Month: January 2018

January 30, 2018

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isa. 40.31).

7.30 am: A communion. Waiting for, say, the outcome of a medical test or a significant exam, or an employer’s decision about our future, or the overdue homecoming of a loved-one or friend, can be an utterly debilitating experience. We spend our days unable to focus on the task at hand, feeling vaguely nauseous and lethargic, and watching the clock. Isaiah’s scenario describes those who wait neither upon events nor people but upon God. They aren’t anxious, distracted, and enfeebled. More than the very opposite in fact. They experience something approaching superhuman enabling: a rejuvenating power to exceed far beyond their natural ability to endure and cope. And with it — by implication — vigour, optimism, and determination.

8.30 am: I cleansed my inbox, before reopening my conference paper file (while fielding incoming messages and emails throughout the morning). In the background: John Martyn (again). I’ve been utterly captivated by his use of the  Echoplex and WEM Copicat echo and delay systems ever since I saw him on The Old Grey Whistle Test, back in 1977, playing ‘I’d Rather Be the Devil’ from his Solid Air album, which was released that year. He was an extraordinary songwriter and guitar player who, tragically, fell victim to his self-destructive inclination.

11.00 am: A cup of PG Tips and an a square of dark chocolate is the closest I get to excess:

Creativity subjects being squeezed schools tell BBC‘. Parents have known this for some time. The provision of peripatetic music teachers, after-school art classes, and dramatic performances, concerts, and exhibitions for the public (which are some of the best ways to show-case a school’s vitality and commitment to its students) is increasingly at risk. (These things, and only these things, made my secondary school experience tolerable, and only just tolerable.):

Art Department, Nantyglo Comprehensive School (2001)

Fewer students studying art at GCSE and ‘A’-Level will inevitably impact on university applications to fine art and art history degrees. This, in turn, will reduce the number of really good graduates returning to secondary school as able and inspiring art teachers.

I was saddened to hear that my former art school tutor, John Selway, had died last year, aged 79 years. The last time we spoke was during an Opening at the Kickplate Gallery, Abertillery (his and my home town), in September 2016:

When he taught me painting in the late 1970s, he was never to be seen other than in a leather biker’s jacket and denims. He always reminded me of The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon. John, too, was a ‘bit of a lad’ and a ‘lovable rogue’. But, boy, could he paint … and at speed! Which he often would in our studio. A sight to behold. I learned more from what he did than from what he said. His students cleaned his brushes and put the caps back on his paint tubes at the end of each day. He wouldn’t because he knew that we would.

12.45 pm: I took an early lunch before walking to School to begin a long afternoon of MA fine art tutorials both there and at the Old College:

6.00 pm: Homeward:

7.30 pm: I listened to the latest composition-in-progress, which I’d developed further on Saturday. What’s missing? It feels lethargic and apathetic. I can either work with or against that condition: treat is as either a positive, defining characteristic or a negative deficiency. 9.45 pm: Retire.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • If you can conceive of the painting after the next one, then don’t begin the next one.
  • Get into a habit of finishing things.
  • What’s the nature of ‘finished’ for you?
  • Title a work too early and it becomes too precious.
  • Talk about the work only in terms of its positive attributes.
  • What’s on the periphery of the idea?
  • Enlarge the scale of a colour and you increase the lightness of the perceived tone.
  • Avoid presupposing outcomes to approaches that you’ve never tried.
  • There’s rarely a simple solution to a complex problem. One must first simplify the problem.
  • Don’t give up on anything or anyone with the capacity to make sense of your life.

January 29, 2018

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Ps. 27.14).

Sunday. At Holy Trinity Church, Aberystwyth, we hosted the annual RNLI service of thanksgiving.

The sterling endeavours of the boat team are an example of true and modest heroism on the volunteers’ part. They place their own lives on the line every time a call is answered. I was heartened to hear so many children express a desire to follow in the footsteps of their serving parents. The next generation of lifeboat women and men is in the making.

Today. 7.30 am: A communion. When my children were young and asked me for something, I would often tell them to wait. Either I hadn’t made up my mind about the matter, or wanted to kick it into the long grass in the hope that they might, in time, forget their petition (fat chance), or needed to test their resolve. If they really wanted what they’d ask for, then, they’d endure the delay patiently and, no doubt, badger me about the request periodically (like the importunate widow in Christ’s parable (Luke 18.1–8)). Waiting can be hard. Our human instinct is for immediate resolution and guaranteed satisfaction. The experience can be particularly dispiriting if you don’t trust the integrity of the person you’re anticipating. Thus, whom we wait upon defines our attitude to waiting. In the spiritual realm, those that wait upon God are enjoined to ‘man-up’, as it were, and be confident and encouraged, because it’s no less than God. And he never disappoints.

8.30 am: A howler of a day ahead. My feet would not touch the ground until 6.30 pm. ‘Get go, John!’. Emails attended to and feedback for the Abstraction module dispatched, I reviewed my lunchtime lecture on ‘Culture and Society’ for the Art in Wales (which I also, rather disrespectfully, refer to as the Farting Whales) module. 9.30 am: I listened again to Saturday’s efforts. It was shaping up, but there’s still so much to do. I’ve decided to incorporate the ‘Sea Interlude‘ composition into the I. Nothing. Lack suite. The former was originally intended to serve as a source of solace and calm. Dementia patients are, I’ve discovered, played sounds of the sea to assuage their anxiety and disorientation. Q: Would it be possible to construct a piece of sound to that end, more consciously? A sound that can heal.

Back, then, to a reconfiguration of the Art/Sound module (which will be offered next academic year) for Level 2 (second year) students. In the background: John Martyn’s One World (1977). 10.30 pm: A cup of tea and a square of 85% cocoa chocolate in hand, I made preparations for my afternoon of PhD Fine Art tutorials.

Over the weekend I received a grieving message from one of my former tutees, who’d lost a body of work in a local fire recently. I responded:

The only consolation is that they were things, rather than people, we loved. There must be an art history to be written about art that perished. (I recall Mrs Churchill’s incineration of Graham Sutherland’s portrait of her husband.) Whatever you’d learned from making them is still part of you and whatever will come after them. In art, nothing ever dies.

12.30 pm: Off to School to set up for my lunchtime lecture. I was in seminar room 216; the one with the tele – the channel-switching/identifying/connecting with PC function of which continues to fox me. I can deal with complicated audio hardware and software, but TV’s … . There’s something counter-intuitive about their functionality:

2.00 pm: After the lecture, it was off to the Old College via Park Avenue on a stunning afternoon:

I picked up a light lunch from Tesco Express (a useful watering hole on mad-rush days like this) before beginning an afternoon of PhD Fine Art tutorials. This was teaching at the highest level. Carmen’s studio floor: paintings of human hands are among the earliest expressions of human visual culture. They’ve been found in limestone caves on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi:

6.00 pm: Homeward. It’s only after I stop running that my body tells me how much it hurts. It needed care and sustenance, the caress of a hot shower, and time on the settee. One must love oneself, if only to establish the measure by which we are to love others.

7.30 pm: Teaching admin: uploads, emails, sound editing, and general catch up. 8.00 pm: Back to the conference paper. There’s a reserve of resourcefulness that lies beneath. But it’s not inexhaustible. Like a fire extinguisher, this should be used only in an emergency.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s considerations:

  • At postgraduate level, the cultivation of an independence of thought and action and of a confident self-determination should be your objective, even as you are being taught and supported.
  • It’s what we learn for ourselves that bears the most enduring fruit.
  • A good teacher may till the soil, plant the seeds, water and fertilise, and tend the tender shoots. But they cannot give growth.
  • Can you learn to live with a longing that cannot be fulfilled?
  • An unfulfilled longing can be either the making or the breaking of a person’s psyche. Decide judiciously and proceed with caution, therefore.
  • We are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, but as delicate as Meissen porcelain.
  • It’s the darkness of our experience that creates the chiaroscuro of our personality: the solidity of form without which we cannot be well-rounded artists.
  • The worst experiences may elicit the best from us.

January 27, 2018

7.45 am: It was an effort to get out of bed; my body had other ideas. I ate a slice of toast for breakfast. (A treat.) I’m gluten intolerant. (A fallen slate after the storm of ME.) However, if I don’t introduce the offending substance into my system periodically, the body is apt to treat it like a toxin. (A disaster.)

8.45 am: Studyology/studiology. ‘How can I work without inspiration?’, is a question that some students have asked me. I reply: ‘I just start to work, and then the inspiration comes.’ What they mean by ‘inspiration’ is an idea in relation to materials and form. As a practitioner, I’ve never been able to conceive of an intent independently of doing. Creativity, it seems to me, always emerges within a reciprocal relationship between things and thinking. So, as I sit at my desk, now, I’m moving, aligning, and connecting sound samples and words in the hope that, like jigsaw-puzzle pieces, some will fit together to form a more complex and coherent whole. The process has never failed me. In reconciling the parts, I’ll be able to perceive patterns and principles that will help me to resolve the whole. I’ll be ‘inspired’, in other words:

The literal meaning of ‘inspiration’ has a theological root, being derived from the Genesis account of God out-breathing ‘the breath of life’ into Adam (Gen. 2.7). From this a metaphorical sense of the term has developed; and in the course of time inspiration came to imply that created humanity can know divine infusion in the sphere of their own creativity. The ancient Greeks personified the concept of inspiration in the muses. (Visual art never had a muse; it was considered too mundane. Fine artists have always had to make it by their own wits.) I doubt whether many students consciously hold to these views today. (However, some act as though they do; they defer action until for the ingenium touches them.) Nevertheless, I will concede that there are special conditions of creativity, when the whole is perceivable from the very beginning of the process. The work appears to spring upon one – complete and effortlessly – without having traversed the ordinary route of cultivation, development and resolution. It’s as though someone else had made it. On other, rarer, occasions, we find ourselves, momentarily, able to do what we’ve never learned. Clearly, there’s a complex human psychology at work here. You really don’t need to bring the supernatural into it:

Muse tuning two kitharai
Detail of the interior from an Attic white-ground cup (c.470–460 BCE)
(Courtesy of WikiCommons)

11.30 am: Periodically, I either listened to or played music (for which the Greeks had a muse called Euterpe) in order to refresh my ears after several hours of listening to manic beats, bits, glitches, and scratches. (The work of a mad man.) And so, ‘a quick burst on my banjo’ (as Ken Dodd used to say) through a Fender Twin Amp that has never sounded better, thanks to Mr Roland Lumby’s wizard technical intervention some years ago:

11.45 am: ‘Continue’. Things were, literally, falling into place. Q: How long should a sound work last? A: For a period sufficient to adequately explore the ramifications of the governing ideas. Any other criterion is either arbitrary or indulgent, in my opinion.

1.30 pm: After lunch, I reviewed the morning’s work. Just half-an-hour’s distance from the task can make a world of difference to one’s perception of it on return. A rest is as good as a change. A substrata of sound was beginning to emerge. I manufactured more samples derived from the 0–400% deceleration track, which I hadn’t been able to resolve. Creative cannibalism. Never cast off your rejects too soon.

3.00 pm: Having made good progress on the composition, I addressed the paper again. The presentation’s sound, text, and image need to be developed in parallel at this stage. I reviewed medical papers on the relationship between sound and dementia. I’ve a penchant for Petula Clark singles presently, which provided a rather incongruous background to the topic of my reading. She has Welsh ancestry, and lived in a house next door to Bethany Chapel, which is now ‘buried’ inside Howell’s department store on The Hayes, in Cardiff. My students and I used to tour this architectural gem on our Chapels in Wales module’s field trip:

In Martin O’Kane’s and John Morgan Guy’s (eds.) book Biblical Art in Wales (2010), I wrote:

Bethany (English) Baptist chapel, St Mary’s Street, Cardiff was first founded in 1806 on the site now owned by James Howell’s department store. By 1865 the congregation had risen to over four hundred, which necessitated the construction of the third chapel on the same site. During the 1920s the store was extended and literally absorbed Bethany, so that, today, the chapel and the store occupy the same space. Bethany had, like Jonah, passed into the belly of the whale. But, since 1963 the whale has also been swallowed by Jonah; chapel and store are, now, wrapped up, one within the other. Today, the upper façade of Bethany is invisible from the main street, being masked by the frontage of the store. The lower storey of Bethany’s façade is in the menswear department, and beyond the chapel’s main doors (leading to what were the vestibule and sanctuary) lies the ladies shoe department. The upper gallery of the chapel is, somewhat improprietously, the ladies underwear department. Here, scantily-clad manikins look over the customers from where starched-collared preachers bore down upon the congregation. The pulpit has been exchanged for pullovers, pews for shoes, and Sundays for undies; religion and retail, past and present, God and Mammon cohabit cheerfully, if surreally. 

5.20 pm: Down tools.

January 26, 2018

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart (Ps. 37.4).

8.00 am: A communion. The verse (above) has been a comfort to, and the experience of, the faithful within the Judaeo-Christian tradition for millennia. Of course, God isn’t contractually obliged to give them anything their heart desires. Some desires are either selfish, or stupid, or vain, or potentially hurtful to others and themselves, or else downright immoral. That’s why the initial clause of the verse needs to be addressed first; it serves to curb waywardness and excess of expectation. The Hebrew word for ‘delight’ (עָנַג) is curious; it means, variously, to be happy and luxuriate in, and to live softly and delicately with. It was often used to describe a man’s tender and amorous affections towards a woman. To delight in God is, thus, to have an embarrassingly intimate relationship with him, one that is passionate, indulgent, sporting, joyful, committed, and fully knowing. As one lover attunes their heart to that of the other, so the faithful bring their will, ambitions, and feelings into accord with God’s own. Thus, his desires become theirs too; and those he will fulfil.

9.00 am: A skip load of admin to process (notifications of classes, scheduling, correspondence, and timetabling) stood before me and a re-engagement with the conference paper. Some duties take far more time than I either anticipate or have at my disposal. Emails often come thick and fast until lunchtime on Fridays, after which they more or less dry-up until Monday morning. Now, there’s a mercy. My new PowerPoint remote control had arrived. (I’d misplaced the dongle belonging to my old one.) One ought not to get too excited about something like this. But I do. It works seamlessly. 11.30 am: I’m woefully behind. Back to the paper. In the background: Gerry Rafferty’s masterful Baker Street (1978). (The saxophonist received only £27 for his memorable solo on the track, apparently.) It was released in the year of my Foundation Studies. I hear it in my head every time I stand on the Baker Street platform of the Circle and Hammersmith & City line. In some respects the song is a grim, dissolute, and an unconsoling rendering of Down Town (1965), sung by Petula Clark. While written about a city, her song has always evoked, for me, a visual memory of my home town – Abertillery — during my boyhood. We take art to ourselves and write between its lines the story of our life:

Down town: Foundry Bridge, Abertillery (1960s) picture postcard (Courtesy of Abertillery Online)

1.15 pm: This has been one of the best weathered days since Autumn. There was a stunning intensity and edge to the light. Uplifting:

Off to the School to meet my PhD tutee, who was about to face the inquisition. The examiners arrived shortly afterwards. He, his co-supervisor, and  I sat in my office like anxious fathers-to-be, waiting for his call to viva:

While he was being sifted, I calmed the nerves with my occasional, restorative snack. This is my second KK in a fortnight. Things maybe getting out-of-hand:

I continued working on assessment admin for the remainder of the afternoon: reducing component marks to a percentage of the whole and adding them together, while chivvying staff for missing data. Routine and repetitive, but requiring considerable concentration.

5.00 pm: Wonderful news! My tutee had passed with flying colours. Well deserved! It was a great deal of hard graft on their part. I’ll miss working with them. Julian Ruddock has contributed significantly to the interdisciplinary study of art and science. We collaborated on the video work 2A: Earth Core (2017), which made for his doctoral show last year.

7.30 pm: If I cleared my desk of a assessment admin and ‘stuff’ by the close of the evening, I could, then, commit the whole of the ‘morrow to my conference paper its the associated compositions. Saturdays are just another working day for many academics these days. But my Sundays are sacrosanct. 9.40 pm: Mission accomplished! Thoroughly ‘cream-crackered’.

January 25, 2018

Rebirth may come, as from a woman
in travail, convulsing and,
through much distress
of thought and frame,
into a world made ready.

5.10 am: I stared towards the bedroom ceiling, wondering how long before the, for me, unfocussed silhouette of the chandelier above my bed would become visible. My mind was too alert to return to sleep. It turned over the issues of yesterday – its joys, achievements, challenges, and irresolutions – and grasped at the possibilities which lay ahead of me today, once my feet hit the carpet. 6.30 pm: Enough tossing and turning! Touch down. The air chilled my bare arms. (The radiators wouldn’t kick in for a further fifteen minutes.)

7.45 am: A communion. 8.15 am: Marking and postgraduate admin headed the morning’s agenda. The complexities involved in moving from one semester to another are staggering. However, the worst of the academic year is behind me, and there’s much to anticipate, before.

9.45 am: A review of the beat track that I’d concluded yesterday. It shifts from 4/4 to 4/8 and back. On with writing and email dispatching, with Penderecki’s Cello Concerto No. 2 (1982) playing in the background. Elevenses, with tea and a square of chocolate with 95% cocoa. How does this stuff cohere? Apparently, you can now purchase bars of 100% intensity. What does that final 5% offer a young man?:

11.30 am: A darkness of a different order descended. Strange weather today:

After lunch, I began building sounds off my spinal beat by inserting samples derived from the live capture and decelerated versions of Macmillan’s recitation of Psalm 23. In parallel, I extracted glitch-like samples from an improvised live extraction that I conducted several weeks ago. Together, this material represented my palette. And, like in the best practice of painting, it needs to be either limited or otherwise disciplined. Then began a period of playfulness in the absence of constraint; that’s to say, without any presuppositions, template, expectations, or definite goal other than that of making something of interest and appropriateness. The rules of the game will emerge in the playing of it. 4.30 pm: The character of the composition began to suggest itself. A sublimated ecstasy, perhaps.

7.00 pm: Onto the streets, and off to my other life: Holy Trinity Church Committee:

January 24, 2018

8.00 am: Administrations. 8.30 pm: A communion. 9.00 am: Back on the job and to writing the paper. First, I reviewed the fruit of yesterday’s sound processing. ‘Pare-down. Pare-down, John!’ And, so I stripped away everything that was either superfluous or unsettling to reveal the sample’s beating heart. The principle can be applied to writing too: style, sharpen, and shave. I recalled one of my Foundation Studies tutors, Phil Muirden, who’d sing in class ‘shape, pattern, and tone’ to the tune of Bill Hayley and the Comet’s classic ‘Shake, Rattle, and Roll’. And, then, there was Monty, our perspective tutor, who sported a magnificent moustache, looked like a former Spitfire pilot, and played air-violin as he paced up and down the studio. You no longer have characters like that in art schools. I’d had a privileged education:

Foundation Studies, Gwent College of Higher Education, Emlyn Street, Newport (1986).

I made good headway in terms of both the text and, more importantly, my understanding of the project. No doubt I’ve said this many times before on these pages, and certainly to my students in tutorials, but it’s curious how writing about what you do reveals what you’ve done to yourself. One must, therefore, think before, during, and after the creative enterprise.

I received a message related to the photograph of my guitar in yesterday’s Diary entry, lauding my ability to play a Gibson Les Paul while standing. It’s a back-breakingly heavy instrument to have strung around one’s neck. I responded:

It’s not a Les Paul (although it shares a similar body profile). It was custom made for me by Crimson Guitars, based upon one designed, bespoke, for Robert Fripp. The body is chambered mahogany. So it’s lighter. (However, the chambers are filled with electrical gubbings — midi enabling, active pick up, and piezo.) I have a Gibson Les Paul Custom Deluxe too. But I play that sitting down. It weighs a ton. So many guitarists of a certain age have had to abandon the Les Paul for that reason.

2.00 pm: On with the sound composition. Having simplified the spine, it was extended for several minutes. Why am I dismayed but not surprised at what goes on behind the doors of men-only clubs (which the Presidents Club scandal has disclosed, today.) And, why are there still such clubs in the 21st century?) Some men think, say, and do things in the company of other men that they’d not countenance in isolation. And certainly not in the presence of their wives or partners. You can legislate against sexual harassment and cultivate a societal ethos that deplores it, but you can’t change the disposition of the human heart thereby. A person must first be convinced for themselves that it’s wrong.

I pushed sound samples off the edge of the table. If they didn’t yield something useable and quickly, they were deleted. Ruthlessness was the call of the day. By 4.30 pm, my energy levels were waning. A fifteen-minute pitstop was in order. 4.45 pm: Back to the PowerPoint design:

Evening. Correspondence completed, I listened again to the beat tracks. In the end, it’s impossible to fool yourself into believing that something sounds better than it actually is. One track was ace; the other, merely passable. (Not good enough!) I deleted the latter and made the former the sole driver. The character of the whole is in that part. I must listen to what it’s telling me.

January 23, 2018

5.20 am: Thereafter, sleep was denied me. With ME, restless nights come as part of the meal deal, as it were. I sat in my study and reflected on those things that are no longer, will be no longer, never were, cannot be, and ought not to be. I talk to myself too often these days; and rarely do we see eye-to-eye. I’m riddled with contradictions, irresolutions, and convolutions. A fragment from a simpler and more predictable time in my life:

Abertillery (December 26, 1968)

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: I spent half an hour on postgraduate admin before reconnecting with the conference paper. I planned to spend the morning on writing and the afternoon furthering one or more new compositions for the I. Nothing. Lack suite; (this will be released in a streamable format shortly after the paper is delivered). 9.15 am: An unexpected discovery: feedback (of one kind).

The paper is now beginning to cohere. The way ahead is evident, paragraph by paragraph. (If only life in the round was as straightforward.) Yesterday evening, I pulled out Pedalboard I in readiness for the arrival of a new feedback (of another kind) pedal. This board is the finest and nastiest ‘dirt’ array that I’ve ever designed. It’s capable of producing ‘some raunchy sh*t’, as Miles Davis is on record (quite literally) as saying to the guitarist John McLaughlin:

McLaughlin is now 76 years of age. And he still plays like a demon possessed; he remains the best. My ambition is to be wielding an electric guitar at that age too.

11.40 am: Off to school to conduct my last two assessments with Dr Forster. A good ending to a long period of evaluation. I, for one, will be happy to get back to teaching again next week. The aforementioned pedal had arrived in the post, early. This is clearly a day for unexpected feedback:

The effector permits the production of feedback, which usually requires a guitar amplifier to be cranked up fairly loudly, at low volume. So, its ideal for generating the phenomenon in the studio. It enables notes to be played and sustained on the cusp of feedback indefinitely – a technique that’s been exploited, to very different ends, by guitarists such as Carlos Santana and Robert Fripp (as exemplified by the sublime closing section of ‘Groon’, on King Crimson’s Earthbound (1972) album).

1.30 pm: Back at homebase, I wrote up the reports on my morning’s ‘inquisition’. 2.00 pm: Having completed text slides for the paper’s PowerPoint, I returned to the sound compositions and addressed the various beat tracks. Decisiveness is of the essence; this next composition needs to be evolved rather swiftly. I found disrupting the continuity of the rhythms, deliberately, very difficult to do. It was counter instinctual. But doing what comes naturally doesn’t promote radical action, in my experience. By the close of the afternoon, the spine of the composition had begun to emerge.

Evening. I fitted up my new pedal and took her (pedals are always feminine) for a spin. Bliss!:

After a period for correspondence, I continued radicalising my composition until the close of the evening.

January 22, 2018

5.00 am: I dreamt that I lived in a pink farm cottage (that, from a distance, looked like a slab of strawberry ice cream) at the bottom of a long field which sloped upwards towards a dense, dark forest of tall conifers. I owned the narrow public footpath that bordered it; but I’d never before walked the length until now. I asked myself, on waking: Where have I not been that’s both in my possession and legitimate for me to venture?

8.00 am: A communion. For the last few days, I’ve been thinking in a fog, moving forward slowly and being able to concentrate only on what was six feet in front of me on the road, metaphorically speaking. I’m as tired on waking as I am on retiring. These are familiar symptoms. I pressed on. 8.30 am: There was a welter of admin to address. Postgraduate applications and examinations were at the head of the list. The process of catching up was slow and very deliberate. 9.30 pm: Off to School to conduct a number of postponed assessments with one of my colleagues:

11.45 am: Email catch-up. I’m still one week behind where I need to be, in my estimation. 12.30 pm: I held a viva voce ‘rehearsal’ with one of my PhD tutees who’ll be going the last lap on Friday. At times like this, the supervisor is like a boxing trainer preparing his combatant for the bout.

1.30 pm: A late and hurried lunch at home, before returning to my conference paper for the afternoon and evening:

I still couldn’t get the morning’s dream out of my head. This wasn’t like me; Usually, I pay no heed to sleep world’s visions. I remembered walking to the top of the footpath, which came to an abrupt end at the edge of the forest, and looking behind, down towards the cottage (which seemed so far away now). There’d been a reason for making that journey, and it wasn’t for my sake only. Someone else (their identity was withheld), who’d remained at the base of the hill, had a stake in it.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s engagements:

  • The struggle with art is a struggle with oneself.
  • It’s not the knowing but, rather, the not knowing and, sometimes, the unknowing, that makes the creative endeavour worthwhile.
  • Determining the most appropriate mode and form of the completed works’ presentation is one of the hardest aspects of the process to resolve.
  • The aesthetic arises out of the process arises out of the rationale arises out of the concept or intent.
  • The module is about developing potentialities rather more than determining solutions.
  • Learn to tell yourself what to do. Learn to make your own choices. A reliance on others to either guide you or make decisions on your behalf will forestall your maturation as both a person and an artist.
  • You don’t have a right to speak your mind if you won’t assume responsibility for the consequences of so doing.
  • Your choices and decisions will not necessarily please everyone. So give up trying. And, in the end, you alone are answerable for them.
  • No one besides you knows the complete picture: the complexity of the context within which your choices and decisions are made.

January 20, 2018

5.30 am: In a ‘dream’ experienced between two worlds:

He noticed a small hairline crack at the bottom of the pane. It may have been made by a crow pecking at the putty, and there for a while.  But, now, it began to distract his attention from the view beyond, every time that he looked out of the window. As successive storms flexed the glass, the break extended further up its surface and began to branch and divide. No longer could the prospect that he so admired be seen without first acknowledging the fault. The fractures so severely compromised the window’s integrity that, one day, a particularly fierce gust of wind shattered the glass entirely. He considered sticking the pieces back together and replacing the pane in its broken state. But, he thought, the window would never again be as robust as it had been before the initial break. Moreover, the cack-handedly glued cracks would be even more visible than they’d been previously – spoiling the view further.

Are such ‘dreams’ either open metaphors/allegories or subconscious messages from myself to myself?  If the latter, then, ‘What lessons am I supposed to derive from this, John?’

7.30 am: Downstairs for breakfast:

On the weekend, I eat granola. I’m a creature of habit who doesn’t like to spend too much time thinking about food. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: On with the conference paper. Today, I returned to the sound compositions, which represent the third component in my presentation and the fruit of the project.

10.15 am: Off to town for my monthly mop-mow at Dickie Snips. As I see it:

11.15 am: The objective, today, was to create a non-synchronous and irregular beat track to suggest a sense of disorientation and incoordination. New territory, for me. The source samples were knocks, coughs, and shuffles derived from the intervals of relative silence between the words and phrases of MacMillan’s sermons. The track, entitled ‘Pancake Dance’ [working title], will become the spine for samples of MacMillan’s voice, derived from the live-sound capture process that I’d used earlier in the month:

I continued in this vein until the close of the working day. 5.30 pm: An ending.

Closing considerations:

  • If you’re determined to fly your Cessna into a mountainside, then you don’t want to engage air-traffic control in a conversation about the passing scenery.
  • The heart and the will must operate independently of one another if moral rectitude is to be maintained. The passions of the heart and the determinations of the will are not always in harmony. For example, I may eagerly desire something in my heart that’s inappropriate. The will restrains my heart from fulfilling its ambition. And conscience must govern both. For, like the heart, the will can be weak.
  • When all other strategies fail, and desire refuses to be subdued, the only recourse is to ‘freeze’ that aspect of the heart. Cultivating a cold heart in relation to anything or anyone is a dreadful business, and should be done only as a last resort.
  • In creative practice as in life, there’re reasons why some things fail and have to be relinquished. It’s pointless to return to a failure unless the cause of the condition is identified, and one has a solution with which to remedy it. Otherwise, the same mistake will be repeated over and over again.
  • A person’s unwavering commitment to a particular course of action can appear to others to be inflexible, over zealous, and even heartless. (Indeed, such a person must periodically retest the water to determine whether the policy still matches the situation.) However, the rigour with which they prosecute their cause is a reflection of a considered conviction that has not been arrived at without much suffering and self sacrifice in some cases.
  • What’s best for the one may be what’s worst for the other.

January 19, 2018

Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward (Job 5.7).

Now there’s a truth that’s validated by our own experience in this world, and comprehensive in its scope. Our bodies, minds, relationships, work, hopes, fears, loves, and desires are all liable to difficulties, vexations, and trials at one time or another, and, alas, in concert too, sometimes. We are broken people in a broken world. Troubles are self-evidently inevitable for all of us. And with them, come sorrows. And ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions’ (Hamlet). They, also, are as plentiful as the sparks that rise from the burning wood. Life can seem unutterably cruel, frustrating, and unfair sometimes.

9.00 am: Studyology. Back to writing the conference paper and designing its PowerPoint presentation. I conceive of these two elements like the halves of an Easter egg: as complimentary and reciprocal; a textual/visual parallel. The potential of each is pushed further with every paper or lecture I prepare. The delivery, in my opinion, should be as imaginatively creative (and, where possible, boundary breaking) as the content it mediates. Furthermore, this paper is for a conference on digitisation; so it needs to embrace and articulate the potential of that process. (‘Make those digits dance!’, Buddy.)

Talking of which: New kid on the block – the long-awaited digital stereo pitch modulating pedal from TC Electronic:

As I continued to write and design, I caught up with some back episodes of BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction. This is by far the best programme for hearing the most challenging new experimental music and sound-art compositions (acoustic, electronic, and everything in between), as well as some recondite world music. It’s always an education, and helpful in situating my own modest efforts within the context of contemporary sound practice.

Of which: some artefacts from the archive:

Maria Hayes & John Harvey, Energy Gift Exchange Day 11 (November 17, 2011)

I took part in the artist Maria HayesEnergy Gift Exchange Day in 2011, the day after I’d held one of my 24-hour, open-studio events at the National Library of Wales. She’d invited me to sit before her and be drawn in motion and in public while I constructed a set of free improvisations on the electric guitar, in situ. It was one of those occasions when my profound tiredness served to loosen me up. I enjoyed the challenge of building from nothing, with no plan or sense of anything other than the moment-by-moment unfolding of whatever was taking place – just like painting. (Life should be lived like that sometimes.):

Maria Hayes

Two of the improvisations and drawings were captured: Part 2 and Part 4 .

On with the one of the PowerPoint’s principal schematics, outlining the equipment setup for the open-studio event at Bethel Welsh Baptist Church:

Evening. I pushed on, against tiredness and aching, with the writing and slide design.

Meditations and consolations at the close up the day:

  • We should do what’s right because it’s right. There should be no ulterior motive.
  • Doing the right thing may come at a considerable and an irreparable personal cost, and without any consolation.
  • The best type of trouble (if one can talk of such a thing) comes as a trial. A trial places us under examination, tests our suitability for a particular situation, and enables us to sympathise with others who’re enduring the same. It’s productive, in other words.
  • Trials also strengthen our endurance and prepare us for even worse ordeals.
  • We don’t share our experience of trials often enough. There’s comfort to be had in knowing that you aren’t alone in the ‘fiery furnace’, and that others have survived.
  • We are nothing without love.
  • ‘There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother’ (Prov. 18.24). Some friendships manifest a degree of commitment that may exceed familial and even matrimonial bonds. You can ignore, betray, berate, and belittle such a friend. But their adhesion doesn’t weaken. Indeed, the very reverse seems true. Neither do they resent, retaliate, or in any respect return in kind. Such a friend brings the best out in you, and you the same in them.
  • Such a friendship bears the hallmarks of eternity. Thus, endurance authenticates veracity.  As St Jerome remarked: ‘A friendship that can cease has never been real’.