Month: December 2016

December 22, 2016

The last post until the Christmas to New Year period of radio silence. 9.00 am: A ‘day of small things’: tidying up, putting to rest, and clearing away. I avoid letting the residual business of one calendar year seep into the next. Keep short accounts! A motto for life. First, an update of a new page, on the ‘Sound’ section on my website, devoted to my contribution to album compilations. Then, I upgraded and updated software, filed files, and prepared for a wet walk to the School to pick up late, incoming parcels. 12.45 pm: Attempt one was aborted on discovering that I’d left my key card at home.

2.00 pm: Following lunch, I made a second assault. This is the School when no one is in it (‘ghosts’ (and me) excepted, of course):

2.30 pm: Into the studio to work on the upgrade to Pedalboard IV. All new cables. But will the postman bring my pancake jack plugs, either today or tomorrow? On the bench, in bits:

I could only go so far without them. The post is slow. The afternoon’s business was punctuated by correspondence and telephone calls aimed at getting my new CD (500 copies) delivered by courier. The company had tried four times. But the School has been closed since Monday.

By 7.30 pm, the courier debacle looked more like to be settled by the ‘morrow. A final fling, and a return to the SteelWork conspectus. Not that I was of a mind to continue writing much; I needed only to review what’d been done already. After which, I’d have to prove to myself that I can cease from my labours. 9.30 pm: Pull the plug!”

December 21, 2016

8.45 am: Into town for a haircut and a micro-shop:

While the barber made his way around my head very ably, I could not, likewise, get my head around the name of the shop. It’s the possessive apostrophe that scuppers the sense. Don’t change it! It’s delightful. This was a very ‘manly’ context for hairdressing. It reminded me of the shops that my father took me to in Abertillery, when I was a child. One was owned by Jack Nadal, a refugee from the Spanish Civil War. (He reminded me of the actor Cesar Romero, who’d played the Joker in the original Batman TV series.) In between cuts, he’d exit the premises and look up and down the street, furtively. Jack was fearful, it was said, that Franco’s spies were coming to get him. The guys at ‘4Brother’s’ are from Kurdistan. It was like having having a haircut in a foreign country, but on your own doorstep. Wonderful!

9.45 am: On with the article. I’m, now, consciously working in second gear. The climbdown has begun. Christmas is a poignant period in which to lovingly recall and mourn again those whom time has borne away:

The photographs were taken, by me, sometime on Boxing Day in 1968, at my parents’ home in Abertillery, with a Kodak Instamatic 50 camera. From top left to bottom right: Joan Harvey (mother); Trevor Harvey (father); Elizabeth Rees (maternal grandmother); and Oliver Rees (maternal grandfather).

There’s a scene in Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner (1982) (beloved by digital photographers) where Decker (the Bladerunner) interrogates a hard copy photograph using a technology that is able to delve deeper and deeper into the image’s detail, but without any loss of resolution. It’s a wonderful conceit. ‘Enhance lower right. Stop. Centre. Stop. Move in. Stop. Track left. Stop. Track up. Stop’:

‘Centre left. Stop. Move in. Stop’:

I’m fascinated by things on the periphery of a photograph’s ostensible subject; objects, locations, and people of which and whom the photographer may not have been conscious when they opened and closed the shutter. I desire to enter the photograph in order to draw close, once again, to those whose aliveness is preserved within the print’s emulsion.  I desire to enter the photograph in order  to feel the mattness of the Russet apple; pick from the box of Mackintosh’s Good News chocolates, which my Gran offered me after I took that photograph; touch my mother’s cheek; run my hand through the tinsel on the Christmas tree; and remove a volume by Enid Blyton from the book cabinet. Photographs are, in this sense, portals through which one can travel back in time is a manner more palpable than that permitted by memory alone.

After lunch, I pressed forward with the article in the hope that, if I can keep up the pace, the first run-through of the whole piece might be completed by Christmas Eve. A selection of Laurie Speigel compositions played in the background. (Today is a day for music, of a particular type: minimal, repetitive, slowly developing, and non-assertive.) Mid-winter. Late afternoon, the temperature dropped:

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.45 pm: Articulations continued until the end of the evening. The first run-through was completed ahead of time.

December 20, 2016

8.15 am: A reading. Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, was temporarily struck dumb because he didn’t believe the angel’s news that God would or could answer his and Elizabeth’s (his wife) prayer for a child, so very late-on in their lives (Luke 1.20). Silence as punishment. Silence for faithlessness. Silence in waiting. 9.00 am: I returned to the article, adjusting, clarifying, amplifying, deleting, rearranging, and exemplifying my source paper.

I wrote in silence. There are times when even background music is too much. Perceptually, time travels much more quickly when I’m writing. Songs are heard on the periphery of consciousness; they begin and end, but I hardly notice what takes place in the middle. While in the reverie of thought, it’s the small noises in the house, such as the clunk of radiators, remote clicks, footfall, and doors closing, and, without, the noise passing of cars, sirens, bird song, dog bark, and children at play in the far distance, that I find myself listening to. Unlike the sound of familiar (and sometimes ignorable) music, these noises are inadvertent, unique, and casual. And it’s for those reasons that they summon my attention:

Following lunch, I pushed on further with the article. Paragraphs snapped together like Lego bricks.

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.30 pm: On and on and on, until 9.30 pm. 9.45 pm. I watched a BBC documentary on Robert Rauschenberg. So much of our vision of what is worthy of attention — what may become art — derives from the possibilities he’d legitimised in his lifetime. He had not only a profound gift of sight but also the courage to act upon it, regardless of the implications.

December 19, 2016

Yesterday. 11.00 am: The morning service, Holy Trinity Church. A darkly dressed, grouchy, and imperious Archangel Gabriel, amid smaller and far more winning angels, and with shepherds of all sizes and ages looking on, complains about his scuppered plans for Christ’s birth, at the Nativity play:

After the service, he humbled himself and did something genuinely useful, by helping to change the altar clothes:

Following lunch, the family set themselves to decorate the domestic Christmas tree. We’ve always done this together. It’s a collaboration, negotiated compromise, and clash of irreconcilable aesthetic values from beginning to end:

Today. 9.00 am: There’s much to do initiate this week, work wise, alongside all the necessary preparations of the Christmas weekend ahead. 9.10 am: The builders arrived with a cherry picker to restore our ‘troughing’ (pronounced ‘trowing’ in some parts of South Wales), which was misshapen by the hurricane that hit Aberystwyth last month.  9.20 am: Off to the surgery for a further blood test. Ten thousand Christmas trees would not alleviate the impersonality or fill the hollowness of this interior:

One crimson vial later, I was on my way home, where the builders had, now, elevated, and gained confidence with, their wondrous vehicle:

10.30 pm: I dug out the text for my conference paper on ‘Image and Inscription’. This will form the basis of the journal article — which is a very different articulation of the same ideas. It needs to be tighter, more closely argued, denser, less conversational, and a bit longer. I find that breaking into a composition designed for one purpose and adapting it to another is actually harder work than beginning an entirely new piece of writing. And initiating that process is the hardest part of that hard work. Down to it, then!

1.50 pm. After lunch, I continued to hold fast the nettle. The task is made more difficult at this time of the year, when the mind hankers after rest. (And let’s not mention the marking that needs to be done.) One has to search deep into one’s self for that emergency ration — the last fragment of dry biscuit at the bottom of the tin. 3.45 pm: Respite. I poked around with one of the pedalboards that I’ll be upgrading over Christmas. I need to separate the wah-wah and the volume pedals, so that they can be played, left and right of the board, with both feet. Ergonomics. 5.15 pm: Having focussed on the nitty gritty of date-checking, inserting Hebrew words, and sharpening sentences, I was able to get some way into the text without taxing my powers of conceptualisation (which were presently as potent as a dying AAA battery).

6.30 pm: Practise session 1. 7.30 pm: An experiment. Could I hear any discernible improvement in the clarity of output and floor level noise reduction by powering a pedalboard using a series of isolated inputs, rather than a daisy chain from a single output? No! And hearing is the decisive test. 8.15 pm: Back to the article … in a small way, and on with the beginning of marking set-up for the Art/Sound presentations.

December 17, 2016

7.45 am. Up! This is the day that my lads return home. A house to prepare. Shopping to do. Things to put away. But, first: lines to rehearse. I’m the Archangel Gabriel in the church nativity play tomorrow. (I play villains, like Herod, better, in my opinion. I’m rather typecast, in that respect.) The play’s opening instructions and setting read; ‘Gabriel is in his office. He looks a bit stressed out’. This may be a little too close to real life for comfort.

10.50 am: A shopping expedition to town, through the Farmers’ Market (Max), passed acquaintances and friends (who were out in numbers), with whom I exchanged seasonal good wishes (in a vaguely Dickensian manner), towards shops of quality and promise.

1.00 pm: I attended the funeral of Joan Davies, a congregant at Holy Trinity Church, who has died at the age of 99 years:

At funerals you discover a wealth about person’s character, history and achievement that was concealed during their lifetime. What a woman. A Christian, loving, devoted, serving, faithful, fast driving, formula-one loving feminist, and mischievous mother, wife, grandmother, and great grandmother, who found favour with everyone, it would seem. There was no sense of tragedy, today. She’d enjoyed a very long and fruitful life and, now, eternity stretches before her. A text by the anchoress Julian of Norwich (c.1342– c.1416) governed Joan’s outlook on life: ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’:

2.00 pm: Son (Mark II) had landed by the time I’d return home. He was eating, of course. 3.20 pm. Son (Mark I) followed. An afternoon of conversational catch-up, mince-pie making, laundry downloading, sharing of finds, and beers for the boys. The band is complete. This week, and the week following Christmas, have been among the most happy times of familiness in the Harvey household.

6.30 pm: An evening with my family over a film, Coke, crisps, and good cheese.

December 16, 2016

8.00 am: An early morning revision of my Advent talk proved necessary. 9.30 am: Back to the more mundane business of completing term admin, putting things away, and setting tasks in motion in readiness for the beginning of the new term. Once these things are behind me, I’ll have a clear space in which to complete an article during the Christmas holidays. What I, and some of my colleagues, have learned is that one cannot simply stop work, anymore than one can bring a car to a sudden standstill without risk of injury to the driver and passengers. A progressive and very slow deceleration is preferred.

12.15 pm: Off to church, to set up the context for the Advent Light lunchtime service. (In my mind, it’s ‘Advent Lite’. A sort of low-calorie version of something more substantial.)  I have never actively sought opportunities to conduct church services. And, few have arisen. The responsibilities associated with academia, these days, are so many and demanding as to preclude certain commitments that would require a significant investment of time, study, and energy in order to acquit myself of them with any sense of usefulness and integrity. I can make the tea and coffee after the morning service though! Now, I’m available for, and good at, that:

1.15 pm: The half-hour service ended with five minutes to spare. Was that a good or a bad thing? Better to be under, rather than over, time, I guess.

2.15 pm: Following a late lunch, I pressed on with completing postgraduate admin (more poured in even as I was bailing out my dingy) until I lost the will so to do. 3.40 pm: [Pause] ‘I know! I’ll make and send a Christmas e-card instead!’ So much more fun:

In the back of my mind, I recalled images of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, after the command module had had a large hole blown in its side by an exploding oxygen tank. None of the newspaper photographs showed the spacecraft’s debris. But for some reason, I’ve always imagined having seen it. 4.20 pm: My will for admin restored (temporarily (don’t push it)), I plodded on with postgraduatisms.

6.30 pm: Practise session 1:

7.30 pm: Admining on. Now, I’m losing my will to live. ‘Some Miles Davis, electric period, please!’ Miles would never have countenanced doing admin. He’d a have responded with a fugue of expletives, if asked. Me … I respond by asking if I can have a further week to complete it. What a wimp! (Who on earth is Florence Biennale? Tell her to please stop emailing me. I’m already taken. (The madness resurfaces.)) 9.30 pm. Admining done … for now. The remainder can wait until after the holidays.

December 15, 2016

5.20 am: An early start, with the intention of completing the intercessions section of tomorrow’s Advent Light service. 7.00 am: The morning moon:

8.30 am: Off to School for the final set up of today’s Art/Sound doubler. But will anyone else turn up, I wondered? ‘Ye of little faith’. A ‘goodly number’ arrived, bless ’em. There is, however, always the temptation to check-out of a module once the assessment material has been submitted (as it was, on Monday). And, this was the penultimate day of term too. The perfect storm, as it were.

11.00 am: After my two hours of lectures, I headed to the studio to begin the day’s regime of second year painting tutorials. I tried to get a sense of what the students were doing in practice-based modules other than painting. This can be a revelation (and proved to be so today). Often students fail to make a connection between their activities across mediums. (They think like Jekyll and Hyde.) So, down into steerage and into the print rooms with some of them:

I had a lunchtime meeting with Ms Backshall to discuss ‘possibilities’. 2.00 pm: Everyone turned up for tutorials today. (I was impressed by this expression of commitment to the module.) Our discussions inevitably drifted towards the protocols and expectations of the January assessment … which isn’t so far away.

By 5.15 pm, I’d seen all the third year painters and agreed, with all students, a strategy for production over the Christmas period. 5.20 pm: Homeward bound (exhausted):

6.30 pm: We were off to the Art Centre (my second jaunt this week) to see the NT Live broadcast of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land (1974). This was an intelligent and difficult play performed by exemplary actors who knew how to bring out the best in each other. Pinter’s disciplined use of language, construction of character, almost cubist disruption of continuities of thought, and ability to evoke a sense of decentred disorientation is second to none.

9.50 pm: Homeward bound (exhilarated):

December 14, 2016

Yesterday. In the evening, staff gathered at Professor Meyrick’s home to celebrate Dr Pierse’s retirement, after 24 years of service to the School, with speeches, good will, and a parting gift:

8.00 am: On, then, to Le Figaro’s for the staff Christmas dinner, waited upon by one of our third-year students, among others. What a fine bunch of colleagues!:

Today. 8.45 am: The Promenade:

9.00 am: The beginning of the final MA fine art tutorials of the semester. Some of the students will be assessed in January; so, the period from now until then will be crucial for them — a period for consolidation, rather than resolution, for comprehension rather than decision (necessarily). The arc of development for the part timers is by no means leisurely; they’ve more time to enjoy the view en route, that’s all, Intentional (above)/Non-intentional (below) painting:

11.30 am: I returned to the School to deliver a trio of second-year painting tutorials and cram in some preparations for a postgraduate meeting on campus this afternoon.

1.40 pm: Up the tarmac hill to the campus to join the committee. I was drawn to red (Caradoc Road):

I was drawn to red (Penglais Hill):

2.00 pm: The postgraduate teaching and research committee: anachronisms, acronyms, acrimony, advocacy, and AQRO. The committee comprised a sensible, honest, and straight-speaking bunch of hard-working academics who have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous bureaucracy. You cannot run education as a business! You just can’t!:

4.10 pm: Down the hill and back to School …

… to my final appointment — a PhD Fine Art tutorial with one of our finalising students. A magnificent end to the afternoon: vitalising, enriching, challenging, and potent.

7.30 pm: I returned to my Advent composition, which I’ll deliver at Holy Trinity Church on Friday lunchtime: a reflection on Matthew, Chapter 2, verses 1 to 12.

Some observations and principles derived from today’s encounters:

  • ‘Contained euphoria’; ‘happy melancholia’: states of mind that lie between states of mind.
  • At times, the process will determine the subject of the artwork; at other times, the subject will determine the process.
  • Any degree of pre-visualisation of an artwork’s outcome will constrain its natural, intrinsic, and organic development to that degree.
  • Leave your bad moods and legitimate grievances at the door of the committee room. Be open. Be hopeful. Be constructive. Be supportive.

December 12, 2016

Yesterday. 9.30 am: Goodbye son; goodbye London:

Today. 8.15 am: Diary to upload, emails to address, appointments to confirm, and the remainder of last week’s Blackboard material to process. 10.15 am: Off to my GP to apprise them (and them, me) about numerous and unrelated ailments on a broad spectrum of severity and implication that have been my affliction over the last few months. Like me, the announcement monitor was glitching:

11.00 am: Back at homebase, I made ready a PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow’s postgraduate teaching and MA inquirers’ talk:

Lunchtime: Numerous amps and noisy machines, used at last week’s Art/Sound event, were retrieved from the School and humped to home. Now they have to be carefully re-boxed. Look after your equipment, and it will look after you.

2.00 pm: Having accidentally erased the morning’s PowerPoint endeavours (that’ll teach me), I redid the whole, although more quickly and probably better. 3.00 pm: A packing away of equipment and cables into their allocated boxes …

… followed a test of an extension amp to cabinet stereo connection and the assembly of my new guitar (drum) seat (throne). ‘Shouldn’t you be writing, or painting, or making an inexorable noise or something, rather than just tidying stuff?’, said the detractor. ‘No! For me, the creative discipline is predicated upon orderliness and efficiency. That begins with the studio and its components. Ensure that these are where they should be, functional, and accessible, and the rest will follow.

6.15 pm: Practise session 1. 7.50 pm: Off to the Art Centre to see David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986). I’ve watched the film more time than I can remember. I can return to it again and again, as to a piece of music, without either exhausting its content or fathoming its mystery. Some films are entertainment, others are art. This is decidedly the latter. That Lynch heralds from a fine art background is not incidental:

December 10, 2016

I arrived at the Royal Academy to see the Abstract Expressionist exhibition ten minutes before opening time. I was a keeny. A Dutch visitor and I struck up a conversation while queuing. He was an enthusiast, with no professional commitment to the arts – a genuine and informed member of the art public. I’d been looking forward to this exhibition with a instinctive sense that it wouldn’t let me down. Some exhibitions are interesting and informative, others are also illuminating, and yet a others (very few) are also overwhelming. This was one. ‘Too much! Too much!’, I found myself muttering. Great art casts us back upon ourselves.

From ‘The Black Notebook’ (10 Mar. 2015 – ), 106-7:

Hoffman was a generator of ideas, as much for others as for himself; more important as a teacher than as an artist, in this respect / paintings are fixed points; immediate and totalising, unlike music / Krasner’s self portrait betrays TH Benton’s tutelage / Gorky: ‘deep knowledge of art history’ / AE had a ‘big’ metaphysic / an interest in other than art alone / Pollock’s drip technique overcame the dry, drawn feel of brushing / his Blue Poles (1952): astonishing; like Tesla’s electric storms; the silent frenzy of a storm under his thumb / Rothko aspired to ‘the poignancy of music’ / many of the paintings came into this world at the same time as me / students need to be more interested in the works of other artists than in their own even, if they are to achieve anything of note / some painters pursued an endgame; but when you reach that final point, you must either stop or start afresh / the beauty makes me ache, physically / have I mentioned Mark Tobey to V?

Two hours later, I was back in the tawdry and earthbound world of Christmas shoppers and tired decorations. On, then, to John Lewis, Oxford Street and, from there, to St Paul’s, where I took lunch. People of all ages poured into the Tate Modern. That was an encouraging sight. Contemporary art is no longer a minority interest, for sure:

I attended the Rauschenberg retrospective:

From ‘The Black Notebook’ (10 Mar. 2015 – ), 107-8:

R took a music appreciation course at Black Mountain College / White Painting (1951) influenced by Cage’s 4’33” / R’s work proceeded from intent / R made paintings ‘live’ on stage; First Time Painting (1961) had a microphone attached to his easel to amplify his brushstrokes / ceaseless invention, experimentation, and extension / a relationship of the work and the world: a constant / R’s work – a response to AE / even great art requires an antidote.

Before leaving the gallery, I rocketed around the first four floors of the new extension. I must return and view the entirety more gracefully:

4.00 pm: My son and I met for a Christmas shop in some of the bookshops between Leicester Square and Covent Garden. Good pickings. By 6.00 pm, the area had become saturated with shoppers, revellers, and hoards returning from the day’s football matches. Piccadilly Circus station was in partial lockdown. We escaped to Finchley Road to eat, and to watch Arrival at a Vue cinema complex. This was an intelligent, original, difficult, and disciplined film. One to be seen again, as soon as practicable.