The last working day (and diary blog) before the Christmas holiday. 8.30 am. I posted the students their feedback forms for Abstraction‘s exhibition-review assignment. 8.40 am. Much gratitude for blue sky:
I walked to the campus (now quiet, leafy, and sun-raked) and the Hugh Owen Library to fix, once again, my errant staff card. The efficient staff operatives at the Library were more than hopeful that a solution had now been found. (I trust that the electronic lock on the School’s main door is of the same opinion.):
9.40 pm. Emails addressed, I returned to my assault on essays. Some Lully and other French Renaissance music. Some principles and problems:
- Inconsistent use of verb tenses.
- Hiding behind opaque, scholarly-sounding phrases. State ideas as straightforwardly as possible.
- Write as you speak: simply, directly, and with a commitment to getting your point across, persuasively.
- If you wrote with a view to speaking the text aloud, publicly, you’d write in shorter sentences and with greater clarity.
- Ensure that the illustrations illustrate your point. If they don’t, then, they serve only to decorate the essay.
- Ensure that the conclusion concludes. Don’t use the final paragraph to introduce new and substantive material.
- Ensure that quotations substantiate your argument. If they don’t, then, they serve only to decorate the essay.
- Include explanatory transitions from one theme of the essay to another. Point the reader to where you’ve come from and are going.
- Be consistent with capitalisation.
- Get your facts right. An error elegantly expressed is an error no less.
- Ensure that you know the meaning of the words you use.
- Don’t give an essay as much time as you’ve got, give it as much time as it needs.
One essay took over two hours to mark. But what can one do? Either I spend time indicating maladies and remedies, point by point, or I don’t, and the students learn little.
12.30 pm. While updating my Facebook sound art practice images, I came across this:
Me, at 13 years of age, with my first musical instrument: the Stylophone (Abertillery, 1972). The device (which was, and remains, a rudimentary, monophonic synthesiser) was played with a pen. As such, the instrumentalist either drew or wrote on the keyboard in order to produce sound. This method is, in essence, a curious anticipation of the interaction of those three activities in my current practice. The publication of the photograph was followed by an exchange with Andrew ‘Dylan’ Price (one of my old band mates):
1.40 pm. Some Jeff Beck. Onwards and upwards. None of the most important books I read as an undergraduate were on any bibliography I’d received. They found me, in some cases, while I sought them, in others. (I spent my lunchtimes hanging out in the College library.) I sense that students no longer work on the assumption that the most significant experiences to be had in higher education are self-generated. It takes commitment and time to cultivate the autodidact within. ‘In my day’, time was eked out by not watching TV or taking regular nights out with friends. (There were no Internet, video games, or smartphones then.) Our first instinct as art students was to care for, rather than complain about, our education. If the system failed us, it was because we had failed the system. In other words, operational success was seen to be the responsibility of both staff and students working as a community.
6.30 pm. An early return to work. The last evening before a restorative break. ‘Essay! Essay! Essay!’ 8.15 pm. ‘Done! Done! Done!’ Now comes the challenge of winding down and switching off. For me, this is never as straightforward as it sounds.