Month: April 2015

April 30, 2015

8.15 pm. To the School to pick up my laptop; 8.30 am. To the Old College for a morning of third-year tutorials. The sky and air are decidedly autumnal. My cohort appear to be either ahead of the game or destined to complete their work comfortably in time for the show. The weather is improving:


Some principles and observations:

  • Listen to your heart. Hearing the counsel of tutors and peers is both necessary and wise. But knowing when to reject that advice requires greater wisdom by far.
  • Take photographs of your work space and colleagues before you leave university. As you get older, you’ll realise that memories alone are an insufficient means of recollection.
  • Reckon on it: as you approach the exhibition, it’s likely that you’ll experience profound shifts in your estimation of the work which you’ve produced. One day, you’ll be close to ecstasy; the next, despair. Regard neither. These are responses that arise from mere feelings that, themselves, arise from tiredness and stress. A sober judgement is required — one that must be informed by the mind and a criteria and opinions external to yourself.
  • ‘Integration’ is one of my watchwords: the bringing together or fusing of the myriad aspects of who one is in a single artwork.
  • ‘Art is greatest which conveys to the mind of the spectator, by any means whatsoever, the greatest number of the greatest ideas’ (John Ruskin). I don’t agree with, what is otherwise, a well expressed sentiment, but his emphasis on an appeal to the mind (rather than the eye), through ideas (rather than perceptual phenomena), and ‘by any means’ (rather than traditional fine art forms only) has always struck me as prophetic of late-twentieth century art.


I feel both anticipation and melancholy at this time of the year. The approaching degree show represents the consummation of three years’ endeavour. But with it comes the loss of a fine bunch of earnest, hardworking, interesting, and fun-to-be-with students. I’m about to endure my annual, mini bereavement:


2.00 pm. After lunch, I undertook a ‘micro-tutorial’ with one of our MA painters before heading back to the School:


If one’s activities are being compromised by systems set up to monitor those activities, then something is dreadfully amiss with the latter. (My day dictates my diary, and not vice versa.) This problem is endemic to UK bureaucracy. Monitoring has become synonymous with control. We must now behave in ways that are measurable and accountable. This is not so much an issue of academic freedom as one of individual liberty. But I digress …

3.40 pm. PhD and MA admin catch up and one second year painting tutorial. 5.20 pm. Homeward.

7.30 pm. ‘Death to all incoming emails!’ On with MA assessment manoeuvres. Finding available rooms for such in mid May is hard. Back to assessing the PhD art history thesis, begun on Saturday.

9.20 pm. Landscape with apparitional rocking chair:


Not long after this photograph was taken, three illuminations appeared on the horizon. Two were as far apart from one another as the wing lights (left and right) on a passenger plane; the other was situated in the further distance. The lights were either static or in slow motion. Less than fifteen seconds later, they disappeared. Commercial aircraft don’t fly so close low in the sky and certainly not at 90-degrees to the shoreline. In my Chapels in Wales lecture on Tuesday, I discussed a similar phenomenon, which was observed over three hundred at fifty years ago and, possibly, again around 1904 — the year of the Welsh religious revival: The Welsh antiquarian Thomas Pennant described what, in Welsh, were called Tan Dyeithr (angelic strange fires), which moved in the sky over Cardigan Bay.

April 29, 2015

8.15 am. I dealt with small admin before setting out for the chemists. The process of successfully arranging repeat prescriptions is beyond my ken. This is my third attempt:


9.30 am. The National Screen & Sound Archive of Wales, as part of our joint Strategic Insight Programme, has sent me a listing of its entire holding of 78-rpm recordings:

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It’s a fascinating collection that includes ‘heavy’ and light operas, symphonies, concertos, waltzes, organ music, hymns, religious songs, war marching songs, popular songs, versions of Handel’s Messiah in abundance, the Manx national anthem, lectures on music, ‘Old time excuse me dances’ (whatever they are), and speeches from the ‘General Election 1929’. But it’s the ‘[Title unidentified]’ material which is most intriguing. What, I wonder, if anything, do these recordings have in common? How does a recording get anonymised? 11.00 am.  Having reviewed the listing, I got back to the book profile. One way of imposing a shape on a body of research material is to cast it in the form of a module proposal. (Would there be a significant take-up for a module on sound and spirit?) Throughout the morning, I joined in a volley of emails related to the cover for the coming show’s catalogue. Determining the encapsulating image is not easy.

1.30 pm. To the School:


2.00 pm. The annual exhibition meeting, convened by Mr Garratt. In another life, he’d be a military strategist. The sense of forward momentum is now tangible. An end is in sight. 3.30 pm. Homebase: book work. I begin to draft the description, rationale, and aims of the project. This is the first major hump of any large writing project. The difficulty is that one has to conceive and articulate the whole before one has even begun to write the first sentence.

6.20 pm. Practise session 1.  7.30 pm. I continue drafting. However, discrete ideas insist on being heard instead. One takes what’s on offer. I look to the sky:


When stuck … read. There is no better lubricant for thought than engaging the mind of another.

April 28, 2015

8.10 am. Another Spring/Autumn fusion day. To the School:


9.00 am. Chapels in Wales was on the topic of the revivalist Evan Roberts‘s religious visions. I keep coming back to him. It’s the attraction of opposites, I suspect. 10.00 am. A PhD Fine Art inquirer’s meeting. I’m encouraged to see so many master’s students aiming for the so-called ‘terminal degree’.

10.40 pm. A GP appointment. Even when the clinic is full of patients, it still manages to feel desolate. I endured an unexpected wait. Unexpected, because the ‘check-in’ device stated unambiguously that my doctor was ‘on time’. The must be the railway definition of ‘on time’; that is to say, the appointment is either not cancelled or else rescheduled for later rather than sooner:


11.30 pm. I was now fifteen minutes late for my next tutorial (an introduction to sound multi-tracking), and remained overdue until lunchtime.

2.00 pm. An applicant arrived for an informal interview related to the BA Art History degree. Good to see older people making a very courageous decision to change the course of, and enrich, their lives through education.

Phil (‘the Porter’) on his periodic buffing round:


From 3.00 pm onwards I was engaged with MA Fine Art students who are completing the first of two exhibitions towards their degree. In between tutorial periods, I proofread the catalogue for the undergraduate and postgraduate show, and culled my inbox (a bit).

7.30 pm. References to write and dispatch, research admin and initiatives to attend to, and a son to advise. One’s capacity to undertake the mundane, routine, dutiful, and irksome task is the true measure of self-discipline. Doing what’s either fun, easy, immediately fulfilling, or of obvious benefit to us personally requires little by way of resolution.

9.50 pm. Practise session 2.

April 27, 2015

8.30 am. I’m endeavouring to pack as many tutorials into as small a space as possible. While, in reality, the delivery is exhausting, I appreciate the experience of continuum and momentum, and the opportunity it affords for establish zones in my diary that can be dedicated to either administration or research alone. 9.00 am. On the cards for this morning: book development. As I write, I see:


I also hear: the occasional ‘clumph’ of car doors closing; the drawl of courier vans passing; the wood pigeons’ ‘coo-coo-coo’, close by; the gentle ecstasy of twittering sparrows in the neighbourhood trees; the seagulls, high up, screeching. To record (either audiographically or textually) is to listen. After several hours of note making — developing an inventory of sources, artefacts, and concepts, and a rationale for the research — I’m ready to draft a conspectus. Then I’ll be able to discern whether or not there’s a cogent theme governing the book — one that can both be developed and (as importantly) persuade a publisher to bite.

1.30 pm. After lunch, I walked to Information Services to collect my rebuilt MacBook Pro, and what appears to be an ailing Apogee Duet analogue/digital interface:


Back at home, I begin the task of reinstalling profiles, accounts, and software on the device. The computer now has the equivalent of an entirely new soul and mind. Its past in relation to me has been totally erased. Therefore, we must rebuild our friendship from scratch. (Sigh!) 2.45 pm. Back to the SoundBook (with the MacBook computerizing at my elbow, simultaneously). ‘Too many notes!’ I proceed to sift and order them on screen.

15.40 pm. My most consulted research output in last week’s stats was the Photography & Spirit book:

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There’s no knowing why other academics are drawn to one’s work. But the interest does suggest that the material has some abiding relevance for someone. At least the theme of ‘ … and spirit ‘ is still popular. My book on sound and spirit may yet have an audience.

6.20 pm. Practise session 1. 7.00 pm. A little work was required on tomorrow’s Chapels in Wales lecture. It’s a bit of a patch job. But this is the first and last time that the lecture will be given in this context. 7.50 pm. The evening light. Samuel Palmer and Paul Nash would have nodded their appreciation:


More book work: segregating and categorising ideas that had been set down in the Belmont Loose Leaf File. Now ideas are beginning to generate other ideas. ‘Numinous sound!’ Where on earth did that one come from? I cannot even envisage this phenomenon. In part, that’s the idea’s strength. Connections are forming; a pattern, emerging.

9.45 pm. Practise session 2.

April 25, 2015

8.00 pm. Feet on the bedroom carpet. 9.00 am. I set out my teaching schedule and issued notifications for classes in the coming week. 10.30 am. On with the ‘mark fest’. Having completed the BA art history dissertations, I’m moving up the School with an MA art history project, followed by a PhD art history thesis:


The soundtrack for ‘Image & Inscription’ churns over in the background. Thereafter, Purcell’s (England’s greatest composer) Funeral Music for Queen Mary  gave gravitas to my academic judgement. If this was the last thing I ever heard, I’d die a contented man. The music is majestic, stately, and austere — purifying the soul. It bears the weight of death’s solemnity. The spatial distance and reverberation of the military drums and the colouration of the brass in this recording are spot on. Then, a little website updating towards lunchtime.

1.30 pm. On with marking, with Captain Beefheart’s Doc at the Radar Station lubricating the brain on this occasion. Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) was also a figurative-cum-abstract expressionist painter, and an extraordinary lyricist too: ‘Vagabond/Bad vuggum’ (‘Sue Egypt’). Wonderful! 2.30 pm. The MA Research Project is done! Thereafter, BA Dissertation feedback forms were completed. 3.00 pm. A further audition of ‘Image & Inscription’. (Hearing and listening — like seeing and looking — are qualitatively different activities.) On, then, with the PhD thesis, and an initial read-through. I’ve been looking forward to this. But … before I do … my postal vote needs to be completed. This has been a most difficult decision. How does one reconcile the person (the candidate’s integrity and track record) and the politics (their party’s failure in both these respects)? Which man or woman will best serve this constituency? It comes down to that:


I couldn’t resist making an iTunes purchase of King Crimson’s Live at the Orpheum: an object lesson in how to return to your past without indulging in a cloying nostalgia. I look forward to seeing the band live in September. So many Saturday afternoon’s in my mid to late teens were spent, with friends, listening  to them on my Dansette Bermuda record player — at the absolute centre of the stereo field —  as we poured over the artwork and every word printed on the cover and gatefold of the albums. In those days, domestic music was afforded the same degree of focussed attention as a live concert. Merely hearing was not enough:


5.15 pm. Suffice! 6.30 pm. Practise session 1. 7.30 pm. An evening with the family.

April 24, 2015

8.00 am. A brief admin round up before assembling two processed sound files of the Welsh and English text engravings derived from the Second Commandment, in a multitrack session:

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I’m exploring the possibility of incorporating a recording of the Second Commandment read in Welsh and English. This recording, too, would have to be engraved, in keeping with the project’s governing concept, by transferring a digital capture to a vinyl record (which involves an intaglio process). The re-recording would, then, serve as the source.

12.30 pm. A business lunch at Tree House with my colleague Dr Roberts:


For two hours we bandied ideas and plans, and dreams and aspirations, pertaining to a proposed sound symposium — the first in the series of ‘Noise PROJECTion’s. Reasons for discouragement, a persuasive rationale for throwing in the towel, and paralysing uncertainties threaten. Thus, we make our compact: ‘Just do it!’

2.30 pm. Homebase. On with ‘Image & Inscription’. If voices were used. Whose would they be? Diagrammatizing makes me think clearly. I need to see ideas in order to better understand their relationships:


One source; two text; two languages; two recordings; two modes (writing and reading); and two voices (like the languages, these should be distinct (male and female)). The doubling is appropriate, since the Ten Commandments were given to Moses on two stone tablets (Exod. 20.1-17).

4.30 pm. At the School, Miranda and I held a early and final assessment tutorial with one of our second year students, who’ll be leaving us this year to be fruitful in another way. We wish her well. She’ll be missed. 5.00 pm (the graveyard shift). I delivered the Professional Practice lecture on ‘Social Media & ProfessionalPromotion’. A good turnout. On this occasion, the audience knew more than I did.

7.30 pm. I caught up with emails, added bits and pieces to the School’s Facebook page, and returned to ‘Image & Superscription’ rumination. In the background, I played the two time-stretched sound files together repeatedly. It’s important to develop a familiarity with the material — to hear the sonic ‘imagery’ within it. The virtues of the piece yield themselves slowly. (That’s a good sign. I’m always suspicious of immediacy.) As it stands, the Welsh engraving sounds, at times, like someone plucking at the strings of an out-of-tune upright piano. The piece gets quite ‘heavy’ towards its end, suggesting a sense of climax.

10.00 pm. Practise session 2.

April 23, 2015

8.15 am. Get to the School, find that I cannot print-out my 9.00 am lecture paper; run back home; I print it out there; run back to School; then, discover I have left my packed lunch on the kitchen table. Maybe the day will improve. 9.00 am. I delivered my Edmund Jones lecture, sans PowerPoint, for the Chapels in Wales module. The absence of a visual presentation was not only entirely appropriate but also encouraged the audience’s to engage an imaginative reconstruction of Jones’ accounts. I’m keen to return to the study of auditory apparitions.

10.00 am. My weekly walk across the promenade to the Old College; this week, in order to attend to the second year painters. (Dolphins were spotted breaking water, out on the bay today.):


Some principles and observations:

  • There is ‘A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing’ (Eccles. 3.5). It’s entirely appropriate to abandon either a medium, a subject, a course of action, or an expectation, when the logic of so doing is inexorable.
  • Bless your limitations. They direct the path you take as surely as your conspicuous talents.
  • Weigh the judgement of others before submitting to it. Sometimes, it’s you who knows best.
  • To make advances, one must take chances.
  • Easy solutions are rarely fulfilling.
  • If another student’s work impresses you, tell them. We each of us need informed encouragement.
  • If a solution doesn’t present itself immediately … wait, patiently. You cannot force the bud to bloom.


12.40pm. A lasagne and salad on Pier Street. A treat. 2.00 pm. The West Classroom (flying ants apart) is at its best at this time of the year. The windows are thrown open; the sound and the smell of the sea permeate the studio; and the sunshine encourages an upbeat mood and a spirit of bonhomie. An anonymous auto-abstraction:


A view from the rear studio. On such a day as this, one would not wish to work anywhere else:


7.30 pm. Teaching admin/upload chores — clearing the decks before my return to research tomorrow. (Sound-file processing in the background.) I set up a new forum for Fresher’s et al:

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Quote: ‘The forum has been established for intending applicants, applicants who have been offered a place on one of the School’s schemes, those who have accepted the offer, and also freshers.’

April 22, 2015

8.00 am. A number of minor adjustments to teaching appointments over the next few days needed to be made. 8.25 am. On with BA art history dissertation marking for the next two hours:


In the background, I continue processing the source recording of the engraving, stretching the low shelf, high shelf, and rhythmic re-equalisations that I produced last night to exactly 40-minutes’ duration (one minute for every day Moses spent on Mount Sinai, where he received the Ten Commandments from God).

10.45 am. A walk to the School. The air is still cool, but I can feel sun’s warmth on my skin. The sunlight is sharp (and brings out the saturation of primary colours, especially); the shadows, dark and defined like ink stains:


At the School, on the stairs, on the way to a tutorial — an apparition shimmers like an aspen tree:


11.00 am. A PhD Fine Art tutorial with Eileen Harrisson:


We discussed those pockets of resistance, that are still encountered in the gallery world, to the idea of stitch as a bona fide mode of fine art practice; analogies between paint-based and stitch-based materials and procedures; the tradition of the pictorial stitching and wool work; the tradition of history painting on the grand scale, and its adaptability to stitch; and stitch’s own adaptability as a medium for interpreting scenes of atrocity taken from the period of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland (1968-98).

1.30 pm. Following lunch, I returned to dissertation marking and to sound processing (in the background). 5.15 pm. Two scripts down. Two to go. The sound files are now ready for processing. 6.20 pm. Practise session 1: chordal pattern changes.

7.20 pm. I needed to prepare the script for Thursday’s Chapels in Wales class. This will be the first (and possibly only) lecture that I’ll ever give without the aid of a PowerPoint. The subject is the core of my edition of:

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The book contains accounts (‘relations’) of encounters with spirits. The visual, and sometimes auditory, phenomena are converted into text. For this reason, in my relation of those accounts tomorrow, I’ll evoke the images and sounds of ghosts, demons, fairies, and witches using only words.

7.45 pm. More ‘dissing’, while assembling sound files into a track session in the background. (I began preparing 20-minute versions of the source files.) It’s so much easier (and enjoyable) to mark the work of a colleague’s dissertation student than that of one’s own. You read your own students’ works from the feet of clay up, and against the backdrop of the struggle, the revisions, the anxiety, and, finally, the measure of conquest. For this reason, among many, I’m grateful for the balanced perspective and assurance of fairness afforded by double-marking in this an every other dimension of the School’s assessment process.

April 21, 2015

8.15 am. I had only to delete emails of a non-academic nature (the stuff of spam and shopping inducements) to clear my inbox. This is a rare morning indeed. 8.30 am. Off to work we go … ‘hi ho!’ I picked up my ailing laptop from the School and walked it to the Information Services repair shop at the Hugh Owen Library:


There was time for refreshments at the IBERS café before joining the Research Supervisors Training class, which I was helping to run. Cledwyn S07: a rather business-like, anaemic, and, as such, uncomfortable teaching environment — better suited to training salespersons than academics. Nevertheless, the table of participants over which I presided engaged the problems we set ourselves, with honesty and candour:


The blossoms have opened. But they looks tired already:


12.15 pm. A hyperdrive lunch before returning to the School for the first of my several MA consultations of the afternoon. It’s so encouraging to see the next generation of teachers grow before one’s eyes. We don’t choose to teach. Teaching chooses us. It’s a vocation in the true sense of that word — a calling. 2.00 pm. MA student no. 2:


Our past prepares us for our future. Perhaps this is too self-evident to mention. But when one witnesses the principle as an active agent in the life of an individual, the truth of it is potent and irresistible. 3.00 pm. MA student no. 3. One of the hardest aspects about undertaking the MA Art History dissertation is delimiting the size of the project. 4.30 pm. BA Art History no. 1. One of the hardest aspects about undertaking the BA Art History dissertation is determining the question. Often, it is to be found buried beneath the subject. Dust off the surface information, and its shape is revealed.

I’m drawn to the sides of paintings: the accidental, the incidental, the apparent loss of control; the scuff, dribble, drip and blot; the unrepented errors; the residues of earlier states and layers of the picture (a history in and of the making); the artist’s mucky fingerprints. The sides are a painting’s nakedness; its vulnerability; its flawed honesty:

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6.20 pm. Practise session 1: chordal work. 7.15 pm. Diary update, then back to processing the sound recordings that I’d made yesterday. The aim is to create several contrasting re-equalisations of the source, variously emphasising the low frequency, high frequency, and rhythmic pattern of the sound. Afterwards, the source is slowed by 800%. In so doing, the 6-minutes recording is extended to roughly 40 minutes in length. The process takes one and a half hours to complete. While I wait, I press on with my campaign of shameless self promotion. I need to associate myself with a number of significant experimental music agencies. The slowed down source sounds quite extraordinary.

9.45 pm. Practise session 2.

April 20, 2015

8.00 am. Email requests had accumulated over the weekend. I cannot turn to weightier matters before these things are cleared. That’s always been my habit: deal with the dutiful and the dull as early in the day as possible. A lower back complaint is circumscribing my activities, presently. My regime is to sit upright and walk around the room periodically. If the back seizes up or the muscles go into spasm, I’m stuffed. On with postgraduate examination admin and setting out my teaching plan for the week. 10.00 am. Back to the CD promotion and composing a covering letter, interspersed with follow-up email correspondence in response to this morning’s earlier volley:

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1.00 pm. Varieties of a version of the covering letter are now complete, I’ll be ready to post them and the sample CDs tomorrow morning.

2.00 pm. Following lunch, I went to the School to set up a meeting between our five, second year MA Fine Art students and a representative of CASW, who are offering the £1,000 David Tinker Award. David Tinker was a former Head, when the School was the Visual Art Department. I was courtesy personified.

4.00 pm. Off to town to honour my appointment with Mr Turner, the engraver at Merlin’s Heel Bar. I made a recording of the engraving — using an iPad and a highly sensitive stereo microphone — of the first clause of the Second Commandment (Exod. 20.4), taken from the Welsh Bible of 1588:

Na wnait ddelw gerfiedic, na llun dim a’r [a sydd] yn y nefoedd oddi vchod, mac a’r y [sydd] yn y ddaiar oddi isod: nac a’r [y sydd] yn y dwfr odditann y ddaiar.



7.30 pm. I returned to email duties and, in parallel, processed the visual and sound material obtained from the afternoon’s recordings. The raw material now needs to be coaxed in order to yield sonorities and tonalities that are presently masked. One must hear a recording within the recording. To do so requires many successive auditions and much trial and testing. (This is to come.) A thought occurs to me: Would it be feasible to combine this afternoon’s recording of the text in Welsh with another, which I made in 2008, of the Authorised Version of text engraved on another machine? Two languages, two machines running at different speeds, making two entirely dissimilar sounds, recorded seven years apart. (The seeds of the project go back that far!) The earlier machine (sadly, no longer with us), produced an aggressive, rasping sound and a deeper cut in the plate:



9.45 pm. Practise session 2.