Month: September 2014

September 30, 2014

8.15 am. I arrived at Lecture Theatre 312 to conduct a sound check for the first Art/Sound lecture; this meant ensuring that anything that should make a noise did, and loudly. There was no need to test the acoustics of the room; they are always lousy. The painted walls and the apse formation at the rear of theatre reflect and magnify sound like a vast reverberation chamber. It’s relatively simple to improve the optical facilities of an auditorium: just upgrade the projector to a 3,000 ANSI lumens model. But to make a space acoustically dead requires the application of bass baffles and foam lagging over every surface. Nevertheless, the equipment held up during the course of the presentation, as the School took its first step in teaching the art history of sound:


10.00 pm. Having dismantled and re-boxed ‘the gear’, I returned to the on-going departmental saga of the Central Printing Services. No one, other than the secretaries, can successfully send files to the printer/photocopier in the office. Having had their desktop printers confiscated following a managerial directive from above (on the pretext of economising (Diary, August 26, 2014)), academic staff, now, have no back up provision and must send all their printing requests through the already overstretched secretaries. I mean …

10.15 pm. I conducted an introductory seminar with painters studying the MA Portfolio, followed by the first Vocational Practice workshop and hour later. This is the largest cohort I’ve ever had to teach on this module. This year, for the first time, the art historians have joined ranks with the art practitioners:


They’re a fine bunch, and well able to defend themselves against my designedly sardonic and interrogatory style of seminar leadership. Today, we looked at the elements of HE teaching and the nature of one-to-one tutorials, about which they and I had very decided opinions.

2.15 pm. Post lunch, and after a further wrangle with the printer/photocopier (which — adding insult to injury — now refused to recognise my password), two colleagues and I walked the postgraduate sector of the School and allocated studio and study spaces to the new MA intake. They are a tidy fit. The second and final version of the Erratum Musical video was delivered, scrutinized, and judged fit for publication:


For the remainder of the afternoon, I caught up on course admin.

6.10 pm. Practise session 1. 9.40 pm. Practise session 2. During the evening and ‘The night watch’, I made adjustments to the second Art/Sound PowerPoint, uploaded material to Blackboard, and searched for information on Oscar Fischinger.

September 29, 2014

8.32 am. The accrued emails of two-days were answered and returned, the remaining administrations regarding the MA programme resolved, and the typescript for my first Art/Sound lecture, formatted. 9.40 am. I needed, then, to check the sound and video elements of the lecture using the new amplifier. Back into the studio, where the Handboard 2 filter network was made ready yesterday, I set up a Bluetooth connection between my MacBook Pro and that amplifier:


Why am I amazed that these things work the first time? Just because a connection is neither visible nor physical, doesn’t make it any less real or possible. (I feel a sermon coming on!) The first lecture required a few more illustrative insertions. Shortly before lunch, a seagull perched on the roof above my Velux window and began hammering with its beak, like a rapid pile-driver. (Shades of Bodega Bay.)

1.30 pm. After lunch, I responded to the first draft of a YouTube video that had been recorded in March to promote the School’s ventures into sound art. The theme is my interpretation of Marcel Duchamp’s Erratum Musical (1913). Some amendments, such as inverting the opening title (my mistake), need to be made over the next few days before it can be publicized:


2.00 pm. Today marks the beginning of the final phase of The Bible in Translation: the third exhibition in The Pictorial Bible series, and the second set of sound artefacts in The Aural Bible series. (The first in the series, R B V E Ǝ T N Ƨ O A, will be released as a CD by the National Library of Wales later this year):

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 16.25.40

In developing  an exhibition or performance-based project, it helps to conceive of the conclusion first. For me, this is the domain of publicity, the explanatory booklet, and project logos — all of which received my attention during the afternoon:


Once these items are finished, they’ll be dispatched to the printer or publisher well in advance of the event. It alleviates the stress of waiting for anyone other than oneself to deliver on time. If something does not happen, I want only myself to blame.

6.10 pm. Early evening, I ‘roadied’ my amps and MacBooks to the School in order to set up and test all the paraphernalia for tomorrow’s 9.00 am lecture. There are easier ways of delivering this module, but none more interesting or personally fulfilling. 7.00 pm. On my return, I finalised the logos, continued processing sound files for Matt. 20.22, and reviewed all the other pedalboard III bits and pieces that I’d initiated last year. Most of the visual concepts and their design are in place. They require only selection and execution. Likewise, once the remainder of The Floating Bible tracks are completed (by the end of this month, at the latest), The Aural Bible II set will be complete.

9.40 pm. Practise session. 10.40 pm. ‘The night watch’: tidied up some administrative loose ends and completed processing Matt. 20.22.

September 27, 2014

8.15 am. My colleague, who is currently in Australia, confirmed the marks and comments for those MA students who I’d examined in his absence and stead. Matt. 20.22 was begun. This and the next verse are particularly long. (The hill at the end of the journey seems always to be the steepest.) The composition of intercessions for tomorrow morning’s church service was my primary task for the first hours of the day:


In the Anglican Church, public prayers are more often prepared and read rather than extemporized (as is the practice of Protestant Nonconformist denominations). Both approaches have their virtues and pitfalls. As one vicar (who was quoting a bishop) once advised me: ‘Whether it’s before or during the time of prayer, you still have to choose your words’:

In prayer, we press in upon you, like the halt and the lame in the gospel narratives; like those, too, who came, full of faith and on behalf of others, believing that just a word from thy lips was sufficient to restore, unbind, and correct. Make thy people whole; pour upon the Church the salve that eases the troubled conscience, alleviates the dull throb of chronic doubt, and strengthens the weakened limbs of resolve. 

We who are ‘not worthy to have you come under [our] roof’ approach thee, at thy bidding, confident not of our deserving but in thy creatorial authority over every cell in our bodies; fully persuaded that all that inexpressible hope of, and yearning for, consolation that we have, over many years, sunk in our hearts out of sight of friends and family is nevertheless open and known intimately by you.

We press in, not only because we know that you are able to help but also in the acknowledgement that Christ is touched by ‘the feeling our infirmities’, and yearns to intervene in, and ease those, troubles. Be gracious then, and make thy people’s case thine own. ‘Lord, in thy mercy: hear our prayer’.

We implore you to bestow upon the clergy of this parish and diocese the bodily and mental wherewithal sufficient to fulfil their calling with vigour and joy. Infuse with the life of God the inner ‘man’ of the soul of all bishops, priests, lay readers and non-formal ministers and administrators of the Church. Grant them fire, the intent of setting the Lord God ever before them, and a large pastoral heart in imitation of the Great Shepherd. ‘Lord, in thy mercy: hear our prayer’.

In the Anglican Cycle of prayer, we commend the Rt Revd Brian Thomas of the province and state of Idaho, and thy blessing upon the forthcoming Diocesan Convention on the theme of service. ‘Lord, in thy mercy: hear our prayer’. 

As the UK government joins the multi-national operation to strike at so-called Islamic State targets, we pray for a speedy and strategic success directed by solid intelligence, and for the safety and defence of Iraqi civilians. We are mindful of the great majority of Muslims in our country who have disavowed the actions of those who claim to act in their name, and ask that their communities will be protected from mindless, extreme-right backlashes. Grant, also, success and protection to doctors and aid workers dealing with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. They have put their own lives on the line in the cause of healing others. Honour, then, their efforts. And, as well, enable physicians and scientist on the World Health Organisation to quell the spread of this appalling disease. ‘Lord, in thy mercy: hear our prayer’.

Our own afflictions seem, so often, to be slight in comparison. So we count our blessings, which are far in excess of the deficits we suffer. Nevertheless, because you entreat us to ‘cast all our cares upon’ you, we ask that you either unburden us or else dispose more strength that we might bear them with you. And so, in a moment of unuttered conversation we would speak to thee of the needs of this congregation, and of those elsewhere who are dear to us … 

‘Lord, in thy mercy: hear our prayer’.

We recall the memory of those faithful women and men who have flown to that far country, where they now stand and fully know even as they are known. May the example of their consistent commitment, and of the often invisible and unacknowledged service that they rendered to the Church, inspire in us like determinations. 

11.40 pm. Back into the studio. Three things to do over today and tomorrow: 1. Set up the guitar and tube amp to record a sample solo; 2. Test the new solid state/digital amplifier before Tuesday’s Art/Sound class;  and 3. Configure the Moog filters and voltage controller. They’re all hands-on tasks and a welcome break from the computers that I’ve been tied to for the last week.

1. The Fender Twin reverb is now fitted with a attenuator/load box and a headphone amplifier. This allows me to monitor the guitar sound at point in the signal chain after the Fender’s preamp and reverb sections, silently:


I’m endeavouring to keep the temporary pedalboard effectors to a minimum in order to produce a raw sound that can be modulated later:

guitar >  tuner > compressor > gain > distortion > EQ > wah-wah > amp


2. The new Line 6 Amplifi is more than loud enough for a lecture theatre. I shall explore task 3 tomorrow.

6.30 pm. An evening with the family.

September 26, 2014

8.30 am. I broadcast emails like the parabolic ‘sower’, hoping that some of my ‘seeds’ will land on fertile soil. Afterwards, I updated the postgraduate curriculum. At the School, the secretaries and the ILLCA Manager were in conference; software and database glitches persist, which are postponing the completion of postgraduate registration. Meanwhile, a colleague and I walked to the Old College, taking in the promenade, to allocate spaces for the second and third year painters principally:


I doubt whether there is another art school in Britain that has such a view from its studio windows. The Irish Sea’s tide breaks upon the shoreline at the frequency of Brown noise, which is named after the Botanist Robert Brown (rather than the colour), who also observed the phenomenon of Brownian motion:


Back at the ranch, I returned to ‘sowing’ — disseminating emails to staff and students regarding what had been undertaken at the Old College. Fine Art students can be a rather messy bunch. This reflects both their age (rather more than their subject predilection) and state of mind. Discipline begins as an inward order that progressively works its way outwards to the immediate context and beyond. Unfortunately, the principle doesn’t work in reverse. Otherwise, I’d devote my time to tidying up their work spaces in the hope that their minds might be made more orderly as a consequence.

After lunch, we paired-up as staff to mark the MA exhibition. All the candidates I encountered acquitted themselves well. Moreover, my colleagues and I was able to talk to them about issues and challenges associated with a high level of professionalism. We teach our students to ‘talk the talk’ well. But their work ‘walks the walk’ with integrity too. The final viva is as much a farewell as a critique. We’ll miss them all. They’ve made such a contribution to the School’s ethos.

7.30 pm: The MA cohort faced the public, who appeared to be suitably impressed. There was a good turnout from the student body, former graduates, and our supportive friends. Nothing sells a department better than its best students. And an art school is only as good as its output:


10.30 pm. ‘The night watch’. I settle to write-up the feedback forms related to this afternoon’s MA vivas.

September 25, 2014

8.30 am. I listened to Angela Hewitt’s rendering of J S Bach’s Toccatas in the background while stretching Matt. 20.21 in the further distance. In the foreground, I unspamified my inbox and responded to a final draft of an MA Art History thesis. 9.15 am. The secretaries were labouring heroically to settle students into their modules; Helen and Suzie make a great team. They share a rare combination of patience, generosity, practical sagacity, and an ability to learn hard stuff quickly. From 10.00 am onwards, we inducted second, third, and first year students. It’s good to have the family together once again.

A strange melange of Wagnerian strains overlaid with Rogers and Hammerstein II tunes seeped from the room directly opposite through the cracks in my door. The music accompanies an MA Fine Art photography installation. It insists upon my attention, subtly; a sonorous haunting:


Some of the first year students assembled in the lecture theatre, looking expectant and earnest. At the beginning of a degree scheme, all things seem either wonderfully possible or utterly daunting, depending on the student’s temperament. Neither perspective is true. When I began art school, my assumption was that everyone in my cohort was more gifted than me. As I discovered later, everyone in my cohort shared the same insecurity.


After lunch, I began assigning BA painting and MA students to tutors, and drawing up a list of current and new postgraduates. A very healthy bunch. The School punches well above its weight with regard to postgraduate recruitment.

6.00 pm. Practise session 1. 7.00 pm. During the evening session I completed tutee/tutor allocations for the postgraduate contingent and addressed a backlog of filing. 9.45 pm, and off to Holy Trinity Church (the School of Art’s parish church) to greet a hungry hoard of university students from the Christian Union. At night, illuminated, the church reminds me of Christ’s lantern in Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World (1853-4). This night, I saw, too, a tinted etching by the Scottish artist George Chapman (1908-93). Not to be confused with the 17th century English dramatist of the same name, or indeed the 19th century Polish serial killer and suspect in the Jack the Ripper murders:


The church’s ephemeral congregation, all eager to savour the now famous HTC homemade fudge, looked like the League of Nations on a picnic. There were representatives from Malaysia, Korea, the United States, Ireland, India, Senegal, and Barmouth. I talked with a first year student whose grandfather (an immigrant Italian) owned a sweet shop in my hometown of Abertillery:


10.25 pm. ‘The night watch’. I completed processing the sound files for Matt. 20.21. As the house became still, they were mixed down into a single track for release. An unexpectedly foreboding and forbidding sound emerged, as of a banshee in slow motion.

September 24, 2014


8.30 am. After my early morning preparations of the soul, and before I set out for the School, I subdued my inbox and completed the Art/Sound essay submission guidelines. Then, I ventured out into a blowy but enlivening autumnal morning, under a canopy of turbulent cloud:


10.15 am. The artist known as Pete Monaghan popped in for a pre-arranged cup of departmental brew. He’s a former MA Fine Art student. Our conversation usually takes a philosophical bent once pleasantries have been exchanged. We bemoaned the corporatization of British universities and the pressure upon artists to justify their profession in some measurable and serviceable way. I’ve always taken consolation in that magnificent pronouncement in the Revelation of St John the Divine regarding God’s primam causam and motivation for making: ‘for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created’ (Rev. 4.11). The Creation perceived as an initial and perpetual expression and act of self-fulfilment. However, all humankind are beneficiaries of the divine ‘indulgence’. Similarly, as artists, we may create for no other reason than the joy it brings to us. But that pleasure often extends beyond the boundaries of our work and experience to inspire the same feelings in others:


From 10.30 am onwards, the postgraduates were the focus of my attention.

12.00 pm. The Postgraduate Welcome Lunch began. The hubbub of enthusiastic conversation grew and grew from the outset. This was a good sign — the promissory that a vital, self-regulating, and mutually support community may emerge, once again. The second year MA students are now actively befriending and nurturing the newbies. Such expressions of spontaneous altruism should never be taken for granted:


After lunch, a colleague and I ‘induced’ the MA contingent onto their degree schemes. What a lot of them! It was good to see some familiar faces from last year’s BA cohort. The secretaries have the more difficult task of inputting their module choice data into a software that doesn’t have the words ‘exception’ and ‘exemption’ in its vocabulary.

4.10 pm. Back to BA module administration. The period of departmental registration and induction feels like pushing a large ocean liner out of the dock by hand:


6.15 pm. Practise session 1. During the evening session, I made an immediate response to an enthusiastic letter from one of my friends in the north. Then I followed through by writing to some of my previous collaborators, to the end of initiating plans for a follow-up conference to ‘The Noises of Art’ (2013). My foot is in the door. So much time is expended either persuading those who hold the purse strings to invest (just a little) in resources to run new projects, or else searching for small grants sufficient to kick ideas into reality.

11.10 pm. ‘The night watch’. I finalised the Art/Sound essay topics.

September 23, 2014

8.30 am. I responded to emails related to the current research grant application and continued to fill the gaps (which are disappearing alarmingly quickly) in my teaching timetable. At the School of Art, I began to ready my office for business and in order to conduct the first MA tutorial of the week:


The current MA Fine Art show is looking ‘smart’, as they say in South Wales. The Opening is at 7.30 pm on Friday. This last year’s contingent will be succeeded by up to 22 new MA Fine Art and MA Art History students:


A hastily re-arranged meeting gave me a little breathing space after 11.00 pm to finalise my weekly schedule and push-on with some of its particulars. Thereafter, I made a dash to the main campus and a one-to-one tutorial on E-learning submission, with the head of the project no less. And, to follow, I enjoyed an informal, lunchtime discussion with an intending PhD applicant. When one is an interdisciplinarian, deciding which creative arts department might provide the most appropriate base for your development is not straightforward.

An early afternoon meeting with our institute’s Director of Research about so many plans afoot related to art and sound. A door is opening. It will not always be open. We must now push hard. I returned home, mid afternoon, as the rain began to thicken:


I completed adjustments to handouts for tomorrow’s postgraduate induction, battled with the automated student-attendance record to no avail, and communicated the results of this afternoon’s meeting to interested parties. The lure of my studio has to be resisted this week. Having obtained a Moog voltage control device, I’m keen to integrate it with the other Moog filters. (A weekend treat, perhaps.) I also need to lay down a raw guitar solo for my fellow colleague in sound to ‘mash’ mercilessly with his own barrage of ‘beep’, ‘bong’, ‘squish’, ‘boop’, ‘ping’, and ‘rrrrrr’ making effectors.

6.15 pm. Practise session 1. My inquiry to a passionate acoustic engineer/developer about the purchase of highly-sensitive contact microphones:

I’m looking for microphones that could be attached either to paper or beneath a very thin drawing board, in order to pick up the sound of drawing or writing. Also, I’d be interested in a microphone that could be integrated with, or attached to, a drawing or writing implement. Can you advise? 

In the evening session, I finalised the curriculum for the Art/Sound module, allocated dates to classes, and began to set-up its Blackboard presence.

9.40 pm. Practise session 2. ‘The night watch’:


I reviewed the final draft of the ‘essay’ submission component for the Art/Sound. On this module, I’m ripping up the rule book. The format of the submission will be entirely new, and make demands upon students that they’ve never before experienced.

September 22, 2014

8.40 am. Academic year 2014-15, Day 1. A busy week of registration, induction, and postgraduate assessment ahead, and with a raft of the other teaching and research administrative routines in tow. I forwarded my draft grant application to those who are involved in the project, including my Le Figaro’s conference colleague, for their keen-eyed appraisal. I received his helpful response by return of post (as it were). Having implemented the necessary changes, I reposted the application and moved on to the other tasks sitting in my my inbox.

In the ‘vision’ (Diary, August 20, 2014), I perceived the need to develop a second sound art conference that would build upon foundations laid by ‘The Noises of Art‘, held in 2013, and, focus upon the art history of sound. Today, that component of the ‘vision’ began to go forward. In between admin. tasks I dismantled the current Handboard 3 configuration in readiness for explorative tests with Moog filters and voltage controller in the next few weeks. I started processing files for Matt. 20.21, in the background:


Before and after lunch, I cast my bread upon the waters of potential research collaborators, and  touched base again with my new ‘friends in the north’:

I found the copy of the Journal of Music Technology & Education so very help. Thank you for drawing it to my attention, X. I wouldn’t have alighted upon the publication in my field. My mind is now awash with analogues between music and fine art praxis and pedagogy. Y, I have your wonderful ‘how to’ booklet permanently at my elbow as I start putting together a sound-fine-art practice module curriculum. I learned so much about what I don’t know. Very humbling. And, it was very generous of you to pass this to me. Next week the School of Art is launching an art history of sound module (if you can bear the paradox). I think it’s the first of its type in the UK.

On my previous visit (which was immensely helpful), we talked tentatively about discussing a basis for collaborative projects. Presently, my colleague Dr Z and I are pushing our noses into the … Archive. It represents a wide range of sound media from wax cylinders to CDs and encodings of field recordings, interviews, ethnographic recordings etc. We are intent on, firstly, scoping the collection to develop a accessible schedule of artefacts that could be developed in sound-art projects. The Archive would be an active partner in this project. I’m hoping that they’ll commission artists/musicians to work with the archive towards recordable/performable outputs. 

At the moment, we are testing the ground for other interested partners — those that might be interested in manipulating found sound, especially. This, of course, may not be your bag. Tentatively, we are also looking at a developing an AHRC-worthy project based around notions such as sound recordings as ‘document’, and landscape and religion (or notions of the ‘other’), which has a particular relevance to Wales. And, you’ll recall, there is the plan to convene a conference in 2015 to follow-up ‘The Noises of Art’, which we held in 2013. I’m very keen to have sound artists with a proper musical pedigree on board this time. 

Then, onto my personal teaching timetable and ‘to-do’ lists for the week:


This week is full of Ground-Hog Day (the movie) moments. Tonight, as on every Monday of Freshers’ Week, there was the Welcome Party for first year students. Are they getting younger, or am I getting … ?:


September 20, 2014


5.45 am. An early morning alarm, breakfast of a fundamental kind, and a walk to the railway station to catch the 7.30 am train, en route to Cardiff, to see Frances Woodley’s curated exhibition All Coherence Gone? at the Bay Arts Gallery. I’m attending in my capacity as an enthusiastic supporter and the supervisor of her PhD Fine Art studies (of which degree this exhibition forms a part). On the way, I began to realize some of the resolutions agreed at the Le Figaro’s conference, yesterday, and worked on a draft of a small-grant application. The truly mobile hot-seat office of a train carriage is particularly conducive to this genre of writing. The Mid-Wales landscape slowly bled through the vaporous grey air like a photographic image emerging from developing fluid. By 9.00 am, the sun had started to burn off the fog and enhance the scene’s depth of field (quite literally in this case):


9.40 pm. When I was undertaking my PhD studies in Art History, during the late 1980s, I rode the train from Aberystwyth to South Wales on a weekly basis to work as a part-time tutor in art history at the, then, Gwent College of Higher Education, Newport. The automated announcement advising alighting passengers that ‘there is a gap between the train and the platform edge’ always sounds vaguely metaphorical. It’s a visualisation of a degree of ill-fitness between two things that clearly belong together, or are meant for each other. Perhaps this is a fundamental axiom of all human relationships.

On entering Newport station, I passed the familiar green (copper-oxidized) dome of Clarence Place, once the site of the Faculty of Art & Design, where I undertook my BA (Hons.) in Fine Art between 1978 and 1981. Inside, it had green-glazed ceramic tiles on the lower half of the walls throughout, which made the building feel like a commodious gents’ toilet. Indeed, the actual gents’ toilet was of the same design. 12.01 pm. The last leg of the journey had me hopping from Cardiff Central, to Cardiff Queen Street, to Cardiff Bay. I felt a board-game player who, having consistently thrown ‘6s’ on the die, could manage no more than ‘1s’ on subsequent turns:


I found a WIFI spot at the Millennium Centre and touched homebase. Frances hailed me as I neared the Bay Gallery. On arrival (early), the attendants were preparing tables and drinks for the opening:


It gave me time to make notes on the exhibition before the guests arrived. Writing makes me think, thinking makes me look, looking makes me think, and thinking makes me write:


Transcription (from ‘The Black Notebook’ (Jan. 2, 2008 – , 176-7 )):

Not over hung / groups of works by individual artists /framing, where used, is discrete / contrast between a high degree of refinement of surface and open brushwork /space and intervals / removed from the opulence of ‘the age of riches’ / photographs that look like paintings, and vice versa / still lifes that look like landscapes / the table top; the plane / confrontational and intimate / evoking memories of other still lifes: vestigial presence / still lifes with historical consciousness: defining and defying the genre / still lifes can be disgusting, repulsive; mocking mortality / a sickly cynicism / obsessive looking / the madness of making / finding a place in a world detached from the theology and social strictures of 17th century Netherlands / I heard and saw a flock of geese fly overhead as I entered the gallery; I recalled Cuyp / the sense of ‘dead nature’ is like a rotten smell / sometimes the genre gets in the way of the painting / sometimes I cannot see beyond conspicuous craft / objects put down (placed) / Ben Nicholson / the camera is no longer obscure / ‘What is that in the background?’ / Ah! Richter / Clichés can be enjoyed, intelligent, redeemed / guests at the opening photograph the works: stealing a skin / watching others look / a table-top world on the wall / like reflections in the glassy dark screen of an old cathode-tube TV / still life: a partial world; bits of life wrapped in paint; familiar objects, alienated / I’m always converting the visible into words / stills lifes never make me feel hungry / which works pull me back? //

I left the gallery at 3.20 pm and arrived at a Travel Lodge, Newport, Gwent around 4.00 pm:


It’s not Premier Inn, but entirely adequate. As my Mam used to say: ‘Just so long as its clean and tidy’. Which it is.

After a dinner in the local free house, I retraced the walk I used to take to my alma mater from the centre of the town (now, a city), over Newport Bridge. Some of the landmarks have disappeared, and paths have been rerouted. My eyes scanned above street level for signage that looks today much as it did in the late 1970s. (‘Skinner Street’ — summoning an old fur trade, perhaps.)  I ran my palm across the surfaces of still extant moulded concrete walls, and touched the brass plates (which were polished every day at 8.30 am) of my former art school’s entrance door. I’ve not done so in over thirty years. At such moments, time-travel seems entirely plausible:


September 19, 2014


8.15 am. Last night’s incoming emails were either deleted, forwarded, or (together with submissions of postgraduate texts) met with a response. At 9.00 am, I settled to begin the next Art/Sound lecture, one which, on this occasion, had started life as a symposium paper for The Courtauld Institute of Art’s ‘The Listening Art Historian’ fora. No shame in that. I firmly believe that teaching should be research led. All students, irrespective of level of study, have a right to hear ideas that are in the process of evolution, and material that has yet to be published. Universities are not super-secondary schools; they are professional communities whose currency is thought (pure and applied, old and radically new) of the most elevated kind. An academic’s role is to not only impart knowledge and skills but also challenge complacency, support new ways of thinking and acting, and insist that its members take intelligent risks. One cannot be original without first being reckless.

Let me take up that rather vacuous mantra which is mindlessly mouthed by Universities UK:  ‘the quality of student experience’ (which in my books should have more to do with the essential character of the experience than its degree of ‘excellence’ (another word that has been void of meaning)). Students should be pulled up to the level of the subject, rather than the other way round, and made to struggle uncomfortably out of their depths. Students can no more learn well than swim properly if they’re always buoyed by the rubber ring of perpetual, on-hand assistance from tutors when things go wrong. As an undergraduate, I knew that tutors cared for my education because they afforded me the right to suffer alone for a period.

By noon, I’d completed the, now, 14th lecture of the module and made ready to prepare the 15th after lunch. Back at the School, most of the Masters exhibitors’ works were either on the walls or aspiring upwards:


12.30 pm. A research consultation meeting with a colleague at Le Figaro’s (which serves the nicest bangers, mash, and mushy peas in Aberystwyth). We both have an inordinate passion for sound and twiddly things, and a youthfulness of vision that belies our years. So much energy is expended in finding funding gaps, and constructing projects that meet grant award criteria that are themselves ill-fit to accommodate the ‘fine art way’. But, these days, one must fight against the system and the odds in order to stand any chance of winning anything. It’s only those who persevere that get the prize. We rose from the table with resolve. Among my determinations were the following: Don’t engage any project that:

  • isn’t interesting to me
  • doesn’t arise from a personal passion and my sense of inward necessity
  • isn’t worthwhile in and of itself
  • isn’t fun at some level
  • doesn’t push me beyond the bounds of my own competence
  • cannot be rationally integrated with what I’ve already done
  • has an outcome which is obvious from the outset
  • fulfils someone else’s agenda only
  • is utilitarian, either primarily or solely
  • is ‘impact’ led.


On returning home, I revised and repackaged another lecture for the Art/Sound module that had been given at The Courtauld Institute of Art originally. The remainder of the afternoon was set aside for research administration: chiefly writing emails to collaborating colleagues and institutions on matters related to immediate and concluding projects, and to new ones appearing above the horizon.

An evening off.