Month: August 2014

August 30, 2014

I woke at 8.30 am after a sound night’s sleep and a dream about shopping at a bazaar. On Saturdays, I abstain from my four-tier work ethic. Instead, I choose to work linearly, on one task at a time. Discipline must itself be subject to discipline. I began processing files for Matt. 20.14, and then transcribed another verse from Psalm 32 (LXX). I can do no more than one verse of the Greek in a session; the process of translation and mapping requires constant attention, and errors are inevitable (as in every other department of life):


Into the studio. I recommenced testing the effectors before committing test drones to ‘tape’ (digits (?)). The test-drones were based on an aggregate of a G6sus4 arpeggio plus E below middle C and played on a Gibson Les Paul Custom VOS 1957 guitar through Pedalboard III (August 8, 2014). The board is an enlarged conception of that which was used to articulate Musical Erratum (2014). The active effectors for each test drone are tabulated below:

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 15.15.06

TestDrone1 presents a chord that had been already established incrementally before the recording was made. TestDrone2, begins on an isolated note and then cuts to the chordal resolution. TestDrone3, and TestDrone4 capture the aggregation of the arpeggio. The opening note of TestDrone4 is a homage to the first note of Robert Fripp’s and Brian Eno’s The Heavenly Music Corporation (1973). Finally, at the end of the afternoon, the four tracks were uploaded to John Harvey: Studium:


An evening with the family.

August 29, 2014

It was time to press on with the score for ‘Psalm 32: “New Song”:”Loud Noise” (LXX)’ [working title] — the first in a notional series of music-orientated settings of the psalms. Originally, some of the Psalms were performed on stringed instruments, as indicated in verse 2 of the thirty-second Psalm:

ἐξομολογεῖσθε τῷ κυρίῳ ἐν κιθάρᾳ ἐν ψαλτηρίῳ δεκαχόρδῳ ψάλατε αὐτῷ 
[Praise the Lord with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings*].

In my arrangement, the compositions will be played on an electric guitar and effectors. The source text is taken from the Septuagint (the Kione Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures). The Greek alphabet has 24 letters. Each letter is given a numerical value and assigned to one of 25 notes that make up a two-octave chromatic scale:


I chose the Septuagint translation because the number of letters in the Greek alphabet has the closest approximation to the number of notes in a two-octave chromatic scale. (Hebrew has 22 letters, Latin, 23, English, 26, and Welsh, 28.) In my Studio Notebook, I wrote down some initial thoughts, speculating upon how one might count a double octave in terms of 26 notes. This is problematic. There are 26 notes in two separate octaves, but only 25 notes in two consecutive octaves, because the last note of the first octave and the first note of the second octave are shared:


However, one could map the English alphabet onto two octaves, if they were separated by a further octave. In the background, I processed the remaining sound files for Matt. 20.13:


By 12.15 pm, I’d completed the transcription of Ps. 32.15 (LXX) and mixed down and uploaded Matt. 20.13 to The Floating Bible album.

Back into the studio. For the purposes of my practice, it’s a studio in two senses of the word: a visual artist’s atelier (Fr: ‘workshop’) and a sound artist’s rehearsal and recording room. It’s a place where the visual and sonorous cohabit unselfconsciously.


After lunch, I explored the parameters of Pedalboard III, adjusting each effector separately and in turn, while noting their optimum settings. It’s difficult to maintain ‘unity gain’ throughout such a complex rig due to the combination of analogue and digital effectors, each with a different capacitance and resistance rating on their respective input and output. I’ll make a number of recordings of test-drones tomorrow:


Evening. Dinner with the family and friends old and new.

* The quotation is from Ps. 33.2 (King James Version). The numbering of the Psalms in the Septuagint differs from that found in psalters and bibles translated from the Hebrew.

August 28, 2014


‘The quality of mercy’ was unrestrained this morning. I ‘umbrella-ed’ and took a short walk to the local hospital for a consultation. Long live Bronglais General Hospital! And, God bless the NHS! For all it’s shortcomings (which are largely the result of underfunding by successive governments of all colours), it’s still the best health-care system in the world:


Back at the School of Art, Dr Webster and I  exchanged our enthusiasm for Peter Capaldi’s assured performance as the new Doctor. We hoped the series would continue to darken in tone. It would be a brave and intelligent move on the part of the producers. In the days of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, the BBC made no concession to the sensibilities and needs of a younger audience. (If you wanted children’s television, you watched (‘with mother’) Andy Pandy and The Woodentops.) We were given original, imaginative drama with more talking than action, some of the most disturbing alien villains ever conceived in science fiction, and loved it. That’s why the children of my (and Peter Capaldi’s) generation remain loyal.

The remainder of the morning was set aside for, what turned out to be, a productive PhD fine art tutorial. Sometimes, a student discovers themselves before they determine the subject and method of the research. At other times, they find themselves along the way, or else retrospectively. But find themselves they must. In between teaching tasks, I made a list of all the research initiatives that were ‘revealed’ to me in the ‘vision’ (Diary, August 20, 2014).

Afternoon. A second and anticipatory PhD fine art tutorial with a prospective student, followed by an interview for the MA Fine Art scheme. Both applicants will be joining the School in September. Beginning a new course, at any level is daunting. Often even the very best students start-off with too many ideas with too loose a connection one with the other. It takes time to construct a conceptual filter through which only the few most relevant concerns can pass.

Through the evening and into ‘the night watch’, I finalised the current lecture for Art/Sound, taking time-out to watch part of the recent BBC documentary on Kate Bush — an extraordinary artiste:


August 27, 2014


I had a fitful night’s sleep. My ’24-hour ambulatory blood-pressure monitor’ — the cuff of which, when inflated, has the grip of a grizzly bear — woke me on the hour, every hour, until I rose. During the monitoring session, the patient must keep an activity diary for every 30 minutes of the day. (Let’s hope that Universities UK don’t catch on to this idea, as a means to ‘help’ academics rationalise their personal timetable.) It’s a sort of salami sliced and desperately un-nuanced autobiography, wherein one’s life can be described only in terms of : ‘working’, ‘walking’, ‘eating’, ‘sleeping’, ‘relaxing’, ‘travelling’, ‘driving’, ‘exercise’, ‘housework’, and ‘watching TV’. (It would appear that this latter state of being is quantifiably different from ‘relaxing’. Surprisingly, ‘sex’ is not included.)

8.30 am: I re-engaged the Art/Sound lecture (while processing Matt. 20.13 sound files in the background) before ‘walking’ to the School of Art, where I conducted an MA application interview (which I categorized as a mode of ‘working’):


Thereafter, I resumed ‘walking’ (or was it ‘travelling’, or, perhaps, ‘exercising’ — given the hill’s steep gradient?), and made my way to the GP surgery to be unshackled from the blood-pressure monitor and relieved of a phial of blood:


On my return home, I carried on with the Art/Sound lecture and sound-file processing (the first and quaternary tasks of the day). I’m ‘digging’ Swing music, as they’d say in the 1940s. I continued in this vein throughout the afternoon, moving forward in music history from Boogie-Woogie to Bebop and Free Jazz.

A piece of my ephemera has become eternal. The New Hart’s Rules: The Oxford Style Guide, second edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) has a reference to one of my Facebook posts:


It’s included to exemplify a standard method for citing this type of publication in an academic text. My post is preceded by an illustration showing the convention for podcast referencing (using one of Grayson Perry’s Reith Lectures as an example), and another instance of a ‘Facebook post/update’, from Barack Obama’s page. I doubt whether I’ll ever again be mentioned on the same page as the President of the United States of America:


6.10 pm: Practise session 1.  7.30 pm: Studio work. The secondary and tertiary tasks of the day were: dismantling Handboards 1-3 (August 25, 2014) while setting up Pedalboard II for a thorough workout over the next few days; and putting equipment back into storage. You must be not only your own technician but also a roadie and studio manager. Discipline always proceeds outwards — from soul to mind to body to instrument to effectors to mixer to amplifier to recorder to studio, and on into the world. By the end of the evening session, Pedalboard II was installed and ready for operational tests on Friday:


9.30 pm: Practise session 2. By 11.00 pm, I was ready to search for the sleep that I’d lost last night.

August 26, 2014

I’m back at my desk in the School of Art, sans the personal desktop printer. This has now been impounded/confiscated/seized (at least, that’s the way it feels) by the ‘authorities’ to force me, and every other academic in possession of the same contraband, to use the university’s central printer services. The policy will save the university money, I’m told. However, I’ve a supply of expensive toner cartridges that will now go to waste. Could I not have surrendered the printer when the consumables had been expended? ‘No!’:


A day of MPhil and PhD Art History and Fine Art tutorials. It began with a review of photographs of chapels in Wales by the nineteenth century Welsh photographer John Thomas (1838-1905). My tutee and I reverse-engineered the images to ascertain Thomas’s intent (which appears to have been multi-faceted), use of pictorial conventions, and unique contribution to architectural photography. He’d such a good eye for formality and austerity — very much in keeping with the spirit of chapel architecture. (A Calvinistic Methodist ‘style’ or sensibility, perhaps.) Some of the compositions transcend whatever ambitions he’d had in mind. The pictures are portraits of buildings, reminiscent of  Lowry’s linear drawing of Salford’s churches, chapels, and bystanders.

I made a prompt departure from the department and took a speedy walk to my doctor’s surgery to have a blood-pressure monitor fitted. On my return, I switched channels and gear for a tutorial on Schleiermacher, Otto, and the visualisation of transcendency. There’s a time when an art history thesis finds its own ‘voice’ — a tone that’s appropriate to the subject, method, and author. For this student, now is that time.

I had an hour after lunch to catch up with my teaching administration and loose ends — deleting insignificant, unread emails, like I was swatting flies:

The trivial round, the common task,
Will furnish all we ought to ask.
(John Keble, 1835)

Mid Afternoon. I phoned our external PhD Fine Art student, who’s studying from abroad:


One of the richest aspects of teaching fine art, at any level, is its holistic nature. Tutorial discussions often range wide of art practice  — touching upon the imponderable complexities of a person’s humanity and experience, and the state of the wider world of ideas, history, and events — and yet still remain entirely relevant. In this respect, my students teach me far more than they’d realise.

During my second tutorial of the afternoon,  the sun shone between the slats in the blind, contouring the room. In that moment, I became aware of another, unspecified place and time — quite possibly associated with my childhood — filled with a feeling of sweetness and melancholy. Perhaps such moments are, instead, anticipatory — foreshadowing a future state. These experiences come more often as I get older and closer to the border of that ‘far country’:


7.00 pm: Back to the Art/Sound lecture, and to Matt. 20.13 file processing in the background. A thoroughly rewarding evening session searching for illustrations of jazz music and abstract painting in America in the 1920s.

My current book at bedtime is Alister McGrath’s The Intellectual World of C S Lewis (2013).

August 25, 2014


Notes: What is success? And how do we evaluate it?

In relation to the maker: Success may be the measure of personal satisfaction: being the fulfilment of aspirations; the degree of motivation; and the artefact’s capacity to inspire positive feelings and emotions and a sense of engagement and achievement during the process of ideation and creation, and/or at its completion.

In relation to the artefact: Success may be the measure of the its intrinsic quality and ambition: being the degree of aesthetic resolution, conceptual integrity, depth of ideation, clarity of intent and communicability, skilfulness of execution; and the artefact’s ability to transcend either the maker’s prior limitations or the boundaries of its associated subject, medium, and conceptual framework;

In relation to the public and the maker’s peers: Success may be the measure of the artefact’s effect: being its capacity to influence other makers and their work, bring about intellectual, cultural, or social change, capture the public imagination, and to endure; and the degree of recognition and acclaim (critical and monetary) bestowed upon it.

An artefact (whether visual, sonorous, or textual) is seldom an unmitigated success. Success assumes one the following conditions.

The artefact is:
your best but not satisfying;
your best but not efficacious;
satisfying but not your best;
satisfying but not efficacious;
efficacious but not your best;
efficacious but not satisfying;
your best but neither satisfying nor efficacious;
satisfying but neither your best nor efficacious;
efficacious but neither your best nor satisfying;
your best and satisfying but not efficacious;
your best and efficacious but not satisfying; your best, satisfying, and efficacious.

In this scheme of things, an artefact may be judged a failure when it is neither your best, nor satisfying, nor efficacious. However, sometimes an artefact’s effectualness either ensues or diminishes years after its making.

Following this rumination, I completed my response to the draft chapters of the PhD Art History (which I’d begun on Saturday), mixed down Matt. 20.12, and began processing files for Matt. 20.13:


Today, the primary task is to forward the current Art/Sound; the secondary task is to further develop Handboard 2, and restructure Pedalboard IV to serve as Handboard 3 also; the tertiary task is to fix several glitches with my analogue-digital interface; and the quaternary task is sound- file processing.

I have a plan-chest draw full of power supply units. This is half of them:


I fixed one glitch by downloading a new driver Apogee Duet to work on Maverick X, and wrestled with the other — with only partial and fugitive success — over lunch.

Back to the lecture …


With the help of a user tutorial on YouTube, I got my head around the outstanding glitch and learned a great deal in the process about both mixer routing in general and the value of paying close attention to instructions in particular.

By the beginning of the evening, a provisional set-up for Handboards 1-3 had been determined:


After practise session 1, I re-engaged the Art/Sound lecture in second gear — devoting session 3 of the day to an image search for abstract paintings from early-20th century America, and mapping out text sections for further elaboration. After practise session 2 — ‘the night watch’. I reviewed images of PhD Fine Art work for a telephone tutorial with an external student tomorrow afternoon:


August 23, 2014

Bank Holiday weekend. The day kicked-off with a review of this week’s diary entries and blog. (Just checking!) On, then, to review six chapters of a draft art history PhD:


In the background, I looked over (‘heard over’ (?) — which is not the same as ‘listened to’), ambiently, the verso section of The Floating Bible sound art project while processing the remaining words from Matt. 20.11:


It’s entirely practicable to undertake at least four independent tasks during a single session of work, if they’re arranged in a hierarchy. In my scheme of things: the primary task is always that which demands the most attention, concentrated effort, and the greatest consistency of energy and application; the secondary and tertiary tasks are co-equals, and require a moderate degree of concentration, energy, and application, but only when attended to; while the quaternary task makes no demands — it remains on the periphery of one’s consciousness  (as present as absent) — drawing one’s attention only occasionally. Of course, it’s impossible to respond to all four tasks simultaneously. My habit is to move from one to another. In so doing, I return to each task refreshed.

I’ve committed myself to using the mark-up feature on my word-processing software when reviewing a student’s written work:


The upside of this approach is that I can mark and review within in the same on-screen domains as the other three tasks, which are often digital in format. I work with a double-screen display; this allows me to view two projects at once, and to maximize or minimize windows as I move between tasks. And, the downside? I’ll spend even longer in front of a computer screen than I do already.  As it is, at the end of a day my eyeballs are fried.

On to more manly work after lunch: the conversion of a pedalboard into a handboard. Screwdriver at the ready:


And, violà!:


Handboard 2 is born. It has two integral, 6-gang plug boards and an AC/DC power supply, and sits on a Roland PDS-10 stand. I’ll test launch the rig tomorrow afternoon.

Mid afternoon. Back to the PhD draft review and the final processing of Matt. 20.11:


By 5.00 pm, I’d attended to three quarters of the draft and readied the Matt. 20. 11 track for a mix down, first thing Monday morning. The working day is done.

Now, is there anything special on TV tonight?

August 22, 2014

There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a Pilgrim.
(John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, part 2, 1678)

So, I press on. I’ve been exercised by my comment that: ‘tweakable guitar pedals … [yield] more potential at one’s fingertips than at one’s toes’ (August 20, 2014). It’s possible to separate an effector from its on/off button by assigning the function of the latter to a switchboard, operable by foot. In this configuration, the effector can be mounted at table-top height, on a handboard, so that the guitarist is able to adjust its parameter ‘pots’ and switches manually, while still playing (more or less):


Back to the Art/Sound module and on to the lecture about abstraction, jazz, and improvisation. On this occasion, I’m developing the PowerPoint slides and inserting the slide markers into the text as I write. It’s a more organic and swifter way of going about things. Principle: never stop interrogating the modus operandi; there’s always a more intelligent and efficient way of completing a task:


Mid morning, I began preparing files for the Matt. 20.11 track in tandem with writing, and returned to both activities after lunch. It’s my habit to conduct the same activity over only two sessions in the day. The third session is set aside for a contrasting pursuit. For example, if I’m engaged in a theoretical or textual project in the morning and afternoon, I’ll try and do something practical in the evening. The division of my working day is ‘on this wise’ (as they say in the King James Version of the Bible): 8.30 am – 1.00 pm, 1.30 – 5.30 pm, and 7.30 – 9.30 pm. However, increasingly, I’m forced to carve out a fourth session from 10.30 pm to 2.00 am. That’s fifteen hours a day, maximum. My usual work expenditure is 11.5 hours per day for 5 days of the week, and a further 9.5 hours on a Saturday (both in term and ‘holiday’ time). That’s 67 hours in total. This doesn’t include a further 17 hours of guitar practise a week, which are research related. However, I’m paid to work only half that number of hours. Small wonder that so many established academics are either seeking to change their career or retire early, or dying before their time as result of stress-related illness and sheer frustration.

Mid afternoon. I attended the hospital for an X-ray appointment. It’s the best experience one can hope for in a health care institution: pain free (unless you’re in for a mammogram) and thoroughly interesting. All that kit, alarming radiation, shimmering lasers, sparkling blue lights, conduit, and buttons. I may have embarrassed myself by asking too many technical questions about X-ray photography. If you don’t ask … :


I enjoyed a fascinating if sobering afternoon searching for early representations of the transatlantic slave trade and African-American culture to illustrate the influence of ‘black music’ on the development of  jazz.

After the evening meal … :


… I searched further for images and field recordings of ‘negro spirituals’ and work songs. The first African American ever recorded was George W Johnson, in 1891. He performed a derogatory song called ‘The Whistling Coon’ written by Sam Devere — a black minstrel (that is to say, a white man who’d been ‘blacked up’):

Oh I’ve seen in my time some very funny folks
But the funniest of all I know
Is a coloured individual as sure as you’re alive
As black as any black crow
You can talk until you’re tired but you’ll never get a word
From this very funny queer old coon
He’s a knock-kneed, double-jointed hunky-punky mook
but he’s happy when he whistles in tune.

Small wonder the citizens of Ferguson, St Louis are so angry.

August 21, 2014

‘Resist routine’. The advice came to me as though from someone or somewhere else. Obediently (I always take such interventions seriously), I abandoned my plan to commence the next Art/Sound lecture and, instead, developed the new blog further, and began another track contributing to The Floating Bible sound artwork. Routine and habit are not synonymous in my scheme of things. I firmly believe in the latter. Routine is unwavering and predictable, and may over time become unthinking, dull, and an end in itself. Habit is by its nature regular too. But, for me, it is also a manifestation of self-disciple, and an active principle: a constant, conscious, structured, and an intelligent movement towards the realization of definable goals.

The courier delivered the new pedalboard mid morning. I’ll adapt it to function as Handboard 2 in the next few days:


By the early afternoon, I’d made sufficient progress on the blog and track to consider adding a third arm to my activities, namely sourcing a electronics technician who can modify a ring modulator effector to accommodate an expression pedal. I’m also the tea-maid for the day, serving our fabulous bathroom mechanics, Penny and John, on a twice-daily basis:


In the evening, I completed the ‘My Diary’ blog and finalised the individual word elements for the Matt. 20.11 track. During ‘the night watch’ (the period between 11.00 pm and 2.00 am), I mixed down the track and published both it and the blog.

August 20, 2014


I awoke at 4.00 am with the odd sensation that I was joining a conversation with myself that had been going on in my head even as I slept. The upshot of the discussion was a plan: an answer to a problem that’d perplexed me for several months, and during these last few days especially. It described with great clarity all the projects that I should undertake in the next five years, including books to be written, a conference to be convened, exhibitions and performances to be staged, equipment to be built, and a new routine for work. The experience was — what mystics, prophets, and poets such as Thomas Hardy, refer to as — a moment of vision:

That mirror 
Works well in these night hours of ache; 
Why in that mirror 
Are tincts we never see ourselves once take 
When the world is awake?

I got to my study at 4.45 am, and quickly wrote down as much as I could remember, just in case a ‘person from Porlock’ interrupted and I, like Coleridge, forgot some part.*

Emails dispatched, I got back to the spirit and technology lecture:


Almost every day, I receive an email from indicating  that someone, for some reason, is researching me on Google. ‘Searches’ come from ‘all over the shop’, as my dad used to say — UK, USA, Canada, Australia, the Philippines, India, and countries that I, in turn, have to search for on the world map. The site is an excellent shop window for scholars who wish to get noticed. And who can afford not to be in this fatuous age, where spurious assertions about measurable public impact are increasingly regarded as a reliable index of research excellence.  One of my own subjects is fine art. So called, because it was believed to call forth and refine the viewer’s taste, judgement (perceptual and moral), intellect, and imagination. I somehow doubt it. In any case, how would one either test that claim or observe the process and quantify the fruit of such amelioration. ‘Blummin’ bonkers mun’, as we’re apt to remark in South Wales at moments of unresolvable cognitive dissonance:

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 12.18.17

Over lunch, I took apart Pedalboard IV and listened to an internet tutorial on the WMD Geiger Counter, the continued presence of which on Pedalboard I still hangs in the balance. Like most, highly tweakable guitar pedals (including the mighty MoogerFoogers), it yields more potential at one’s fingertips than at one’s toes. I really would prefer an ElectroHarmonix Big Muff Pi on the board. It’s fuzziness is a feature of my ‘signature’ guitar sound, such as it is:


After lunch, I tested the slide transformations and transitions of the spirit and technology PowerPoint and made final adjustments to the text.

The new bathroom tiles were unboxed. There are two batches. The white of the one on the left is subtly darker than the colour of the other. (‘Dark white’ — that’s resonant!) So, they can’t be intermixed. This is a full-colour photograph of the comparison:


Following my early-evening practise, I fitted the Big Muff onto Pedalboard I, to assuage my curiosity, and embarked up the design for Handboard 2. This will require a fresh consideration of the existing handboard’s array in relation to the one that is to come. The second board will be the first manifestation and practical outworking of the new ‘vision’ for equipment. Before the late-evening practise, I wrote notes towards a blog about the nature and function of this and my previous diaries. The story begins in 1971 and in a Letts Schoolboys Diary for that year … :


*The ‘vision’ was not induced by imbibing hallucinogenic substances of any kind.