March 6, 2018

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46.1)

A Place of Safekeeping (1983) 396.3 × 315, acrylic on wood

Towards the end of my MA Visual Art degree (1982–4), I painted A Place of Safekeeping. The work referenced both verse 1 of Psalm 46 and a curious enclosure that was cut into the rock at the rear of the, then, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth’s Visual Art Department, on Llanbadarn Road. It was a ‘man’-made (and, at the time of its construction, a secret) concrete bunker built to store valuable pictures and documents that’d been evacuated from museums and galleries in London during World War II. Here, the treasures were completely safe from aerial bombing, explosions, fire, water, collapse, and discovery.

For the psalmist, God was a strongroom – an unassailable and indestructible refuge that would preserve him from far worse calamities than the blitz: Therefore, I will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea (Psalm 46.2). The works in the bunker were returned to London in 1946. God, however, was his perpetual place of safekeeping, as well as a source of strength. It protected him in the ‘eternal now’ (as the old hippies used to say). Troubles would inevitably come. But this sanctuary was active, concerned, immediate, and remedial. God was not only the refuge, but also inside it, with the psalmist, supporting him, and changing his situation for the better.

5.45 am: I got up after a dismal night’s sleep, and made final preparations for a research trip to Sheffield. (I was last there in 2013.) After dutifully putting away the crockery, utensils, and pans on the draining boarding (my usual morning routine), breakfasted, and dealt with emails that had arrived late last night, I pushed out into the streets and headed toward the railway station:

The notification advised that Borth station (the next down the line) had been closed due to recent storm damage. 7.30 am: Off we went. With an overpriced cardboard cup of PG tips in hand (‘You never learn, Buddy!’), I broke out my computer. Llanbadarn – looking for all the world like a village that Samuel Palmer might have painted – receded into the distance. On with work.

9.16 am: I arrived at Shrewsbury and headed for a watering hole. My next train wasn’t due for another three-quarters of an hour. But I appreciated this slower pace. Parts of my mind began to thaw. 10.00 am: On the Stockport leg. I wish people wouldn’t conduct their business in public on phones. ‘I’ve not paid good money to be in your office!’, I thought:

Over the next few days, business will done (in private), aspirations framed, possibilities explored, and resolutions  (professional and personal) made. I’d made this journey, passed the magnificent Jodrell Bank (where they used to offer a really good beef burger and chips), so many times when visiting my sons at university. The power of the radio telescopes interferes with a mobile phone’s GPS, pulling the marker off the train track and into a field. Why do I always find this so inordinately funny?

10.50 am: Stockport (light and sound):

The journey to Sheffield was slow, and through tunnels and a perpetual phone-signal wilderness. I arrived at 12.10 pm, under the same weather as on the last occasion. Little in the city had changed, as far as I could see.  I’ve a penchant for reliving exactly the same experiences. It’s a close as I can get to time travel:

I took lunch at the Cafe Gallery and joined informal meetings with colleagues in order to discuss a way ahead. All hush-hush and tentative at the moment.

6.00 pm: We ate at a local Italian restaurant. Not ‘proper’ Italian. Nevertheless, they served a darned-good lasagne:

7.30 pm: Catch up. The beginning of reflection. This will be focussed, as it was the last time I was in Sheffield. Indeed, the previous occasion has prepared me for this one, in a number of ways. (Who could have known?) The I. Nothing. Lack. suite was released, quietly, now that the Commission’s permissions had been granted:





March 5, 2018

7.00 am: Awake. Warmer. The radiators were no longer struggling for dominance. After the thaw, a sense of normality has returned. There’ve been some ‘storms’ over the past six months that have changed my ‘landscape’ irrevocably, such that I could not return to the ‘before time’ without acquiring amnesia. There was a storm during the year in which I sat my 11 Plus Exam. The sky over Abertillery went darker than I’d ever experienced before or subsequently anywhere. The lesson stopped abruptly. This was an event to be remembered. We pressed our faces against the classroom window in a spirit of wonder and fear. The sky in the furthest background reddened. If someone had told us that this was the end of the world, we’d have believed them. The torrent broke as I walked home at lunchtime. (I lived next door to the school.) When I got into the house, I hid under my father’s coat and curled up in the armchair until Mam came in from work. The thunder and lightening were fearful; my world was being shaken apart, violently. The experience prepared me for far worse storms to come:

Adumbration (1990) 17.9 × 17.9, acrylic on board

8.30 am: Off to the Old College for a morning of MA tutorials. The divided man:

I’d be running from pillar to post for the remainder of the day. Again, there were a number of significant realisations made during the course of teaching. The best ideas and solutions seem always to arise in the context of conversation. Meg’s palette:

12.00 pm: Off to the station to buy a rail ticket. 12.30 pm: A further tutorial followed by MA inquirer’s meeting. 1.30 pm: I ate lunch over admin. This isn’t to be recommended. But the principle of ‘needs must’ prevailed today. 2.00 pm: A Skype tutorial. 2.30 pm: A collaboration meeting with the head of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales and one of our PhD Fine Arts students. This has the making of a productive working relationship. 3.30 pm: I held two postponed third year painting tutorials before heading home in the rain.

4.45 pm: Catch up, and the last of the packing. 6.45 pm: Off to the Vicarage and to my other life: Holy Trinity Church committee:

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • Things that we make, for which we may have an initial aversion, can in time become objects of our affection. (The reverse is also true.)
  • T: ‘If I tell you which option to choose, then I’ll defraud you of your right to make a mistake.’
  • The work may shout at us for a very long time before we are ready to pay attention.
  • T: ‘What is the nature of the struggle?’
  • We may struggle to know what to do, while at the same time knowing how to do it. (Understanding is not always linear.)
  • Turn your instincts into cognisance. This is of the essence of learning.
  • T: ‘Look at Lowry’s seascapes‘.
  • Style = a consistent manner of working over time.
  • In painting, the solution must be found. For it cannot, first, be known.
  • Discern the principles behind the successful work and, then, adapt them to subsequent works.
  • When we stop being precious about a work, things start to happen. So, let go of your high expectations and let it be.
  • It’s no longer an accident when you turn it to good effect.

March 3, 2018

‘Snow on snow’.
Day on day.
Buried deeper,
Without moving;
Without trace.
‘How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift’

And after the storm came a gentle whisper: ‘Stay quiet still longer, friends’. Birdsong returned. Cars moved cautiously. I could hear my heartbeat. The sky opened. A thaw had begun. But the heart grew colder. Renunciation. (Like a hard winter borne.)

8.00 am: A communion. 9.00 am: Back to Pedalboard III. A trussing was in order – that’s to say, neatly bundling and strapping down the cables and joiners underneath. My shiny trousers (which make me look like a biker-boy) are losing their sheen:

11.00 am: All three boards were tested and optimised. I found this to be an immensely satisfying task. Back to the ‘Men as Trees, Walking’ composition. All the parts of the text had, now, been distributed along the spine of the drum track. It remained, at this stage, to micro-adjust the position and length of each sample.

12.45 pm: My ears could no longer hear. Therefore, I set the composition aside and reviewed the turntable samples that I’d generated on Thursday and Friday. After lunch, I continued. There was less useable material in the samples than I’d anticipated. Far too much silliness, obviousness, arbitrariness, and unimaginative modulation. One must attend to the semantics, syntax, and hermeneutics implicit in the narrative. The text should be the principal determinant of its own interpretation. My present approach may not be the right way to go about things.

For over thirty years, I’ve kept an archive of personal memorabilia. The material covers the period from the year I was born to around the mid 1990s. (I really need to sit down, one day, and talk to myself about my reluctance to let go of things.) Every so often, I’ll draw attention to one of those historical artefacts in this diary.  They have no importance in themselves, other than as an embodiment of a memory about someone or something that was important:

In the 1960s and 70s, Mrs Richards ran the school shop/local store from the front room of her terraced house, four doors up from where we lived in Abertillery. When I visited to buy either chocolate bars (usually) or a can of something for my Mam, she’d invariably draw one of ‘Uncle Alf’s pigeons’ on a sweet packet for me. Uncle Alf and Auntie Nance lived next door to my parents. He kept racing pigeons in a cot ‘out the back’. Neither were related to me. In the valleys, all close neighbours were referred to as either uncle or auntie. Whereas all true uncles and aunties were called by their forenames. Mrs Richards was evidently not a trained artist. But I was captivated by the ‘magic’ of the representation taking place in front of me, and the way in which she adapted the image to fit the format of the paper – which was different on every occasion. Her efforts made me want to draw.

5.20 pm: Roger and out!


*For Amy Seed






March 2, 2018

 It was also called Mizpah because he said, ‘May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other’ (Genesis 31.49)

There’s a tradition in the Old Testament of setting up stones as either a witness of an agreement between parties or to commemorate a significant act of God. Today, we’d regard it as a mode of spontaneous land art, made from raw materials native to the site. Jacob and Laban (the Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long of their day, on this occasion) constructed a pile of stones and titled the work Mizpah (מִצְפָּה) which, in Hebrew, means ‘watchtower’. So, the construction is likely to have made a figurative allusion to a lookout post. Quite apart from its legal status – formalising a separation and marking a division of territories – this collaborative artefact spoke of what would be an enduring bond between these two men. The stones memorialised a desire, namely, that God would watch over them (to keep them true to their commitment and one another) after they’d said farewell. This symbolic watchtower was, then, the materialisation of a mutual compact made in God’s sight. In Jewish culture, subsequently, Mizpah has accrued additional sentiments. It connotes a sense of a long goodbye that isn’t final; of the hope that relationships will endure and be restored once again.

8.00 am: A communion. When I awoke at 3.00 am this morning, the gale had died down. It was quiet enough to hear the roar of the sea in the far distance. Presently, there’s a dull white noise in the air, as the wind pushes itself through the branches of the trees like hair through a comb. In the house, doors, casements, and blinds bang and rattle with the enthusiasm and unpredictability of an avant-garde percussion ensemble. The snow in the garden looked like fine salt:

‘School’s out for Winter!’ (to adapt Alice Cooper’s anthem). The university campus was closed due to the weather conditions. 9.00 am: Medical matters. 9.45 am: Studiology. I completed modifications to pedalboard I. Its power supply unit (a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus) doesn’t have an output higher than 250mA. I needed 300mA to run my greedy Digitech Freqout. Perhaps the effector could be incorporated into pedalboard III instead. (‘Think on, John!’):

11.00 am: I returned to ‘Men as Trees, Walking’. Q: Could the drum track be conceived as the foreground to, rather than the background of, the composition? The voice, then, would assume a subservient position. The composition moved at a pace. There’re occasions in creative practice when the logic of the work’s development is manifest. It’s as though the work is directing its own path and dictating its own form.

Over lunch, I rethought pedalboard III (which has a Voodoo Lab ISO5 power unit) in a bid to incorporate my 300mA-hungry effector. I would ‘potch’ over this, at intervals, throughout the afternoon. 3.00 pm: The effector was attached … but now the board didn’t work. (Sigh!) Throughout the afternoon, samples of the spoken text fell into place effortlessly … as though finding their own place within the whole. I was humbled:

7.30 pm: Betwixt a composition and a failed pedalboard. The latter problem was easily fixed. An oversight on my part. I’d switched off the ‘dry’ signal on the feedback emulation pedal, which meant that, unless the pedal was activated, no signal could pass through it. In contrast, the problems of the composition were self evident, but more time-consuming to resolve. Creative practice is fundamentally about isolating troubles and finding solutions. Art is calculation:

9.45 pm: A breather before the ‘night watch’.

March 1, 2018

12.45 am: A late night. The room through which the moonlight shone, before I lay me down to sleep:

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Into the day: light flakes tossed in the air from place to place:

8.45 am: At the School, I took a hot cup of tea in order to prepare myself for the morning’s session of third year painting tutorials. Some of the students living in the ‘off-world colonies’ (anywhere beyond Machynlleth) may be snow bound today.

9.00 am: Off we go. One of the worst and best aspects of the Edward Davies Building (the School of Art) is its enthusiastic heating system. Today, however, it’s a blessing: fierce and intemperate. In the spaces made by legitimate absenteeism, I got up-to-date with postgraduate admin. (It never ends.) Am I developing a tea addiction?

12.30 pm: Done! If I can leave each student confident that they know what needs to be done in the week ahead, then I’m content. Found painting:

12.45 pm: A research consultation lunch with one of my PhD tutees at a local eatery. We developed a campaign of action. 1.45 pm: I returned to homebase battling with the Siberian wind. I’ve not known it to be so cold in Aberystwyth before. Frosted salt stained  the pavement: a rare phenomenon in these parts:

2.00 pm: I caught up with all the correspondence that had fallen into my inbox, like snow from a laden roof.

2.30 pm: ‘Keep up the pace, John!’ Studiology. I manipulated each spoken account of the two blind men stories separately, modifying the outputs through hand modulators. I’m not keen to over-process the source material. There are several reasons for this. First, because there needs to be a rationale in the text for changing the sonorities of the spoken word; secondly, all types of modulation evoke significances and associations, and not all accord with, or are relevant to interpreting, the meaning of the text; and, thirdly, the sonic characteristics of the source material are often sufficiently engaging in their native state, if presented imaginatively. Economy in all things.

I opened the ‘Men as Trees, Walking’ composition again. To date, I’d not done more than slice-up the relatively short text into sections. To it I added, what I call, my Purcellesque drum track. Immediately something began to gel. Something to push forward tomorrow.

7.15 pm: Following a period of pastoral correspondence, I switched on some of my guitar hardware: Pedalboard I and the Yamaha THR100H Dual amp. I felt the need of a more physical engagement with sound and equipment. My volume pedal had failed:

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • What justification do you have for abandoning a project?
  • The work that you’ll undertake for the coming exhibition should be: a) a declaration of your full potential; b) doable in the time that remains; c) resolvable at the highest level you can achieve; d) coherent in its intent; and e) clear in its realisation.
  • Consider the matter of quantity in terms of not the number of works that you need to produce but, rather, the number of hours that you need to invest in each of the works.
  • By the time you’re thirty, you’ll have finished building the house that is you. Thereafter, its just a matter of adding extensions, knocking down partition walls, putting in more and larger windows, sealing up some doorways, and replacing lost and broken tiles.
  • A student may have facility but no trajectory.
  • We may begin a work in ignorance but develop cognisance of our intent as it proceeds. (Meaning rises to meet us.)
  • It’s what the painting requires, and not what either the subject suggests or you desire, that’s most important.
  • As in life, sometimes you need to paint over (paint out) a problematic area in order to create a fresh foundation on which a better solution can be rendered.


February 28, 2018

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48.10)

The ore in which silver is found contains other less precious metals besides, such as lead, copper, and antimony. In ancient times, one of the processes by which the silver was separated was cupellation. This involved heating the ore in a fierce fire until the silver liquified. Substances such as nitric acid were added, in order to dissolve the silver into silver chloride, along with sodium carbonate, to separate off the dross and leave the silver in its most pure state. This operation, or something like it, is frequently used in the Bible to illustrate the way in which God refines his people. They are impure. But he is committed to removing the dregs and rubbish that would otherwise contaminate their lives: those things which are unworthy, inconsistent, unhelpful, distracting, debilitating, and sometimes downright dangerous. Usually this process takes places constantly, progressively, and in the background, like the action of an anti-virus software (to switch metaphors). But there are also particular times of intense heat when especially recalcitrant refuse is burnt off. Affliction (be that bad health, dire circumstances, crippling disappointment, inconsolable loss, unremitting persecution, or appalling injustice) sometimes serves as the purgatorial fire. While the ordeal is profoundly unpleasant, the fruit is salutary and long lasting. The suffering is not senseless.

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Off to School into a blistering cold that nevertheless enlivened. 9.00 am: A PhD Fine Art Skype tutorial. My students always look far better than do I in this medium:

We discussed the possibility of developing a hypothetical art history module based upon the student’s research. In seeking to explain a complex idea to others, we’re better able comprehend it for ourselves. 10.00 am: What?!:

Could I reinvent myself? Could I pull off a paper on chemical engineering? As of today, I know a little more about refining, smelting, and calcining. I’ve received emails like this ever since my sons began studying science at university.

On with postgraduate admin before and after conducting an undergraduate dissertation advisory session. (The second year students are touting for potential supervisors.) 12.00 pm: A further PhD Fine Art Skype tutorial:

1.00 am: Home for lunch. 1.45 pm: The frost had embedded itself into the tarmac, and produced a curious crystalline pattern:

2.00 pm: Against expectation, an MA inquirer had braved the journey from London to Aberystwyth by train and got here on time. ‘Well done them!’ My ‘interrogation’ of applicant was entirely benign. What’s to be gained from unseating them? Quite apart from the quality of the work, I was curious to know about their ambitions beyond the period of the MA, and why they want to undertake the degree now, of all times in their life.

2.45 pm: Homebase and admin catch up before taking up the cables where I’d left off last night in the studio:

I began the session with the two accounts of two blind men from Matthew’s gospel (one on each vinyl), and proceeded to mix between them, using the stop/start and slider mechanisms. It was a hit or miss operation. So many attempts were necessary in order to secure something worthwhile.

7.15 pm: Studiology. I was prepared to generate a great deal of obvious turntablist tosh before achieving something even barely passable. The night was young. Two-handed manipulation was next on the tables. Better.

February 27, 2018

6.00 am: Arise. The beginning of snow: delicate, light, like a whispered white noise or a off-station image on a cathode-ray TV. And with the snow, a quieting also fell. Only a waking wood-pigeon could be heard. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: I faced down one of the annual dreads: changing my university password. I nailed it in two attempts this year. A record.

9.00 am: I caught up with my emails and issued a weather warning to the postgraduates. Those coming from a far may struggle to either arrive or depart. 9.20 am: I discovered that my new password didn’t work. (Sigh!). But the old one still did! (I feel oddly unsettled; anxious at the edges, and a little lost). 10.00 am: Off to the School. A parked van: white on white:

A notification from our Information Services to alert me that one of the UK-wide journal access sites had been compromised; the passwords of many subscribers had been published. I hastily changed anything that resembled it on all my many many sites. At least my university password now worked.

11.00 am: The first of the week’s MA inquiry consultations was followed by a postponed third year painting tutorial. 12.00 pm: Homeward again. I enjoyed the snow in my face, on my hair and black coat, and under foot. Correspondence came along too. I’m planning a research trip next week and will be revisiting a place that I’d not been to in early four years. (Prior to that occasion, I’d not been there for more than thirty years.) In the past, I’ve done a great deal of thinking and much self-searching there. I’m looking forward to both the work and the opportunity, again.

1.30 pm: Off to the railways station to look at ticket options. 2.00 pm: The weather has disrupted not only the trains but also the smooth running of my teaching diary. Someone with my personality stamp ought to have their clockwork routine disrupted occasionally. 2.30 pm: A Skype tutorial with one of my snow-bound MA Fine Art students. The facility is not as good as a one-to-one encounter; but it’s still possible to do meaningful business:

3.30 pm: The snow had melted, for the most part. I pushed towards the Old College for the remainder of the afternoon’s MA teaching, until 6.00 pm. Rachel’s wall:

7.30 pm: Admin and diary catch up. 8.15 pm: Studiology. I began constructing a processing array in order to modify the output from the dual decks, which I’ll be manipulating over the next few days as I begin generating samples for the ‘Double Blind’ track.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • You can copy another person’s work, in order to pass it off as your own. You can copy, in order to understand how that person’s work works.
  • Cursed are they who find art easy to do.
  • There’s a time for spreading your wings and a time for reigning in your energies. Know the seasons.
  • Go for quality and intensity, and forget about quantity.
  • To create, one must first destroy.
  • The work’s title helps to clarify its focal subject and intent.
  • Too often, we’re try to achieve half-a-dozen things at once in a single work. Therefore, separate and spread ideas over several works.
  • Aim to work in resolved phases. Thus, a painting will appear complete at every stage of its development.


February 26, 2018

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147.3)

‘Time heals’, they say. Or, put another way: we heal over time, usually. In other words, the further we are removed from the hurt, temporally speaking, the better able we are to reconcile ourselves to events, self repair, and move on with our lives. This is an entirely natural process. What the psalmist refers to is a supernatural intervention: God administering a comforting salve in the moment of our need (rather than a long time afterwards). Heartbreak is a type of grief. It’s experienced in response to, for example, the loss or absence of someone we love, separation, a great disappointment, a frustrated longing, or a unrealisable desire. The condition is not a slight thing. Scientifically speaking, you can die from it. Its symptoms are as much physiological as they’re emotional and spiritual. Never blithely tell anyone ‘you’ll get over it!’. They may not, ever. (Time isn’t guaranteed to heal in all cases.) Such can be heartbreak’s profundity. It’s one of a number of wounds that have no obvious outward sign. We carry them around inside, in secret. But God (‘the great physician’) sees, cares (achingly so), sympathises, diagnoses, and prescribes. He does not wish for our hearts and hurts to go unattended.

Over the weekend, I learned of the death of Mrs Eluned Thomas. In my Diary for August 13, 2014 (which was the last time that I saw her), I wrote:

[She was] one of the most gracious and wise women that I’ve had the privilege of knowing. I’d not seen her in many years. Had she lived in biblical times, Mrs ‘T.’ would probably have been considered a prophetess in the mould of Anna (Luke 2.36-8). During the 1980s, she ran a house in Cardiff for single female students. Understandably, Auntie Eluned (as she was called by her girls) drew to her door a succession of male callers on a regular basis … myself included:

6.30 am: I awoke. 7.45 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Admin: email catch up and plans for a week of consultation meetings and teaching ahead, and beyond, and postgraduate matters.

10.15 am: Studiology. I reviewed Saturday’s work on the loudness equalisation of the Bible book mixdowns, before arranging them in their biblical order and across the stereo field, from Left 100% to Right 100%:

I’ve no idea what can be done with it, presently. The imperative was to create an ‘image’ of the totality of the combined recordings. That was sufficient reason for the endeavour. I’ll have to wait until an opportunity for deployment suggests itself.

Over lunch, Pedalboard III was on the bench. Yesterday, it was cutting out, possibly because of a live DC output touching and short circuiting one of the effectors. Of course, it worked perfectly when under scrutiny:

2.00 pm: Back to the texts on blindness. I looked again at a track called ‘Double Blind’ (Matthew 9. 27–31; 20.29–34). The last occasion I dealt with it was in the context of a formidable array of equipment, put together in anticipation of a possible live performance.

However, I suspect that I’m not a performance artist. In the past, my ‘public appearances’ have been largely confined to open-studio events in which I’m making rather than performing. (It’s felt rather like painting plein air under spectator observation.) I’ve rendered guitar-based pieces (scored and improvised) at the close of lectures on my work, and in collaboration with visual artists, reasonably successfully. Perhaps this is a challenge that lies before me. Meanwhile … back onto the decks:

6.30 pm: Practice session. 7.30 pm: I dispatched postgraduate admin and put together the spontaneous ensemble piece, which my ‘Ways of Working in Sound’ group (The Impromptu Aberystwyth University Music Department) made in 5 minutes last Friday.

February 24, 2018

7.00 am: I awoke. There was much to do today. 7.45 am: A communion, followed by a final letter to myself. (To be continued). 9.30 am: A trip to ‘Dickie Snips’, the hairdresser, for my monthly prune. Only the grey hairs were visible against the gown:

I don’t appear to be getting any greyer, presently. ‘Progress’ is intermittent. (Like my life.) My journey to the light side began at 25 years of age, when I developed a distinctive ‘badger’ patch. Both my grandfathers had a full set of snowy white hair by the time they were sixty.

10.00 am: Into the studio and on with finalising the mixdown of individual Old Testament books, before the magna-crunch-down during the afternoon. 10.40 am: Back into town for a long-overdue appointment at the opticians. They’ve so many new ‘toys’ these days. One made arcade-game-like sounds when it moved. I was entranced. I’ve seen the glory of my eyes (to invert the first line of The Battle Hymn of the Republic). ‘Mars!’, I exclaimed. Then, ’embryo!’ What fascinating insights (in the most literal sense of that word) digital photography facilitates into the mechanism of seeing. ‘We are fearfully and wonderfully made’:

1.45pm: After lunch, I returned to the studio for the final overlay of the entire Bible. I wondered whether anyone has ever done this before; and, if so, why. I don’t want to intervene in the proceedings other than to balance each of the track’s output and arrange them across a broad stereo field. This will give the very dense texture some space in which to breath. My initial response to the rough mix was that it sounded like everyone in the world praying quietly together.

While, the tracks were being balanced for loudness (this would take an age), I picked up a guitar, after over a fortnight’s sabbatical, to assess the implications of the recent operation for my dexterity. There’re some things in this world that I’m not willing to relinquish without a fight. Guitar playing is one of them. If I ever develop a deficit; I’ll overcome it. This is the pact that I’ve made with myself. My fingers felt like the feet of a novice ice-skater, at first. Gradually, the muscles will ‘remember’ and the instrument, feel like an extension to my body once again. I’ll take time. The whole guitar collection was in dire need of a restring and some spit and polish. The ‘Strat’ was first on the bench. I love this job. There’s great satisfaction to be had in manual work:

Frets polished and oiled; body waxed and polished; new strings readied for the ‘morrow:

5.15 pm: Down tools.






February 23, 2018

Silence, then …
Discreet, unannounced 

{Silence, that’s
rejection or reserve;
departure or discipline?}

… Then, silence.*

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: I began finalising the texts for the I. Nothing. Lack. album before sending it off to my trusted ‘remote ear’ for a discerning appraisal and feedback. I’ll also need the go-ahead for publication from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, and to initiate further discussions with them about the future of sound/dementia studies. I would not have imagined, a year ago, my work having any relationship with medical science. This was never my ambition; I did not choose this path. It arose, rather, as the natural outcome of a way of thinking and acting. To my mind, this is when the dimension of so-called ‘public impact’ to research is authentic. Too often, the researcher strains to make the work relevant or possess an application that isn’t native to its nature.

I believe in the notions of pure research and art for art’s sake. But I’m also increasingly convinced that art can, on occasion, have a ‘reach’ beyond both its intent and the narrow (in my case) bounds of its assumed audience. The general public are far more receptive to ‘difficult’ work than one might imagine. However, that receptivity needs to be acquired and tutored. The artist has a responsibility to ‘educate’ and grow an audience by initiating a conversation with them. The public aren’t stupid, for the most part. They’re just require an informed context, the tools to hear, an openness to new ideas and experiences, and patient trust.

9.00 am: A view into the studio, where I’ll be returning for the next few weeks:

11.30 am: Off, then, to the see the nurse and be unstitched:

I’ve moved to a village surgery. In contrast to my previous practice, the space is intimate, visually noisy, personable, humane, and technologically ‘lite’ (no screens, automated check-in, and terse robotic voice). The nurse tackled a knotty problem with finesse. There were few ‘ouches’ under the breath on my part. (I was a brave boy.):

1.45 pm: A enjoyed a hastily eaten beans on toast before climbing back onto the study chair. Now that the I. Nothing. Lack. was in the birth canal (as it were), I could return to The Talking Bible project. ‘Now where was I?’

Having completed the digitisation of the vinyl set, I was ready to undertake a superimposition of all the individual files representing the sides of the vinyl discs. This may create an accumulated sound that is either deadpan and obvious or else almost mystical in the outcome. Before I began the process of mixing-down whole books of the Bible, I reviewed the tracks and works related to the album in general that I’d made to date. The experience of undertaking I. Nothing. Lack. has helped to clarify aspects of my approach to this album of works. How often, for me, have the problems of one work been solved in terms of another.

7.30 pm: There’s no shortcut to mixdown on this scale. So, I set the process in motion for the remainder of the evening.



*For Amy Seed