Diary (July 16, 2014–September 4, 2018)

October 24, 2014

9.00 am. A ‘warning’ to my colleagues:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 09.40.42

9.15 am. Completed the NSSAW minutes that I’d begun last night and cleared the desk for work on The Bible in Translation exhibition of visual and sound art works. 10.30 am. I’m investigating the possibility of developing a visual response to The Floating Bible sound work:


My initial intent is to digitally copy and then stretch each word (as I’d done for the audio processing of the material) visually. To begin, I need to abstract and index the text and discern the recurrence of words:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.18.24

One of the hallmarks of professional integrity is a willingness to redo from scratch something which may have taken a very long time to achieve, on discovering that a fundamental error has been made — one to which, quite possibly, the audience would be entirely oblivious.  It requires courage and tenacity to do what is necessary.

4.45 pm. An apparition drew me away:


6.15 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. I continued making an inventory of the biblical text while listening to Captain Beefheart’s Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1970). Beefheart (aka Don Glen Viliet) was an abstract/figurative expressionist painter and a musician. You can hear that. His level of innovation and daring meant that he was largely unpopular and a commercial failure. Yet he’s considered to be one of the most significant songwriters of his generation, among those ‘in the know’. (That’s one in the eye for so-called public ‘impact’ ratings.) He exemplifies many of the principles and lessons of creative practice that I, too, stand by: be yourself; what you learn for yourself is more important than anything anyone can teach you; ignore public expectation; let go; don’t ape others; integrate your interests; collide opposites; learn to break the rules, and learn the rules to break; be ambitious and aim for the impossible sometimes, and attempt the difficult always; and don’t try to be an original — either you are or you aren’t. Live with it.

9.40 pm. Practice session 2.

October 23, 2014

9.00 am. I delivered the Art/Sound lecture on spirit and technology. It felt too dense and 5 minutes too long. I’ll prune the text before the next time that it’s out of the filing cabinet. On the day that Tesco announces a significant reduction in profits and its chairman resigns, Aberystwyth’s new Tesco Express is polished in readiness for the opening:


11.00 am. Second year painting tutorials for the remainder of the day. Some observations and principles:

  • When students say ‘to experiment’ they more often or not mean ‘to explore’. The former intent is orientated to process, hypothesis testing, and demonstration; the latter, to a journey through unfamiliar territory and to an open-ended inquiry.
  • A palette knife has its virtues, but injudiciously used it can be, quite literally, a blunt instrument. Square-end, hog-hair brushes would enable them to achieve a similar mark, but with a greater degree of control and variation. Use both, then.
  • The painting that comes too quickly and completely is both a blessing and a curse. The student is suspicious of instant success, and helpless to replicate the conditions under which it was made. Mercifully, such ‘gifts’ are rarely given to us.
  • Students need to see other artists’ paintings ‘in the flesh’ more often. Their visual sensibility is too narrowly circumscribed by the limitations of reproductions.

I’ve been heartened by the progress made by all those that I taught this morning. They are, to a woman, ploughing their own furrow with increasing confidence and facility.

1.05 pm. Lunch in the Quad under Mary Lloyd-Jones’ painted banners. Now, Mr Thomas Ellis has something to point at:


2.00 am. Seeing the students paint makes me want to do the same. Absenteeism was conspicuous this afternoon. Something is amiss, perhaps.








5.10 pm. Close of play. It has been a relentless but a rewarding day.

7.30 pm. I applied myself to research admin. related to the NSSAW project — writing up the minutes of Wednesday’s meeting, and sending out documentation related to both the project and the Evan Roberts CD release, so that everyone involved knows what everyone else knows. Wacked!

October 22, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 10.56.19

9.30 am. My first MA tutorial of the morning engaged a process painter who is exploring dripping paint (as distinct from drip painting or painting drips). Such a simple proposition can have enormous implications.  The study of the phenomenon requires a quasi-scientific methodology, precision, and accountability. The fall of a drop of liquid is also resonant with allusions. As the paint accumulated on the floor beneath the drip, I recalled the stalagmites that I’d seen in the caverns of Castleton, Derbyshire, over the summer, and a childhood fascination with beads of condensation that chased one another down the window pane.

In the second tutorial, we discussed paint in another state — as a stain upon the canvas. Again, this is a rudimentary matter, but one that presents considerable challenges for the artist. For example: developing an authoritative control over the shape, the rate of seepage, and the stain’s degree of opacity and viscosity. Few things in art are either easy or simple. 10.45 am. I held a BA dissertation tutorial with a student who is studying aspects of museum policy and practice in Saudi Arabia.

1.30 pm. I attended the inaugural meeting, held at the National Library of Wales, of my ‘An indexical-interpretive scope of sound documents at the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales’ project:


The project’s objective are:

  1. To assess the holdings of the NSSAW and, guided initially by extant public databases and the archive’s staff, to define a body of material that could form the basis of commissioned sound-art projects.
  2. To develop a descriptive index and interpretive document of the investigative findings suitable for sound artists and historians seeking to develop projects using NSSAW material.
  3. To establish an on-going collaborative relationship with the NSSAW, realized in regularly convened meetings, and the development of ‘policy’ documentation aimed at: (a) promoting the archive’s contents within the professional sphere of sound-art studies; (b) developing a scheme for a second sound-art conference; and (c) producing a schedule of publications and a program of performance projects based upon sound art commissions, to be held at the NLW, School of Art, Aberystwyth University (SoA), Aberystwyth Arts Centre, and relevant public venues elsewhere.
  4. To determine a specific sound source-set capable of sustaining a practical and historical intervention by Harvey. The project would represent a practical exemplification of a sound-art commission based upon the archive, one which would follow on from his earlier research, which was realized in
    R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A (2014).


We also discussed the release, in the next few months, of R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A, which is in the process of being mastered at a recording studio.

2.45 pm. I joined a staff meeting at the School of Art where its first year Fine Art provision and the School’s promotional strategy were under review. 3.45 pm. The final part of the afternoon was devoted to painting tutorials and pastoral consultations.

6.10 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. In the evening, I finalised the second phase of next week’s Art/Sound Workshop 2 project outline:

Holy Trinity Church: Silence

Holy Trinity Church is an Anglican church:
Architects: Middleton, Prothero, and Phillpot

Erected: 1882–6

Nave opened: 1886
Church completed: 1889
Builders: J & D Evans (nave, tower, and transcept); Thomas Hopkins (Chancel (up to the plinth course), vestries, organ chamber, and oak choir stalls). 

General Description:
 Perpendicular Gothic, 5-bay with North West porch; 1 bay transepts, incomplete central tower (designed to have a spire) with North West polygonal stair turret; North East chapel and vestry to 3-bay chancel. 

Bull-nosed rubble masonry with freestone dressings, quoins, plinth band and string courses etc., as well as to chancel blind traceried parapet and East gable end; stepped buttresses; crucifix finial to West gable, others broken. Slate roofs, tiled cresting, eaves band, and pyramidal roof to tower.

3-light ogee double cusped nave windows with transoms and hoodmoulds, shortened to North West over pitched roof with 4-centred Tudor porch reached by steps leading from iron gated entrance. West front has shortened window over paired larger windows with more elaborate tracery and stilted hoodmoulds; central canopied niche. Plain tower faces; transepts have quatrefoil attic lights in square recesses over 5-light (ransomed windows; 2-light window to chancel with hoodmoulds; 5-light East window below 4-light louvered attic with ogee head. 

Similar masonry internally; hammerbeam roofs and crenellated wall plates with shields. Panelled tracery crossing arches with polygonal bases; similar blind tracery over linenfold panelling to East wall. Vacant canopied niches in chancel; sedilia and double cusped piscina.

The church also has one attribute that cannot be accounted for by an inventory of its architectural details, but is, nevertheless, a bi-product of all of them: the ambience. We will be present to experience and expound the relative silence of the interior, as well as adapt the process of what is called ‘deep listening’. This is to sound what life drawing is to vision. The term was coined by Pauline Oliveros (b. 1932), the American composer and developer of electronic art music. It was originally conceived as a means of training performers to respond to the environmental contexts in which they played. Its roots are in certain types of meditative practice. The development of sonic awareness (which is a concept comparable to John Berger’s (b. 1926) notion of ‘visual consciousness’ (Ways of Seeing (1972)) facilitates a greater degree of focal attention than we ordinarily possess.

9.40 pm. Practice session 2. In ‘the night watch’, I worked up the workshop worksheet:




October 21, 2014


The weather was very present today. 9.00 am. The wind buffeted, hummed, and hissed around the ceiling lantern in the lecture theatre: art and sound of a different order. After the morning’s Art/Sound lecture was delivered, I redelivered last Thursday’s lecture (which had failed to record on my dictaphone) to no audience. I was not as self conscious about the absence of listeners as I’d anticipated. The darkness of the auditorium dulls their presence even when it’s full. However, the ambience of the recording is entirely different; human bodies absorb a great deal of sound. One audient came up to me at the end of the first lecture and tactfully drew to my attention a proclivity that I have to confuse left and right when identifying one of a pair of images on the screen. Guilty as charged. I haven’t a clue. My impairment is made all the worse because the left and right images that I’m seeing on my monitor are in reverse orientation to the projection of the same on the screen behind me.

In the Vocational Practice module, afterwards, the group had a thoughtful, wide ranging, and good-humoured discussion about the nature of professionalism in relation to art and art history. I learn a great deal from them. They exhibit an admirable balance of openness and caution, firmness and courtesy. And, they take my jibes well. Good chaps to a woman and man.

1.30 pm. Over lunch, I uploaded today’s and last week’s (failed) podcasts, caught up on module emails, adjusted my schedule for the remainder of the week, and mixed down the Verso/Recto track of The Floating Bible composition:


The first mixdown was back to front, or rather front to back: I didn’t know my recto from my verso. (There’s a joke in there, somewhere.) It has been one of those days. The final track was published to part 2 of the album. Complete.

6.15 pm. Practice session 1. The evening session focussed on developing the project sheet for Art/Sound‘s Workshop 2. The first of two complementary projects:


The workshop provides a two-fold experience: one of noise and another of silence (in the Cageian sense). Both involve attentive listening, but of different orders, intensities, and foci. One of the aims of the workshop is to develop not only the discipline of hearing but also an ability to describe sound phenomenon. As students of fine art and art history, we are used to perceiving with our eyes and mind, and articulating those observations in writing and speech using a language that is native to our subjects. We aren’t as experienced in dealing with acoustic perceptions in the same way. The contexts of listening to noise and silence are the School of Art and Holy Trinity Church (on Trinity Road) respectively. 

School of Art: Noise

The basis of this phase of the workshop is Marcel Duchamp’s Sculpture Musicale (1913). Translated, the fragment of paper says: ‘Musical Sculpture. Sounds lasting and leaving from different places and forming a sounding sculpture that lasts’. The description is of a conceptual work (insomuch as Duchamp doesn’t appear to have acted upon it). However, the statement could just as easily be understood as an instruction for its realization. In the workshop, we will construct the sound sculpture within the context of School of Art. 

The ‘sounds lasting’ will be generated by a sustained electrical waveform fed through an amplifier and speaker. There will be several such units available for installation in ‘different places’ throughout the building. They will need to be of sufficient volume and situated so that they can be, as far as possible, heard together.

Once the sound sources have been installed, the group will move around the building and ‘observe’ their perceptions of the phenomenon. The experience will be articulated on a worksheet and in conversation.

 9.40 pm. Practice session 2.



October 20, 2014


8.30 am. The morning light arises noticeably later as each week passes. Having organised my tutorials for the week and rewrote module material, I finalised the sound files for Matt. 20.25 and publicized the track. Then, I amalgamated all the tracks from Matt. 19.29b to Matt 20.25 into the full recto version. All that remains is for the recto and verso tracks to be combined, and the composition — which began in April — will be complete. This work has had the slowest gestation of any I’ve embarked upon. It consists of 57 tracks made up of 1,289 spoken words, each stretched (by ‘hand’) to 7 minutes and 22 seconds in length.

10.30 am. I drew up the post-publicity for Saturday’s modest excursion into circuit bending. Self-promotion (which one must necessarily engage if there is no one else to do it for you) is an integral part of the creative process: ‘No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick’ (Lk. 11.33). One must ‘get it out there’ by some means or other. I updated my website with an more expansive account of the exercise, and began three sound pieces based upon material recorded on Saturday.

2.00 pm. I continued with the development of the sound pieces while fielding emails.


5.00 pm. The compositions were mixed down and made ready for publication to my Studium site:

  1. Exposed to the air or to view; not covered
  2. She was put in a cubicle with the curtains left open
  3. His eyes were open but he could see nothing


6.00 pm. Practice session 1. 7.15 pm. The ritual mark-up of the Art/Sound lecture — an activity that extended into ‘the night watch’. 9.40 pm. Practice session 2. A productive day — albeit majoring in minors, perhaps. I ended it by consolidating a blog on my circuit-bending spree.

October 18, 2014

8.30 pm. Set up. The rig was assembled in under an hour. Power up. Handboard 1 made an unfamiliar noise, like a clicking pulse, with no obvious culprit. There’s an inevitable terror associated with using a complex electronic network: the prospect of experiencing some unaccountable and unforeseen glitch in the system at the eleventh hour. In the professional sphere of music, the problem would be cheerfully handed over to the sound engineer. In the sphere of sound art, the artist is often the technician too. Having checked the network (I have a procedure for rationally isolating faults), I deduced that the phaser/flanger at the beginning of the chain was errant. Once removed, the network was quieted. Thereafter, hums were quelled, unity gain established throughout the system, and a test recording made. ‘The readiness is all’:


11.00 am-1.00 pm. Throughout the the morning, Open-Day visitors were drawn to the ‘peculiar noise’ (as I heard it described) and into a conversation about my equally strange behaviour: poking fingers into the guts of portable audio devices (which had clearly see better days) and, like some sadistic torturer, prodding them with electrical probes in order to elicit a shriek. Some explanation of my indulgence was necessary, one which took in the history of sound art from 1913 onwards, and the crucial part that painters had played in its evolution:


2.00 pm. After lunch, I was in my stride: noises were coerced from all but one device, looped, superimposed, and variously filtered. I heard sounds that evoked some of Louis and Bebe Barron’s ‘tonalities’ for The Forbidden Planet (1956): the death rattle of circuits in extremis:


3.40 pm. The audio capture will probably not yield any compositional material. That was not the intention. Nevertheless, the outcome may be sufficiently engaging to merit a sonic montage, as a token and document of the day’s efforts. 4.00 pm. Power down. Set down.


6.00 pm. An evening with the family.

October 17, 2014

8.30 am. I uploaded yesterday’s diary, posted emails, and began the last of the individual tracks contributing to The Floating Bible project: Matt. 20.25:


9.30 am. Today I prepared for the circuit bending demonstration tomorrow. While the technique is straightforward, the framework of performance and delivery is not. The name of the game is ‘hazard’, for several reasons. The circuit board is:

  • vulnerable. Having been removed from the protective case, its components and wires are apt to work loose or break;
  • unstable. The process of short-circuiting sometimes involves routing the full 3- volt DC current used to power the device through components that may not be designed to accommodate that charge.  As a consequence, they either weaken or burn out;
  • unknown. There is no guarantee that any productive sound will emerge from the process of probing the circuit board;
  • inconstant. There is no guarantee that, once located, a productive sound can be found again (even when the same two nodes are connected) or sound again, as it did previously.


Because I’m adapting electrical devices to functions that they aren’t supposed to serve, the system throws up a good deal of earth-loop hum (a 50Hz frequency that can drive a sound artist to distraction), which has to be lifted at source. 2.00 pm. Then, a power supply connection failed; then, the Sony Walkman failed; and, then, the transistor radio failed. Better now than tomorrow. They were all, bar one, fixable. However, the broken device encouraged me to try a new technique: applying a current directly to the circuit board’s nodes, rather than via the normal DC input. Other, useable, and unforeseen/heard noises resulted. Principle: a failure may give rise to an opportunity that would not otherwise have been grasped had it been a success:

The system network:

Circuit board handboards (Oct 2014)

Having thoroughly tested the equipment, it remained for me to box it up ready for transport:


6.15 pm. Practice session 1. 7.15 pm. I began setting up the handboards at the School. I’ll now be able to install the whole rig, section by section, in the single gallery tomorrow morning. The School’s ‘ghosts’ didn’t show or murmur, yet again. They’re a dead loss.

9.40 pm. Practice session 2.

October 16, 2014


8.15 am. I set out for the School of Art at exactly the same time as I left home to catch a bus to my secondary school. ‘A pattern for life’, as they say. 9.00 am. The second Art/Sound lecture of the week. I feel as though we’ve covered a great deal of ground, and yet there is much more to come:


10.15 am. My weekly walk to the Old College. On this occasion, it was via the charity shops; I went in search of an old analogue radio and cheap children’s toys that go ‘beep’ and ‘mmmm’, etc — cadavers for my circuit bending practice.  11.00 am, and the beginning of my third-year painting tutorial schedule. Some lessons, observations, and opinions:

  • Students need to develop a sober estimation of their own work. Some either right-off their achievements in a too cavalier manner or else laud them to the heavens, unjustifiably.
  • There is a great deal of difference between an intent and an idea. An intent may get you no further than the next step in the process of creative endeavour; whereas an idea encompasses and directs the totality of the endeavour.
  • I expect only three things of students and their work: integrity, quality, and authenticity. This is the baseline of my personal expectation too.
  • Some students a very concerned about what friends will think about their work — the subject matter, especially. (That thought never occurred to me when I was an art student.) The uncertainty fosters a restrictive conservatism and a desire to please. Why to they crave acceptance?
  • Heed the work! It wants to tell you something.
  • Students need to drill deep in one spot. Only then are the likely to strike oil.
  • ‘Experimentation’ (and the term is rarely used in its proper scientific sense) in relation to either paint, technique, or subject matter, can degenerate into a time-filling activism. One doesn’t need to know, or to acquire dexterity in, so many things at once; one needs only enough to make a single painting, in the first instance.

One student discovered a rather poorly rendered, desultory, and discarded painting made by another student, and whitewashed over it. In so doing, they transformed it into an acceptable picture. Who, now, is the work’s ‘author’: the one who began or the one who completed it?:


Likewise, who deserves the acclaim: the person who conceived of an idea but did little with it, or the person who acquired that idea and ran with it? (I’m thinking of Hoffman’s invention of the drip-painting technique and Pollock’s deployment of the same.)

4.00 pm. A group tutorial with second year painters in which the topics of discussion were working methodology, peer criticism, and a work ethic. They’re a sensible lot, although some appear bemused by my approach.

6.15 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. The morning’s podcast didn’t record successfully. I’ll need to give the lecture once again, and probably to an empty lecture theatre. I went back in the studio to prepare circuit bendable devices for action:



October 15, 2014

8.30 am. I closed the ledger on an outstanding financial project before heading for the School. Autumn days are not to be trusted:


They may begin well enough, but often end in a downpour. (The metaphors proliferate.) It was a fierce morning of one-to-one MA and PhD tutorials — tiring and exhilarating in equal measure. I felt on form (in my own eyes … which may mean nothing). I’m impressed by my students’ honesty and earnestness. The best aren’t those who seem most confident, but the ones who, though plagued with self-doubt and self-recrimination, refuse to yield to their limitations. I firmly believe that persistence and perseverance is of greater importance than talent in securing success.

3.00 pm. I returned from a late lunch, in a rush, in a car, in the rain:


3.30 pm. An exam board to confirm the MA Dissertation marks was convened. My colleagues have a commitment to the education and improvement of their students and a professionalism in the discharge of their responsibilities that are second to none. I’m proud to be counted among them:


6.30 pm. Practice session 1. In the evening, I did the manly thing and took up my soldering iron to prepare several DC connections to devices that I’ll be using in the Open Day demonstration. Manual work has an integrity quite distinct from that of purely intellectual activity. It appeals to something far more fundamental in my nature:


9.40 pm. Practice session 2. 10.45 pm. During the ‘night watch’, I updated my website ‘news’ section, mixed down and publicized Matt. 20.24 (one of the best in the batch), Tweeted publicity, and began an extended blog on circuit bending.

This has been a routine but nonetheless rich and elevating day. In collaboration with my students, they and I have gained some small but secure and rewarding perceptions. And insight never comes when you whistle, and only occasionally while you wait.

October 14, 2014

8.30am. I walked down Llanbadarn Road and up Trinity Road to the School, and set up the equipment for the Art/Sound workshop:


The session was of the informative and elucidatory type — hardly riveting, but entirely necessary. The academic and presentational demands made my the module submission are fairly stiff. And why not. What point is there in asking students to do what they knows they can do? Overcoming our limitations and extending our grasp beyond our reach are principles foundational to the notion of personal endeavour. 11.00 am. The MA Vocational Practice group undertook a complex role-play debate, and managed themselves in an exemplary fashion.

After lunch — a search for postgraduates via the stiflingly hot corridor (traversed by heating pipes) at the back of the School. It’s an uncomfortable passage to walk; the walls seem to press inwards, as though threatening to crush:


I held tutorials with two MA Fine Art students before phoning our latest PhD Fine Art recruit, who lives in an idyll beyond the bounds of Wales. The three are at different points on the same path heading in the same direction but to different destinations.

6.30 pm. Practice session 1. 7.30 pm. I replied to the emails, made a number of adjustments to the PowerPoint of the next Art/Sound lecture, marked up the text, and began processing files for Matt. 20. 24: the penultimate verse, and a relatively short one at that.

9.40 pm. Practice session 2. 10.40 pm. ‘The night watch’. I completed the mark up and made headway with the processing: