Month: July 2017

July 31, 2017

Saturday. A day of preparations and trail, as the discs and sound system for the ‘Double Blind’ track moved towards completion. I anticipate that minor adjustments will need to be made during the process of composition. However, the composition cannot begin without first ensuring that the the textual materials are at my fingertips (quite literally), and their means of manipulations, optimised. In the weeks to come, I shall develop a command over my means. But none of these preparations guarantee that anything worthwhile will ensue:

Today. 8.30 am: Admin update, followed by a review of Saturday’s efforts. 9.00 am: There are other endeavours related to ‘The Talking Bible’ project that must now go forward. But, before that, the narratives in Circle A needed to be harmonised, where appropriate. That’s to say, I need to address together those accounts of healing in the gospels that, while either subtly or sometimes substantially unlike one to the other, nevertheless refer to the same event as seen and recorded from contrasting perspectives. For example, Matt. 20.29–34, Mark 10.46-52, and Luke 18. 35–43, some scholars believe, all refer to the same incident. The ‘Double-Blind’ track, as it’s presently conceived, cross-references Matt. 20.29–34 and Matt. 9. 27–31. Both texts come from the same gospel and different periods and places in Christ’s ministry. While not referring to the same event, the two accounts have several commonalities: The narratives involve a pair of blind men who together call on Christ for mercy, using the appellation ‘O Lord, Son of David!’. But the distinctions far outweigh the similarities. Nevertheless, commentators have argued, they are essentially the same narrative, and also, a restatement of the healing of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10.46–52).

Since I couldn’t lay all this out in my head, the connections and conjunctions (possible, debatable, and actual) between the texts had to be objectified:

In the process, a further possible compositional idea was generated, based around the blinding of Saul by Christ and the healing Paul by Ananias (Acts 9.1–12, 20.6–13). The structural relations between the texts is getting clearer.

1.30 pm: After lunch, I reopened the files on the ‘Bible & Sound’ conference – which is the scholarly and broader backdrop of The Aural Bible series. (Sometimes, in its absence, it’s necessary to create a context for the work oneself.) I made good progress with the concept text. Mid afternoon, the conference banner received attention. Once the graphic style of a project begins to emerge, the rest of the endeavour feels more real and doable. This, of course, is entirely illusory:

6.10 pm: Off to the Vicarage to serve on a vicar appointment committee at the parish Rectory. This has been a long time in coming. On my return home, the ochre sunlight scorched the upper stories of buildings and warmed the stratified grey clouds that churned and tore themselves apart far above:

8.15 pm: To dinner and to work again. Having designed the banner (provisionally), I put together a conference logo based on the same elements:

July 28, 2017

If you aren’t careful, teaching will give you up before you give it up. Therefore, timing is of the essence.

8.30 am: A communion. 9.00 am: ‘And, I thought to myself, “Would it be possible to put together a crack team of postgraduate students, work with them intensively for four days and, at the end of that period, put on a small exhibition?” There’s so much that can be learned and adapted from music education’. One thing in particular struck me about last night’s performance: the students and tutors had not only worked but also performed together. That was a telling sign of the teachers’ commitment; they identified with and supported their tutees during their most vulnerable and demanding moment.

While I felt the urgency of returning to the technological end of ‘The Talking Bible’ project, sometime during the day, the conceptualisation of the source materials still required considerable organisation. The process of integration deploys hermeneutic and expository methods native to biblical studies and homiletics. In this respect, the project adapts and explores ways of reading and interpreting the scriptures as means of sonic construction:

The organization was undertaken as follows. Stage one: a determination of the New Testament narratives related to Christ’s engagement with, and healing of, blind men. (There are no examples related to women.) (Circle A). Stage two: an assignment of relevant and supportive New Testament texts to individual narratives (where relevant) (Circle B). Stage three: a gathering of Old and New Testament references to the blind and blindness as metaphors for spiritual disability and moral prejudice, as well as to laws that protected the rights of the blind while restricting people of disability from offering sacrifices at the altar (Circles B and C). (In our age of social inclusion, these latter laws are hard to swallow.)

After lunch, the overview was complete. This was he first time in the history of the project that I sensed its beginning, end, divisions, and extent. I’ve still only a partial intuition regarding the overall sound and the technical and methodological approach to composition. Furthermore, I’ve little idea how the recording’s history plays into and informs all those things. But … one thing at a time. Which is exactly how this is endeavour is proceeding.

4.00 pm: Studiology. Late in the day. But better than a no show. The Epistle of James discs needed to be replaced with those for Matthew, Chapters 9 and 20 before any further work could be done. Afterwards, I confronted an unexpected glitch with the Roland sampler. Was this a problem caused by the SD card on which the samples are stored or the device itself?:

If you aren’t fascinated by problems like this, then, technology is not for you. Having reformatted the card, the matter was resolved. Would a faster card improve matters? (To be continued.)

7.30 pm: A final evening at the MusicFest:

The two contemporary compositions were engaging, Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, rapturous, but the Walton/Sitwell Façade … I loath this piece of music like no other. In its day, this was ‘fake’ Modernism for the the tea-sipping, parlour-sitting upper-class. It has the pretence of radicalism. But at its heart is a cloying, colonialist, and polite mediocrity. Walton was a decidedly second-rate and pedantic composer in comparison to Elgar, and Sitwell, a poor women’s Carroll where it comes to the use of ‘absurdist’ verse, and certainly not to be compared with Eliot on any level with regard to an exploration of the ‘abstract’ aspects of language. Sitwell’s racial stereotyping is offensive to the contemporary ear. I’m not in favour of musical censorship, so a piece like this really does need some bracketing. Programme notes situating it within the mindset of the early-twentieth century would have relieved the guilt and discomfort of listening.

July 27, 2017

There’s one thing better than making a good work of art, and that’s developing a good way of working. 

Yesterday. I completed the extraction of words and phrases from the Matthew, Chapters 9 and 20 texts and formatted them. The latter process entailed normalising their volume and length to facilitate a looping and overdubbing of the source. Double words, such as ‘Mercy Mercy’ (being the same word taken from each of the two chapters), and long words (for example, ‘immediately’) were rendered at 1.000 sec, and individual short words, at 0.500 sec.

In the late afternoon and through the evening I reviewed chapters from a PhD Fine Art thesis, which is presently on its last lap. The beginning and ending of a project are the trickiest phases in its development.

Today. 6.00 am: I’d planned to take an early-morning jog. No sooner than I stepped into the garden, it poured. Floor exercises were, therefore, the call of the day. 7.30 am: A confrontation with self, a consideration of others, and a consultation with heaven. 8.30 am: To work. The scope of ‘The Talking Bible’ required a decisive delimitation around the New Testament narratives about blindness. In essence, there are three levels of address: A Core Narratives (New Testament); B General References (New Testament); and C General References (Old Testament):

Interestingly, there are no accounts of individuals being healed of their blindness in the Old Testament. Which is why, I imagine, Christ’s ministry in this respect was considered so extraordinary and significant. I now have to integrate all three levels in the suite of compositions.

11.00 am: I attended one of the MusicFest Fringe performances on the theme of ‘Music and Art’, held at the School of Art Gallery. Chris Grooms, a Texan (and a fluent Welsh speaker) played a ‘Romantic’ guitar made in the early nineteenth century. This was quite a bit smaller than a classical guitar. I suspect that the, later, parlour guitar owes its origin to it:

He was an enthusiast in the tradition of the raconteur troubadour, and presented a fascinating insight into the particularities of not only Welsh guitar music but also the tradition of Welsh guitar playing, going back to the sixteenth century. In the audience was a  number of the School of Art’s guitar geeks. Dr Maria Hayes (one of my former PhD Fine Art tutees) drew Chris in performance. She is Artist in Residence at the festival this year:

Maria Hayes, ‘Tinc Y Tannau with Sianed Jones and Alisa Mair Hughes’ (2017)

After an early lunch, I assembled the texts to all the biblical references to the word ‘blind’, so that I’d have at my elbow a running script on which connections could be more easily mapped. My preparations prior to the execution of an artwork have always been laborious. I’d prefer it to be otherwise. But this is what the task demands of me. And who am I to argue? In the background, I played whatever I could discover by a young experimental guitarist who was new to me: Joileah Concepcion. She has a rare musical intelligence for her age.

7.30 pm: An undisciplined appraisal from the seat of self-loathing:

9.20 pm: An assault on the hill to re-join the MusicFestivities and the young jazzers that I’d listened to on Tuesday night. Tonight, they were presenting their end-of-course set to an (albeit, non-paying) audience as part of the fringe performances. There was an energy born of joy present. I could hear not only conspicuous talent but also great potential. These were dedicated, hardworking young people, who clearly loved both their instruments and the genre, under the tutelage of still young tutors:

July 25, 2017

8.30 am: To the School and the Old College for a morning of postgraduate teaching and the serious business of living and being. 9.00 am: My first MA fine art tutorial:

Two of my charge are moving towards their second and final exhibition and another to their first exhibition of the scheme. Each exhibition has a very different trajectory and expectation. The second is completed in half the time allotted for the first, and must evidence a movement and improvement in one or more dimensions. In short, the students need to best their best. No mean feat. The second MA fine art tutorial:

10.45 am: Off across town to the seafront studios at the Old College for a further MA and a PhD Fine Art tutorial. In our conversations, art spills into life spills into art. I never teach the subject; rather, I teach the person (and they, me). Trust, acceptance, empathy, openness, a measure of intimacy, and a willingly vulnerability (on the part of both the tutee and tutor) are the necessary conditions for a fruitful exchange and artistic growth. And that exchange can change either or both participants, profoundly and for the good:

1.30 pm: Homebase, and a speedy lunch: domestic and academic admin required some immediate attention. 3.00 pm: I got back to the ‘double blind’ texts (Matthew, Chapters 9 and 20) in order to extract keywords and phrases for the playback-only sampler’s banks ‘A’ and ‘B’. The objective was to render those concepts that were significant and encapsulating and, more often than not, occurred in both narratives (‘M9’ and ‘M20’):

7.45 pm: The extraction of the same from the digital rendering of the records was begun. This was aural surgery.

Principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • What we cannot do and who we aren’t significantly shape what we can do and who we are.
  • Where possible, view a work in progress in the context in which it’ll be exhibited.
  • There’s a difference in quality, and there’s a difference in character. They shouldn’t be confused.
  • Difference and similarity, separation and cohesion, in tension, in unity. This is what we’re aiming at.
  • Make freedom a constraint; in other words, a necessary condition for practice.
  • It’s as abstract as it needs to be; no more, no less.
  • An inquisitiveness and an enthusiasm to discover something new (for you) in the object of your inquiry and in yourself are at the heart of the creative enterprise.
  • Find an idea in the process of painting, rather than paint an idea.
  • Speak to yourself, often. Listen to yourself, occasionally.
  • Your path through art will appear strange in progress but obvious in retrospect.
  • The prospect of joy to come makes our present difficulties bearable.

9.45 pm: We attended a ‘Jazz Jam’, held as part of the MusicFest Aberystwyth, at the Arts Centre. It was encouraging to see enthusiastic young people exploring standards – such as ‘Round Midnight, Freddie Freeloader and Autumn Leaves – with such gusto, evident pleasure, and sense of nostalgia (even though this was a period in music that they were too young to have experienced):

July 24, 2017

8.00 am: A reaffirmation:

This is the foundation: the three domains of discipline – body, mind, and spirit. The discipline of the body: exercise, diet, health, hygiene, appearance, and rest. The discipline of the mind: focus, learning, understanding, imagination, judgement, and reasoning. The discipline of the spirit: morality, spirituality, humanity, and well-being. In this present life, these domains are distinguishable but inseparable.

On these three, the virtues are founded: vision, tenacity, charity, consideration, generosity, mercy, forgiveness, patience, selflessness, loyalty, nobility, hopefulness, joyfulness, honour, decency, probity, honesty, industry, diligence, conscientiousness, dignity, temperance, balance, courage, justice, prudence, good humour, gravity, integrity, righteousness, devotion, and piety. They must be consciously and constantly cultivated through critical practice. They are achievable, but only with assistance.

The virtues determine our way of life; habits of action, thought, and feeling; world view; ambitions; priorities; and attitude to others and ourselves.

These things, in turn, inform our vocation and the work that we undertake.

8.30 am: A preparation. 9.00 am: I addressed emails requiring immediate attention, reviewed and annotated a postgraduate submission, and laid out my objectives for the week ahead:

12.00 pm: Over the weekend, I became conscious of the centrality of the blindness theme to ‘The Talking Bible’ project. This would delimit the scope of my intervention therein. Quite how the contextual topics, related to the time of the recording, would dovetail with this is yet to be determined. It’s rarely possible to address all the problems that beset a work simultaneously. However, with each individual solution, the answers to the remainder becomes increasingly straightforward. The Epistle of James project for two DJ decks etc, will, therefore, be abandoned. In its place, I’ll deploy two narratives taken from the Gospel of Matthew, each describing two blind men’s encounters with Christ (Matt. 9.27–31; 20. 30–34). These texts preserve the concept of  ‘the double’ that had first drawn me to the Epistle of James:

1.45 pm: Studiology. To begin – a putting away of the weekend’s sound recording equipment. Then, onto a partial reconfiguration of the sound system supporting the project, with the introduction of a new manual looper. This fulfils the systemic lack that I’d identified on July 18, 2017. The Power Supply Unit of every piece of equipment gets its own Dymo ID on arrival. Electro-Christening:

Then, into the instruction manual, and the painful slog to relate it to the device. There’s usually a reality gap to overcome.

7.45 pm: Onto the learning curve. Once I’d resolved a rather strange cable issue, the device (like a bucking bronco) began to yield to my control. Play is the only way to learn. Text book knowledge is never enough. Indeed, sometimes it gets in the way. True, experiential knowledge comes with the practical implementation of intuition:

I have an occasional, recurrent nightmare. I’m disembodied, but incarcerated within a sealed, claustrophobic, and airless square black box, floating in starless and remote space. There’s no one out there with whom I might communicate. Nor is their the prospect of anyone for all eternity.

July 21, 2017

7.20 am: To the bus station, where I boarded the second X15 of the day headed for Abertillery and beyond. The rain would not deter me (or so I thought), as it had done on other occasions. I was ‘macked-up’ to the hilt. My plan was to walk the route, as far as it was possible, towards the summit of the Arael, beginning at the Old Blaina Road base camp. This is the path that I’ve trod since childhood, and one of the putatively haunted zones on the mountain. En route, my aim was to audiograph and photograph the surroundings. The microphone would be my lens, the sound recorder, my camera and glass plate. Listening for the ‘moment’ is no different to looking for it. Friday felt like Saturday. The dark clouds constrained the sunlight. Morning felt like evening. I know this weather well; it has served to objectify a deep-seated melancholy.

As yesterday, the bad weather and I travelled together. The rain poured relentlessly; cars oozed large plumes of water into the air; and travellers boarded the bus complaining: ‘It’s ‘orrible!’, ‘Jeez!’, ‘What a day!’, ‘There’s weather isn’t it!’ Warnings of flooding and high winds bounced onto my weather app. The valley seen through the condensed and dribbling bus windows looked like paintings by some South Walian landscape artist who never was:

9.00 am: On arrival, I headed for Wetherspoon for a latish breakfast at the Pontlottyn – which was, when I was young, a fairly up-market store selling quality household good and clothes. It had a vacuum tube network that transported metal vials containing receipts and money from one part of the store to another: ffffumpphhhP! I loved it. (You can evoke sounds using words too. Recording is only the most literal means of rendering.) As I waited and wrote in the hope that the rain would ease, the eatery filled with senior women communing over coffee and hot chocolate, men consuming a traditional breakfast and a pint of ale, and very young mothers manoeuvring prams between the tables. I suspected that some patrons spend their whole day here.

10.00 am: The rain abated. But no sooner than I got to the end of Somerset Street, the torrent returned. The National Grid transformer off Somerset Street is still exuding a 50MhZ hum. I so enjoy these things:

The normally polite tributary, below the St Micheal’s Church, that feeds the Ebbw Fach river, coursed ferociously. I hid under the umbrella of the local library, where my mother once worked. It was here that I discovered my passion for the industrial history of the area. (This wasn’t taught in school; the history of England predominated.) Mum would pull from old Manila boxes, bander copied typewritten texts written by local enthusiasts, which I poured over in the Reading Room. (The best education is self-education.) The library’s staff room hasn’t changed. I used to meet her there after school, before walking home together.

The weather app suggested that the decidedly bad conditions would persist for the remainder of the day. There was a risk of disruption to travel. Furthermore, my Mack wasn’t as resilient as I’d anticipated; I was experiencing a slow soak. So, it was back to the city, where the climate was less inclement. I would adapt my project to the locale. One has to remain flexible:

In the early evening I met Mr Williams, who was one of my peers at the Newport art school in the late 70s and early 80s. We ate at the Bridge Street Wetherspoon. Our conversation took off where it left off the last time we’d met there. Working-class art, Socialism, Christian delusionalism, marginalised artists, the virtues of painting, the necessity of craft and discipline, and the difficulty of launching and sustaining a career were, again, the topics on the menu. When the music got too loud, we headed onto the streets and for Clarence Place, where we walked the block, touched our former art school, retold the stories, and licked the wounds of our worst experiences back then, as only former art students do:

Having followed the riverside path and crossed the freeway, we returned to the town centre once again. Moving in the direction of the Transporter Bridge, the pair of us reminisced like surly old codgers in a slice-of-life TV documentary. We yearned to return (but only to the best of the past), lamented Newport’s decline, reconciled ourselves to what cannot be undone, and vowed to keep going. (When you’ve come this far in art, there’s no turning back.):

July 20, 2017

7.00 am: Aberystwyth railway station. The platform announcement strongly advised: ‘If you see something that isn’t right, speak to the staff or text the transport police’. I pondered the scope of ‘unrightness’: walls that aren’t precisely perpendicular; a jarring juxtaposition of colours; a woman who lifts a suitcase in such a way as to risk injury to her back. Conceived thus, the authorities’ hotline would never stop ringing.

7.30 am: I began my return. The older I get, the greater the compulsion to touch the earth of my birth. Abertillery is a source, resource, and recourse. I go there whenever the need presses upon me to, variously, take stock of life, find myself again, reaffirm my sense of mission, and recover my poise. On this occasion, the objective was also to listen to and record the town and its environs. I’ve photographed the landscape on every revisit. (Although, I don’t consider myself to be a photographer; I’m just a man with a camera.) But, I’ve never audiographed it; that’s to say, rendered its audible features.

When I was a young boy, the town – heard from the summit of the Arael Mountain – was sonically active. Typically, its acoustic landscape featured a distant reverberant hammering emanating from the iron foundry; the clank and screech of coal trucks as they juddered haltingly up and down the line between Rose Heyworth Colliery and Newport; and always the throaty burr of a motorbike moving at speed through the valley, fading and phasing as it gained distance. (If I had a choice in the matter, this would be the last sound I hear before casting off from this world. It has an indefinable significance for me – one that’s profoundly evocative, melancholic, and filled with longing and loss.) The sources of these sounds couldn’t be seen from that vantage point. They were invisible – abstracted from, or independent of, the means of their making.

I can recall (reimagine) sounds more vividly than sights. Sounds tend to be singular, focussed, and event driven. They summon the context and circumstances of their audition. I remember sounds because I’d had listened to (rather than merely heard) them. I had listened because they either beckoned to me or else asserted themselves by dint of their volume and overbearing presence. The recollection of sound is, for me, a source of solace. Audio recordings of people, places, and things reconnect me with the past (the moment of their capture) far more intimately than do photographs of the same. In audio recordings, they retain the ghost of their anima.

11.20 am: I arrived at Newport, and made a track to my customary stables in the city. Once unpacked, I headed for Stand 18 at the bus station to catch the X15 to Abertillery. Serial roadworks delayed the upstream traffic, adding twenty minutes to the journey. My relationship with the town is ambivalent. Throughout my stays, I switch from connect to disconnect and back again. The rain arrived with me:

I took shelter and lunch in the Arcade’s café (now renamed ‘Bear Grills’), where I was the only customer:

A hallowing light found periodic gaps between the dark clouds. (Here was metaphor in action.):

I revisited the corridor down which my mother and her four year old entered health clinic to pick up a box of fortified cocoa powder. Then, I peered up the staircase of a dental surgery (and it still is), where I’d experienced some of my most traumatic pre-teen experiences at the hands of Mr Mills the dentist, and where my maternal grandmother nearly died under the charge of an incompetent anaesthetist. (Had she succumbed, then, I would not be writing this.):

So much of the town has been abandoned; the hollow shells of failed businesses, like so many collapsed teeth, ruin the town’s smile:

So, it’s all the more extraordinary that a contemporary photography gallery (now in its fourth year) has thrived in this environment. I met and talked with some of The Kickplate Gallery’s organisers. This is a small, intimate setup with large ambitions and an impressive track record of big name and new blood exhibitions. Beyond the bounds of art and possible projects, we talked about Abertillery’s notorious serial child killer, Harold Jones (1906 – 1971), and that part of the Arael Mountain, which backs onto Old Blaina Road, and has a reputation for being haunted. I’ve experienced a vaguely unsettling sensation there myself. I’ll be sound recording there tomorrow, I hoped:

I returned to Newport at the close of the afternoon, ate locally later and cost effectively in the evening, and, afterwards, considered the day:

July 18, 2017

The big day! Like a wedding on steroids. Graduands morphed into graduates at the doff of a hat. For many, this was the great ‘leaving home’ party. Others will return to undertake MA studies with us in September. For everyone, it’s a memorable rite of passage. That so many young, and older, people go to university these days doesn’t diminish the achievement. To obtain a good degree requires ability, hard work, perseverance, knowledge, wisdom, and maturity. As I sat on the podium, looking out at our brood, I saw the faces of some who, variously, got into the School by the skin of their teeth, had faced insuperable personal problems at some point in their studies, collapsed academically halfway through, and, in so many other ways, got lost. And yet … and yet … here they now were, along with those whose voyage through education had been smooth from start to finish, valiant, rightly proud, changed, stable, optimistic, converted to learning, and full of potential.

In one of my Messenger exchanges today, I’d remarked:

I was a bad-to-mediocre secondary school student. (The proverbial underachiever.) Few teachers had any hope for me.  I was socially inept and struggled without confidence in either myself or the system of education. Art school was a life-ring for me — a complete reorientation of my understanding about what it was to learn. Motivation and determination followed in its wake. [Any individual’s ] turnaround (like mine) comes from within … . In part, it’s the recognition of a fitness for purpose, and of belonging to a tradition and community of endeavour that seeks to accept and encourage rather than remould and undermine.

Teachers have their contribution to make. But the real heroes in this process of transformation are the students themselves:

1.30 pm: Email catch-up, Facebook n’ Twitter upload, and ‘to do’ list and tutorial diary update. 3.15 pm: Postgraduate admin: the ‘memory’ project, which the School will be running in collaboration with the Royal Commission in November, needed to move forward. I contacted our, now, well-trained team of workshop mangers (the MA Vocational Practice students) and others to ask for volunteers.

7.30 pm: Studiology. I returned to the sound system that I’d designed, initially, for the Epistle of James performance composition:

I sensed the need of another sampler recorder/player in the effects loop. Presently, the Roland SP-404SX if dedicated to playing samples of keywords derived from the epistle. The floor-based loopers’ job is to capture and overlay the output combined further down stream. What I cannot do at the moment is snatch momentary samples off the decks — ‘self-erasing one-offs’. I shall sleep on it.

July 17, 2017

Saturday. To begin, a little field-recording resourcing in readiness for next week. I then undertook the annual CV and website MOT update and reconciliation procedure. I was struck by how little I’d achieved during the last year, how effortlessly web links ‘die’, the anomalies in the text (still), and the welter of things that have yet to be achieved in my career. And time and energy are not on my side.

Sunday. After lunch, we travelled to Strata Florida Abbey. I hadn’t returned in decades. CADW had arranged an open weekend, which appeared to be well attended. Too little remains to evoke a strong sense of the building’s presence. The medieval floor tiles are, for me, the most resonant aspect of the complex: a place where the monks’ feet fell as they traversed, at work and prayer, from one part of the abbey to another. Fascinatingly, the tiles were laid out in a grid formation, at right angles to another grid (a ‘ghost’ of a grid) inscribed upon them. Now, there was an idea to conjure with:

Today. Health issues and postgraduate admin to begin. Research admin followed. The SteelWork project has had to be placed on hold due to issues regarding copyright that remained unresolved. I needed to know whether the doors to progress were going to remain closed for the foreseeable future. If so, I’d move on to something else. Not all things are possible always. And, some things are possible only sometimes. 12.30 pm: Correspondence posted. I can only wait for a response.

1.00 pm: A research-update lunch with Dr Roberts. Sometimes there’s an abundance of possibilities, but too few opportunities; sometimes there’re many opportunities, but too few takers; and sometimes there’re a great many takers, but too few givers.

2.30 pm: I wrote a shirty letter to another university on behalf of someone else. 4.00 pm: Back to PhD draft dissertation reviewing.

7.30 pm: I returned to Saturday’s agenda – updating websites and professional profiles.

July 14, 2017

9.00 am: Taking stock. I looked over the New Testament narratives about blindness. In Mark, Chapter 8, there’s an account of man whose sight was restored by Christ in two stages. Initially, he could see only imperfectly: ‘I see men as trees, walking’ (Mark 8. 24). (A remarkable image.) This was an imperfect but, nevertheless, a true apprehension. He perceived movement correctly, but had only a vague perception of the objects in motion. Indistinction gave rise to a striking metaphor. Our vision of that which we fail to grasp precisely at first, can sometimes be more interesting than our final and more coherent  perception.

I extracted the sound samples from the vinyl to digital transfer of the records for this account, as well as the much longer narrative of the man born blind from birth, in John, Chapter 9. This healing — which involves the application of clay, spittle, and water to the boy’s eyes — is contextualised within a discussion between his parents and the Jewish authorities regarding the identity of Jesus and that of the prophesied Messiah (which, in the view of the latter, were not necessarily congruent).

Thereafter, I continued to research significant events that took place in America in July 1964 – the period in which Scourby made the recording. There are four events that month: the signing of the Civil Rights Acts (July 2); the British nuclear test in the USA (July 17); race riots in Harlem, Rochester, and Yorkville; and the launch of the Ranger 7 probe towards the moon, and its crash landing on the satellite, after taking 4, 316 photographs of its surface (July 28 and 31):

Ranger 7, photographs of the moon, NASA Facts, 2/6 [n. d.] (with acknowledgment to WikiCommons)

How, then, do these events connect to the theme of blindness? Once that question is addressed, the delimiting structure that I’m yearning for will become clearer.

My microphone suspension kit came today. This is designed to minimise contact between the microphone and me.

After lunch, I segmented the Mark, Chapter 8 text so that I could manipulate each component independently. Then, it remained for me to analyse the text, so as to extract a content that could to inform the concepts, processes, and methods of the sound composition:

Inevitably, my ruminations stray into sermon preparation territory — but without any spiritualisation or application of the text. For my intent is to understand the form, structure, and internal logic of the narrative, primarily.