups, and a shower and breakfast to conclude.

7.30 am: A communion. 8.00 am: I conducted administration in advance of the day’s teaching, email correspondence, and messaging, and completed last week’s registers. 9.00 am: An appointment for a fitting at the opticians. 9.30 am: Kassie from Salem, Oregon was in town. She’d spent a semester with us at the School as an exchange student – a period when her life changed immeasurably in so many ways. Her vitality, good humour, common sense, and distinctive way of thinking have remained intact. We supped and caught up on each other’s lives, in Starbucks. (She was astonished that Aberystwyth, of all places, now has one.):

10.30 am: Back at the mothership, admin beckoned. The School has a Periodic Scheme Review on the horizon. There’s a good deal of documentation to prepare and summative overviews to read closely. 12.50 pm: I set up for my final lecture on the Art in Wales module:

2.10 pm: Homebase, and a working lunch (fruit salad). I pushed on to complete the new suite of compositions. Only ‘Aitchay’ was outstanding. The most appropriate extract revealed itself immediately. Each part of the whole has characteristics that are distinct from the others. The parts follow one another in the same order as the original source material proceeds. I refrained from editing within the parts. There was no reason to disrupt their continuity. Some things insist upon their own integrity. 4.30 pm: Back to the School for a pre-review meeting with the other staff.

7.30 pm: I was in a position to import the tracks into the album on my sound site, so that I’d have an initial sense of how the compositions will sound in a streamable mode. The first task was to establish an appropriate bit depth and sample rate in order to create a file small enough to upload to the site without compromising the sound quality. I began writing the album text. This would be a tough call. For I wanted both to explain, while at the same time, conceal the work’s significance. The public and the private aren’t always easily reconciled.

 

April 21, 2018

It’s as though we’d had a very long telephone conversation that was now finished. (But, at the same time, not necessarily concluded or resolved.) However, the person on the other end hadn’t put down their phone; rather, they’d only stopped talking. We remained connected. I was aware that they still listened, and so continued to speak. 

8.00 am: A communion. 8.45 am: The blossoms were in the bud; I await their full flourish with anticipation:

9.00 am: I knew yesterday evening what part of the source mixdown would serve as ‘Enn’, the last piece in the quartet of compositions. The extracted material represents the final twenty minutes leading up to the point when the shortest read text closes. I’d decided that the length of the whole from which I’d derived the four compositions would be determined, or delimited, by its smallest component, so that the four voices would remain in unison throughout. Only on examining the part could I hear the deficiencies in the whole. I returned to adjust the master mix in order to compensate.

There’re moments when the female and the male voices are ‘singing’ together. (‘Wouldn’t that have been a thing?’) Slowing down speech to this degree liberates and accentuates its innate musicality. Towards the conclusion of ‘Enn’, one of the female voices ‘sings’ three ascending notes. It has an epiphanic quality – as though the she’d found, almost at the last, a moment of release and abiding fulfilment. The sound was like a momentary shaft of intense light upon an otherwise dark and unreassuring landscape. I was, to quote C. S. Lewis, ‘surprised by joy’. Quite overwhelmed:

I never weary of being astonished by how a simple conceptual underpinning coupled with a chance procedure, using otherwise unremarkable material (in respect to the sound qualities rather than the content), can produce such an extraordinary outcome. This would not have sounded better had I composed it with the greatest deliberation. It has all the hallmarks of statement, development, and resolution. Or, perhaps, this is how our minds organise it, after the fact.

11.00 am: I turned to the first piece: ‘Jayess’. Ideally, I was hoping to ‘find’ this at the beginning of the three-hour source mixdown. One can but try. Throughout, there’s a slow undulation, like the waves of the sea surging and withdrawing, as each spoken word arises, climaxes, and diminishes:

The composition began, 5 minutes into the source mixdown, with a quiet section, not unlike the closing section of ‘Enn’.

2.00 pm: After lunch, I headed into town, under the sun, to acquit myself of some domestics. I took in the Promenade from the Old College towards the harbour. The high tide (an hour earlier) was receding, but still able to catch unwary walkers at the water’s edge. I’d not crossed this beach since the 13 and 19 November last year, when I recorded the incoming tide and my footfall, in part in preparation (although unbeknown to me, then) for what became ‘Sea Interlude (Still Waters)‘, from the I. Nothing. Lack. suite:

 

The compositions have sonorities reminiscent of my recent preparations for the New Songs suite for electric guitar and effectors (See: ‘test strip’ (March 16, 2018)). In its use of a governing text (albeit spoken rather than written), expansive soundscape, and slow rate of progression, this new suite paves the way for the earlier one. A paradox, of sorts. By the close of the afternoon, ‘Io’ was complete. Only one more to be done.

5.20 pm: A sufficiency.

 

 

 

 

April 20, 2018

8.00 am: A communion. On Discipline: Some years ago, I served as an External Examiner at a northern university for a PhD Fine Art submission by a young Taiwanese Buddhist student. I describe her thus, because her beliefs were integral to her practice. This principle was admirable – an ideal – in my way of looking at things. One of her research aims was to develop a sure-fired means of drawing a perfect circle, freehand, with invisible ink. In order to do so, the student submitted themselves to a rigorous regime of yogic exercises, meditation, a caffeine- and alcohol-free and vegan diet (which, for three months, consisted only of leaves and water), and up to 5,000 prostrations a day over three years. She achieved her goal admirably, again and again and again. The candidate had placed her body, mind, spirit, and lifestyle in subjection to the will, in order for the art to take place. She passed the examination, and I took away lessons that’ve remained with me.

8.30 am: I want to return to swimming in order to develop a regime of holistic physical exercise. But, to do so (having been out of the pool for over a decade), I will need lessons to get me back into my stride (or is that ‘my stroke’). There’s a waiting list for 0ne-to-one tuition, locally; so, this is likely to be a Summer enterprise.

9.00 am: Studiology. The stretched files for my chorale were ready for inserting into the DAW. I processed them on one computer and returned to ‘Saul>Paul’, on another. Once one of the beat tracks that I’d developed yesterday evening was inserted, the rhythms implicit within the spoken text samples were vivified, and fell into what felt like their pre-ordained positions on the spine:

11.00 am: Jiggling. It takes time to recognise other than the obvious possibilities of placing the dynamic stresses of the spoken word either before, on, or after the beat. My experience of playing percussion for the Nantyglo Comprehensive School Orchestra and North Gwent Youth Orchestra, as a teenager, had tuned my sensibility for the task. Some samples stubbornly refused to ‘sit down’. ‘And slaughter against’, was one of the most unruly. There were other samples, however, that worked well wherever you put them. It takes an age to draft just ten seconds of composition. 12.55 pm: I’d complete the first draft of the first section. A good morning’s work.

1.40 pm: I power-walked half way up Penglais Hill, as the (what I call, ‘Bermuda Triangle’) sea mist began to creep over the town. Even on a warm day, this vapour is deathly cold. I rejoined my old GP practice, feeling like the prodigal son returned:

2.10 pm: The second section deals with Saul’s/Paul’s road to Damascus experience: the conversion. Perhaps this should move at a faster and more intense pace. But, first, the texts had to be dissected into smaller, mobile components. 3.15 pm: There were two scratch loops that I’d generated last night that, entirely fortuitously (although I’m questioning the arbitrariness of all coincidences these days), were exactly the same length, so that they could be either synchronised or placed out of phase with each other.

7.30 pm: I assembled four recordings in the session file:

They capture two people (female and male), speaking on two occasions. The female voice is reading two texts, one on each recording, the male voice is narrating his experiences on a journey, as they took place, and a personal confession, again, one on each recording. The content of what was spoken is only of relevance to the speakers and my compositional decisions regarding the emotional tone of the work. Of signal importance, here, is that we hear them talking together at length – an opportunity they were not able to take in real life. The composition is divided into four parts: ‘Jayess’, ‘Io’, ‘Aitchay’, and ‘Enn’. (The number is significant.) They’re, collectively, an encrypted reference to the identities of the speakers. The mood of the composition is, variously, one of yearning, heartbreak, and a sublime mystery. While the content of the speech is rendered indecipherable by the ×20 stretch, the distinction between the female and male voices is retained, as well as certain characteristics of their voices when heard at normal speed.

When I first heard the four tracks played together, I knew immediately that the composition was complete, in this sense that nothing needed to be added to it and nothing should be taken away (other than its length); it’s over three hours long, presently. All the work required was for me to balance the tracks’ volumes and spread them across the stereo field. The composition recalls the slow ascending and descending glissandos heard in my rendering of Marcel Duchamp’s Erratum Musical (1913/2014), and the autobiographical underpinning of The Remnant that Remaineth (2017). Tomorrow, I’ll reduce the total length and subdivide the whole into four parts. To do so, I need a rationale.

 

April 19, 2018

Presently, I cannot see the way forward. But I know, with clarity, that there’s no way back. Because things will never be as they once were. 

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Off to School via Tesco Express, where I bought a light fruit n’ yogurt n’ nut lunch. 9.00 am: Third year painting tutorials. The temperature is rising in more senses than one. I’m in my ‘instil a sense of imperative’ mode. At this point in the process of preparing the students for the exhibition (which opens in one month’s time), the kid gloves are off. They must aim to achieve better than the best that they’re capable of. It’s a matter of personal dignity and integrity in the end. Dogged determination, undiluted hard work, and critical dispassion are the call of the hour:

What I’m saying to one, I’m saying to all at this stage in the development. The distinctions between students and their work get less defined as they start to converge upon a common endeavour: to conclude, refine, prepare, select, and display. Most of the students on the shop floor are well set to meet their target. Others have already done so, by and large. And yet others are still lagging behind, by their own admission. All will cross the finishing line eventually. That’s an expression of my determination and commitment, rather than an inevitability.

Across the board of final year student attainment in fine art, one principle is always conspicuous as they approach the conclusion and apotheosis of their studies. Some who showed great potential in the first and second years haven’t realised it to the full, presently. Others, who’d struggled and lagged behind initially, have exceeded all expectations. Thus it has always been.

1.00 pm: A staff photograph was taken, by the staff on behalf of a student. (It’s complicated.) Getting all staff (and some were missing) together in one place for a single purpose is a task in itself. We behaved like children. (Honestly!):

1.30 pm: After lunch, and in a space made by a tutorial cancellation, I took time out to walk around the town and across the Promenade. Today has been the harbinger of the Summer to come:

2.15 pm: I held a drop-in session for any of my personal tutees who needed their module choices for the coming year verified. There was time to catch up on admin, set out my teaching for next week, update my diary, and, withal, fuel the illusion that I was getting on top of things. I’ve had my first moment of teacherly melancholy, as I reflected on the coming parting of the ways, when students will graduate and go into the world to live their lives.

Mid afternoon, I popped in on Mr Webster’s first year life class. I’m always heartened by the persistence of traditional disciplines such as this at the School, and the genuine enthusiasm that students demonstrate in their engagement.

7.30 pm: Back into the studio to continue stretching sound and finding scratches and clicks as the basis for further beat tracks:

Principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • Avoid playing to your weaknesses. What you like doing is not necessarily the same as what you’re best at doing.
  • The artwork will be judged upon its objective visual integrity, and not upon either how confident you feel about it, or how much you enjoyed doing it, or how much it means to you, or, even, how satisfied you are with the outcome.
  • Making art may not always be a pleasurable experience. But it should be a fulfilling one.
  • You must be convinced that it’s a fight worth fighting.
  • Be patient, and wait to enjoy the fruit of the harvest. Now is the time for tilling the soil, breaking up the rocks, and working by the sweat of your brow.
  • Pictures aren’t babies: they don’t need to be named after you’ve brought them into the world.
  • A title ought to arise out of the work. Ideally, it’s should fit the image like a piece of wood inserted into well-crafted joint prepared for the purpose. Often, the title can, instead, feel as though it has been rudely nailed in place.
  • Prioritise quality over quantity. There’s no point making a few more works when the existing set still needs further refinement.
  • Without a singleminded determination to expend your best hours and energy on the task ahead over the next few weeks, you will disappoint only yourself. Your teachers and your peers wont have to live with that outcome, but you will … for the remainder of your life.

April 18, 2018

Love is a transforming power

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: I power-walked to the School to deposit and retrieve admin, then came home and attended to incoming requests. 9.00 am: In and around admin tasks, I began processing further files, using the temporal stretch software, and cagily assembling dissected samples for the ‘Saul>Paul’ composition. The track beat is not as insistent for this piece. This places more emphasis on the internal rhythm of Scourby’s delivery. Perhaps, the beat track will prove superfluous. Unconvinced. I was in new territory … amid unknowns. This is always a good place to be, creatively:

The internal rhythms appeared to be calling to an external one that wasn’t there. The existing backing track (engaging enough, in its own right) wasn’t gelling with the spoken word. I’d have to design a bespoke track to fit the text. This would be an inversion of my approach to the composition of the ‘Blind’ suite thus far. A rig for this purpose would need to be constructed this evening.

1.40 pm: Off to School and into a glorious Spring afternoon. What a contrast to yesterday! The School looks at its best on days like this:

Our flamingos clearly enjoyed the sunshine:

2.00 pm: I held a drop-in for my MA Vocational Practice students. This was an opportunity for them to receive advice on assessment submissions, to off-load their anxieties, and generally touch base regarding their MA studentship. In between tutorials, I fielded admin and responded to emails as they arrived.

3.45 pm: A PhD Fine Art tutorial. There are times when discussions about art spiral outwards towards the far bigger issues of time and eternity, and inwards to the centre of the soul. Information yields to illumination.

7.30 pm: Even tide:

I cleared my inbox and constructed the rig with which I’d generate additional beat tracks for the remaining compositions from the ‘Blind’ suite. There was a scratch at the beginning of side 4 of the Acts vinyls that’d always sounded promising. It did the job.

 

April 17, 2018

8.00 am: A communion.

8.30 am: It was the type of half-hearted rain that I feel loath to acknowledge by putting-up my umbrella. The tide was high. The wind whipped the sea into a raging swell that beat mercilessly against promenade wall. I enjoy visiting the sea when it’s rough (even though it never comes to see me when I was rough).

9.00 am: Old College:

The first of a day’s MA fine art tutorials. I’ve two tuties preparing for the first of two exhibitions, in May. Both are confident and on course. The discussions were focussed on the principles of exhibiting and captioning. Neither are peripheral to the core business. The arrangement of the work either may or may not serve to articulate the works’ intent, individually and collectively. Ideally, it should also seek to convey some sense of how the artist wishes the works to be received. 10.30 am: Admin catch up.

11.00 am: The remainder of the morning was dedicated to two PhD fine art tutee. A change of gear (upwards). Two uplifting, contrasting, and wide ranging engagements, with exciting prospects for future conferences (to be either attended or convened) to look forward to. It’s encouraging to see both so confident about making an important contribution to their respective fields.

1.00 pm: lunch over admin in the Quad. (A recipe for indigestion, if ever there was one.) There was a more than ample gentleman sitting behind me eating his way through a large portion of fish and chips. I strongly suspected that the two subjects were connected, causally. I’d a fruit and yogurt and granola banquet laid before me. This was part of my drive towards 68 kg (10 stone and 10 ounces): my weight at 25 years of age. I’m presently 4 kg off my mark.

1.40 pm: Back to the mothership:

2.00 pm: I held the first of three MA fine art tutorials before returning to the Old College for my final one of the day, plus a student consultation. The second of my tutees was with the widow of Dave Swarbrick – one of the finest folk fiddle players in the world:

Dave Swarbrick (courtesy of WikiCommons)

She relayed a wonderful anecdote about a meeting that she and Dave had with the Irish folk singing, songwriter, and innovative guitarist, John Martyn. Martyn suffered from gout and told Dave that, as a result, he was due to have one of his lower legs amputated. Dave responded: ‘Can I have your pedalboard, then?’ I was in stitches. What a lovely memory of both musicians*:

John Martyn (courtesy of WikiCommons)

6.45 pm: Having completed my final tutorial, I headed home … shattered, but glad of the day. There are times when I’m buoyed up by the energy and vitality that the students exude. Today was one of them.

7.30 pm: After half an hour dosing on the settee, I returned to admin. In the background, I began the process of temporally stretching the voice samples in readiness for composing. In my mind’s ear, I’m hearing something approaching a chorale for four voices.

 

 

*Many thanks to Jill for allowing me to share her story.

 

April 16, 2018

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139.23–24)

Courtesy of WikiCommons

This was the psalmist’s prayer. He beseeched God to look within, search, and test him regarding his motives. God’s comprehensive and forensic knowledge of our hearts and its desires is a source of both disquiet and consolation. For what we desire is not always either good, ennobling, or helpful. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 19.9). Well, God certainly can. It’s a cess pit for all sorts of evil. Christ elaborated: Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness (Mark 7. 20–23). Our hearts are broken in the most profound and wide-ranging sense of that term. But it’s not a right-off. The heart, along with every other aspect of our humanity, having been made in the image of God, is also capable of acts of beneficence, honour, altruism, and self-sacrifice (Genesis 1.26). (Blessed are the pure in heart (Matthew 5.8).)

God fully and tenderly comprehends the height, depth, complexity, ambiguity, and vacillation of our desires, even before we utter them. This is an immense comfort. For not all of our desires are articulable in words. Some take the form of intense feelings rather than definite thoughts. We can pour them out before him only as sighs, tears, and an aching that radiate from our inner-most being into our bodily frame. They may be feelings that we struggle to comprehend ourselves, even as they sweep us off our feet. It can be a confusing, disconcerting, and utterly exhausting experience. In desperation, we may pray that God will either fulfil or remove them, and that right quickly. He can change even the most profound and deep-seated desires of the heart. But when, in response, he doesn’t, what then? Interpreting their persistence is problematic. It may mean that those desires are God given, legitimate, and to be poured out before him until such time as they’re fulfilled. (Ache on!) Alternatively, the time is not yet right for their extraction, because we’ve still lessons to learn from our suffering. In either case, all we can do is wait and trust – which is of the essence of prayer.

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: After yesterday’s ‘assault’, I felt, today, as though I’d been kneed in the abdomen. Lassitude, mild nausea, and a generalised unsteadiness characterised my disposition. This was a day for working at home, keeping warm, hydrated and medicated, propped up at a computer screen. I devoted the morning to administrative tasks and teaching preparations: dispatching emails, commenting upon students’ statements for the forthcoming exhibition’s catalogue, updating news feeds, and planning for the final section of the term.

The initial announcement has been published for the Visual Theology 1: Transformative Looking Between the Visual Arts and Christian Doctrine (1850– Now) conference. I’ll be a keynote speaker at the event. (If I live that long.):

2.00 pm: After lunch, I re-recorded (a third time) the narratives of the Apostle Paul’s conversion, in Acts chapters 9 and 22, from the discs. The first account describes Saul’s conversion, and the second, Paul’s recount of that conversion:

The compositional process began, as for the other pieces comprising the suite, with the segmenting of the spoken text into discrete package – usually either sentences, clauses, or phrases. The parts divorced from the whole reveal the musicality (the pitch variations and the rhythm) of Scourby’s delivery more immediately. This is a complex pair of texts: disproportionate in length, narratively dense, and with some protracted phrases comprising many words spoken relatively quickly. A challenge to dissect.

The background track is made up of two samples of looped recordings of the spit and crackle of the record’s surface as it tails towards the centre of the disc, each played at a different speed. They meshed perfectly, first time:

In between periods of work, I’ve rested and reflected. Pace is of the essence today, tomorrow, and for the remainder of the week. In the evening, I continued to amend students’ submissions of statements, caught up on emails returning a response to my morning’s post, and began to consider a way forward for a composition for voices, independent of the project at hand, that I’d conceived at the beginning of January. For personal reasons, I’d not had the heart to go on with. Today, I felt honour bound to breath life into it again.

 

 

April 15, 2018

The battle was on the bodily front, principally. Shortly after awaking, I was ‘smitten’ (a good biblical word) by sudden nausea, followed swiftly by intense stomach and intestinal pain and profuse sweating. I’d not experienced the like since contracting a bout of giardiasis (a type of food poisoning) in the Far East many years ago. Today’s episode lasted several hours before receding. My innards felt as though they’d been gutted and rubbed with salt, and my back was painful, which suggests that the kidneys had taken a beating. I knew something was up in the middle of the night, when it became increasingly difficult to pass water.

The culprit, by a process of exclusion, is likely to have been the half bottle of tonic water that I drank in the evening. I don’t drink it often, and usually only on social occasions as an alcohol substitute. (My body doesn’t tolerate the substance.) I strongly suspect that I’ve developed a moderate allergy to quinine. Acute reactions can be fatal, apparently. The kidneys and livers shut down. So, I’ve much for which to be grateful.

But here’s the more interesting bit. The last time that I’d drunk tonic water was the day before the ‘attack’ which landed me in hospital on Good Friday. Then, I’d indulged a far smaller quantity. Nausea and stomach and intestinal discomfort followed – but nothing like as debilitating as that experienced on Sunday. The interval between imbibing and reaction was the same too: one day. I can’t but think that this isn’t a coincidence. (Coincidences are a feature of my life, presently.)

My hypothesis may also explain the elevated blood pressure, which can occur when the body is fighting off an allergic reaction. The chest pains, which had emanated from the breast plate and radiated across the ribs, could have been caused, therefore, by costochondritis. (This is an inflammation of the joints that attach the ribs to the breastplate.)  This possibility had been mooted in my hospital examination. I’ve experienced the condition several times before, as part of the general ME condition, when dealing with food intolerances. My diagnosis may be wide of the mark, but the evidence seems pretty compelling.

Indications for my the only other explanation, namely that the KGB had poisoned me, simply didn’t stack up.

 

April 14, 2018

The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147.11)

Fear and love are unlikely bedfellows in a relationship. On the human plane, they’re opposites and, as such, don’t provide a basis for reciprocity. However, on the vertical axis of human and divine interaction, these two responses are in harmony. ‘Fear'(יָרֵא), in Hebrew, implies an attitude of reverence touched with awe. It’s not, in other words, the emotional reaction of an abused child to a wicked or neglectful parent. God is the maker and upholder of the universe, infinite in power, wisdom, compassion, and mercy, holy, and deeply committed to their lives. Thus, when believers approach him in prayer, a casual frame of heart and mind is inappropriate.

Those that fear God do so, also, in acknowledgement that his love towards them is consistent, constant, and reliable. (He’s not subject to their emotional and ethical vicissitudes.) Like reckless gamblers, they place all their bets on him alone. Because he never disappoints. Because he ‘is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that [they] ask or think’ (Ephesians 3.20). Nothing lies beyond the purview of what’s possible with God. Which is why they can lay before him their most knotty and intractable problems in full assurance that he can and will solve them.

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of this relationship is that God takes pleasure it. Their deep respect for, and unconditional confidence in, him, and the love that he extends to them, gives him satisfaction.

7.00 am: A communion. 9.00 am: Off to the opticians to purchase spectacles, via the relatively new M&S/Tesco roof car park. This platform, high above street level, opens up views of the town that weren’t accessible previously. The companies ought to commission artists to render them. Ben Nicholson would have responded, for sure:

And Richard Diebenkorn would have had a field day:

Aberystwyth is such a wonderfully pictureable place.

9.40 am: At the opticians: ‘Does my nose look too big in this?’:

11.00 am: Studiology. I reviewed yesterday’s mix of ‘The Lesser Light’. It’s not there yet. But before doing anything, I considered, in very clear and definite terms, what was amiss. A failure at this juncture can lead to unnecessary fiddling and undoing. The next mix would be made at a far higher playback volume. I excised the last 2 minutes of the composition, having become aware that there was little more said in that section than had been already been said in the earlier 9 minutes or so. It felt drastic – like hacking off a third of a canvas. But, equally, it felt right. This now placed a major transition point at more or less the dead centre of the composition, temporally: balance, either side of a pivot.

After lunch, I listened to a stretch version of a my first composition for the ‘blind’ suite. It comprises all the incidents of ‘blind’ in the Bible laid end to end. It’s 30 seconds long. The slowed-down version is 5 minutes and 19 seconds. This is exactly the length of the narrative of the man born blind, which is by far the longest account of healing in the New Testament (John 9.1–41). This was entirely fortuitous. But such coincidences give one pause for thought. The stretch version is complete in itself, and sufficiently engaging to stand on its own feet. Therefore, could what serves as a rhythmic background to the spoken text in the other compositions serve, here, as the foreground to the piece? Scourby’s reading would be, then, barely audible – a like a radio broadcast heard in the distance – a kind of background noise.

3.00 pm: I put that aside and reviewed the source material for ‘Saul>Paul’, which deals with the conversion of the apostle, recorded in Acts. The recordings were oddly glitched. Nevertheless, some features might be serviceable. I made preparations to re-record the vinyls.

5.20 pm: ‘Cut!’. 7.30 pm. An evening watching a pop-corn movie: the antidote to all that hard thoughty stuff.

April 13, 2018

7.00 am: A communion. 7.30 am: Admin, and preparations for the week of teaching ahead. Managing time takes times. There’s a great deal of teaching to done, admin to initiate, and research to progress. I aim for a balanced proportion, where at all possible. The pace of the School will accelerate during the weeks leading up to the final BA and MA fine art shows (mid-May). This is the last lap, and the most invigorating period in the academic year.

In the background, Miles Davis’ Go Ahead John (1974) was playing. (I always turn to music as a lubricant when undertaking admin tasks.) The composition, which is a collage of overlaid takes – deftly produced by Teo Macero (one of the great masters of the mix) – was dedicated to John McLaughlin, the guitarist featured on the recording. I’ve often turned to this track as a commendation to myself when I’ve either lost momentum or needed to take courage and move forward against the odds and discouragement in my life and work. The central section is a double-trumpet blues. Achingly beautiful. I hear my heart in it. (And, yes, I too have noticed that I’m referring to the emotions far more these days. Whatever happened to ‘Mr cold, steely, detached, and rationale’?)

In between substantial tasks, I battled with a problem, caused by the recent MacOS Sierra update, logging into the university’s various portals. Sometimes, the tools of one’s trade rebel. I engaged a sporadic email conversation with our Information Services department, to try and find a fix. By lunchtime, the small fry had been dealt with, some student submissions reviewed, and my list of ‘things to do’ contracted to the span of a medium-sized Post-it. The remainder could be done only when my computer problem was solved.

1.30 pm: I reviewed the final edit of ‘The Lesser Light’, listening for stereo field placement and balance, and awkward or too aggressive volume/hi frequency incidents. In several of the quieter passages, I can hear something that sounds like choral singing. Perhaps, I conjectured, I’d found the solution to a project which was conceived only notionally some years back: ‘the singing in the air’. This is a supernatural phenomenon, supposedly, that many witnessed during times of religious revival in Wales and elsewhere. Believers claimed to have heard what sounded like heavenly choirs either in the sky above villages or the rafters of chapels where revival was about to break out.

2.00 pm: Off to town for a haircut. I don’t usually indulge this monthly ritual on a weekday unless absolutely necessary. Aberystwyth has been cocooned in a light fog since the early hours. The distant formations of the land were entirely covered. The Irish Sea dissolved into the sky:

The hairdressers was filled with women bedecked with layered tin foil strips, looking like components from a NASA satellite assembly workshop.

3.00 pm: Back at my desks, I continued the struggle to rectify my computer’s and the Aberystwyth University website’s relationship problems. Alongside, I made further adjustments to volume spikes on ‘The Lesser Light’. (What a bizarre sentence!) Balancing a sound composition is no different in approach to resolving a painting, in my experience.

7.30 pm: I returned to admin. The computer problem had, after much head scratching, been solved. The big fry could now be addressed: postgraduate admissions decisions and a response to the Module Evaluation Questionnaire for our two exhibition modules, which were each scored at 100% satisfaction:

I played The Bible in Translation (2016) in the background. I enjoy listening to my own work. It’s what I want to hear; that’s why I made it. The new album feels as though it’ll be a synthesis for the first two parts of the trilogy, in terms of sonorities and techniques.

The recent gang rape of a young Muslim girl, Asifa Bano, in India has appalled me. Rape at any age is a contemptible act, and a horrific experience for the victim, who may very likely be scarred for life. No one submits to rape; that is, in part, what defines the violation. But when someone so very young and utterly defenceless (as are all rape victims) is set upon by eight men (one for each year of her life) the crime assumes altogether new proportions.

8.30 pm: I returned to reviewing the adjustments made to ‘The Lesser Light’. Some of the sounds remind me the screech made by Tube trains as their wheels bind against the tracks when taking a curve.