Month: June 2018

June 16, 2018

6.00 am: As I woke, I heard the news that a fire of some proportion had swept through Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh Building. This had happened, to a lesser extent, four years earlier. Sometimes lightning does strike in the same place twice. There were no casualties, again. And that’s a great mercy. (This was not another Grenfell Tower.) I can’t imagine how the staff and students of the School of Art would feel if the Edward Davies Building suffered the same fate. Grand old art schools are a second home to those who study and teach in them. They’re only bricks and mortar (and extraordinary design, in the case of Mackintosh’s architecture), but they ennoble us and inspire great affection. Like every influence for good upon our lives, we grieve its passing. Let’s hope that this phoenix will rise once more.

9.00 am: I returned to the composition on racism (that’s now tentatively entitled ‘That One Day’) and began extracting words and phrases spoken by Scourby on the recording that corresponded with those that Martin Luther King Jr spoke in his ‘I have a dream’ speech. This would be a painfully slow process. Needs must, however:

After lunch, I went into town for my Saturday afternoon’s repose and to pick up supplies from one of the local supermarket. It rained en route. The cafes were filled with tourists sheltering from the downpour. With a decaf latte to hand (this was an experimental venture), I returned to my ‘Diary of Departures’. It’s has been my confidante of late.

3.00 pm: Back in the studio, I reviewed the source texts for my word search, and tried to rationalise the number of biblical books that I’d need to access. Monday’s studio work is now before me. These have not been sufficiently productive days. I’ve felt tired. The pace of construction and conceptualisation has been too slow; although, all the new compositions are moving in the right direction. I accept such times as inevitable and, sometimes, necessary. 5.20 pm: An end of things.

June 15, 2018

Occasionally, truly good things deteriorate into an irredeemably and inconsolably appalling mess, through no fault of our own. This is human entropy in action.

7.45 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Studiology. Back to ‘Wisdom is Better …’, and the construction of an afterimage (an echo) of the initial ‘crack’. The echo was sampled from the tail-end of the ‘crack’ and, then, hyper-stretched in order to create a bridge (a reverberant pause) between the detonation and subsequent evolution of the explosion. This opening section is a representation (a reconstruction) of a sound, as were the trumpets in ‘Image and Inscription’. But it’s, simultaneously, an abstract noise. I’m back in the territory of that composition, but without a guiding text and narrative structure. My major work (setting aside exploratory sound pieces) is interpretative. An objective source (a ‘figurative’ referent) has been a requirement – something to work with and against.

After lunch, I, rather aimlessly, manufactured sound elements that might be included in the composition. Until a structural map is developed, I’ll be thrashing around in the water like this for a good while yet. I must wait for the penny to drop. Only the mood of the piece is certain at the moment. I winnowed my file folders, developed the final samples, and disposed of the residue. This was not a productive day. From the outset, I suspected as much.

7.30 pm: In search of structure. There were five nuclear tests held during July 1964, under the auspices of the USA, UK, and Russia. They represent a set and division (unity, commonality, separation, and distinction). That was enough to begin – to segregate the whole:

June 14, 2018

8.00 am: A communion. 8.45 am: Thursday is my postgraduate day over the Summer period. To begin: administrations. 10.00 am: Studiology. A review. The composition entitled ‘Saul>Paul’ will henceforth be called ‘Saul and I’. The ‘Write Up the Vision …’ composition will use, as the support for writing, the paper sleeves in which the records are inserted. ‘Nomine Numine’ may be released independently of The Talking Bible suite, rather than as part of a double CD. These were among the ‘revelations’ that came to me in the early hours of June 13 (when many things besides, changed). Back to my nuclear explosion, and the development of an appropriate reverberation for the initial ‘crack’. Q: How far am I away from the explosion?:

The recording for ‘Write Up the Vision …’ will take place at the end of the next week. Then I’ll be home alone for a long weekend, and the house will otherwise be still and quiet. When conducting acoustic recordings, the environment needs to be just right.

11.30 pm: At the School I held a ‘pep’ talk with one of our former PhD students. 12.15 pm: I walked down the avenue (resplendent at this time of the year), and into town for lunch with one of our current PhD students. There’re among several members of the postgraduate cohort whom I consult in order to discern the needs of the hour and the possibilities of what could and should be done in the future. A veritable weather vane.

1.30 pm: Back to the mothership:

2.00 pm: The afternoon’s MA fine art teaching began with a Skype tutorial:

3.00 pm: Then, it was off to the Old College for the remainder of the afternoon, beginning at the old chemistry lab on the east side of the building. 5.15 pm: Job done!:

7.15 pm: I caught up on emails and responded to my ‘webmaster’s’ update on the MOT of the sites. He’s a fast and efficient worker.

Some principles and observations derived from today’s encounters and ruminations:

  • If you’ve risked openness and been exposed, your instinct will be to hide more deeply within than ever before.
  • Those who’re most apt to judge you are often least able to see inconsistencies in themselves.
  • You’re not as good as you think you are. Neither are you as bad as you think you are.
  • Why do we habitually return to the snares from which we’ve been released?
  • Awkwardness is better than estrangement.
  • A hard heart can serve as a shield to the spirit. It’s a defensive weapon of last resort.
  • Either you take control of the situation or the situation takes control of you.
  • Beware of them who think they know.

June 13, 2018

And then you wake up the next morning and realise that it’s all over.

Another poor night’s sleep. Sections of the ‘Blind’ suite looped in my head. As I rolled from the left to the right of the bed, I remembered the dream poem ‘O Jericho‘. ‘Why this again?’, I questioned. With the recollection came a fearful determination to built the ‘wall’ higher and deeper. At my desk in the morning, I reviewed the account of the poem, which I’d written about in this Diary. Here’s the oddest thing: the moment that I typed the word ‘Jericho’ into the Diary’s search engine, I heard (what I thought was) several trumpets sounding in unison. They came unannounced, and were clear and very present. (A mildly alarming experience.) The music appeared to emanate from within the studio, where I was working, and more particularly out of the monitor speakers in front of me (which were switched off). No equipment other than my laptop was powered. The melodic line comprised two tones, ‘G’ and ‘C’ (an octave below), in two pairs of quavers (‘G’), followed by a crochet (‘C’) and, finally, another crotchet (‘G’). Stranger still, about the same time, one family member was awoken by a loud ‘boom’. But I’d heard nothing of the sort:

James Tissot, The Seven Trumpets of Jericho (c.1896–92)

How does one interpret such a phenomenon? While I have a supernaturalist outlook on life, I’m not so naïve as to believe that all such anomalies (however biblical their allusive credentials) have a divine origin and purpose. I’d fabricated the sound of Old Testament trumpets for ‘The Decalogue’ section of the ‘Image and Inscription‘ suite. So my brain was already adept at imagining both the sonorities of the instrument and a simple melodic line. But why had I heard it just at the moment of typing the name of the city that was most famously associated with the instrument? Was ‘Jericho’ a mental trigger, perhaps? And why did it come to me on this most ‘auspicious’ day? Talk about an unexpected gift.

Let’s assume, for argument sake, that the trumpets’ sound was God given. What, then, was its significance? Surely not to encourage me to take down the ‘wall’. That would make no sense in relation to either the enterprise in itself (I’m persuaded that the ‘wall’ had to be set up) or my waking impetus to make it more secure. God doesn’t send mixed or confusing messages. My conclusion: this was either a delusion, or an illusion, or a confusion. An intriguing and inexplicable coincidence. Nothing more.

9.00 am: My PhD student had solved last week’s Skype debacle. We we able to talk and secure a (hopefully) helpful tutorial:

10.00 am: I convened a postgraduate committee meeting to ratify the submissions for the PhD monitoring round. Thank goodness that’s over for another year. 11.00 am: The final board meeting, at which all third year and MA mark were discussed and confirmed. Business was completed by noon. Afterwards, we toasted and said the first of our farewells to Professor Cruise, who’ll be retiring next month. He’ll be missed, dearly:

12.15 pm: I completed my final administrations for the assessment period before returning home.

2.00 pm: I’d determined to take the afternoon at a more leisurely pace (a treat to myself), and the whole evening off (unthinkable). I watched Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941). Remarkable!

June 12, 2018

7.00 am: I awoke. (I’ve enjoyed my lie-in over the past few days.) Having packed my belongings, I took breakfast:

The landlady told me all about the plans to refurbish the rooms, her regular customers and their unwavering drinking habits (for some, the pub is a second home), and her husband’s battle with severe health problems. She struck me as being a very resourceful woman. 8.20 am: I headed for the railway station to take the train for Cardiff:

The city is far more savvy and prosperous than in those years when I lived here (1981-2, 1984-5). I’d not returned since November 29, 2017 (the day when things began to unravel). My suitcase followed me like a faithful dog as I coursed the network of arcades, shopping centres (all of which looked identically soulless), and aisles of the market, took respite in cafes, and wandered without purpose and direction:

I remember too much, too often. The past can rarely be put to right. I contributed to what it was; it, in turn, has made me what I am (for better and for worse). Some ‘ghosts’ no longer haunt me; either I’ve put them to rest, or else they’ve been superseded by others. But the associations of a place contribute greatly to its significance, on a personal level. Memory is melancholy’s breath.

Wah! And about time. A more than half-decent music store had opened on St Mary’s Street. I was like a kid in a toy shop:

1.00 pm: Back at the railway station, I ate a light lunch and prepared for the voyage home:

On route, I caught up with some of the incoming emails and my diary. (I said ‘Hello’ to Shrewsbury.)

It’s too early to process the salutary effects of my away days. Tomorrow will mark the beginning of another year. Nothing else will change. Gradually, new resolutions and awareness will emerge as old and redundant ways of thinking begin to decay. Other features of the landscape will remain unchanged – uncannily so. (The box that was opened cannot be closed. ‘He who has ears to hear’.) The calamities and griefs that are to come, will still advance steadily. And yet hope remaineth, against all reason and better judgement. Having failed to move on, I’m learning to abide contentedly in silence.

5.20 pm: The return:

5.30 pm: An unpacking and preparations for the ‘morrow.

June 11, 2018

8.30 am: Following a hearty breakfast, I caught the X15 bus to Abertillery:

I’d only one objective for the morning: to make an assault on the summit of the Arael Mountain. But first, I trod the old path across the Foundry Bridge to the house at the bottom of the terrace, which had been my childhood home. Revisiting the place is a dispiriting experience. I should cease the ritual:

From there, I descended Station Hill, walked towards the local park, and climbed the slope that opened onto Old Blaina Road. At the tree – that has stood and stood and stood – I asked: ‘Shall we begin talking, now?’ This would be a morning for business of the highest order:

How many times, as younger man, had I walked this road and either ‘spilled my guts’ to God or else auto-ruminated on some great matter that was violently stirring the waters of my life back then? Some issues require specific places at which to be unfurled. This road and the Arael Mountain have been (will always be) ‘sacred’ (set aside) for me in this respect:

The gateway to the Arael is narrow, rocky, and on a steeper incline than any part of the way that lies beyond. It’s the inverse of what one might except. The path, which zig-zags to the top, is far more overgrown and verdant these days. In my teens, I could see clearly the whole length of the valley above the tree tops. Thankfully, the foresters had made several openings upon the far vista. Those rows of terraced houses, huddled together like keys on a typewriter, had a significant influence on my early aesthetic development:

There is a rent in the mountain close to the top caused by geological subsidence. It’s now deeper and more precipitous than I remember it. But there was no other way up other than to climb across it. I had to take a risk. (Such is life, sometimes.) The summit was exactly as I remembered it: an uneven carpet of grass and ferns sloping upwards to a high horizon. This place is mine – but not in any proprietorial sense. It’s the socket for which I’m the plug. (For the record: this is where I want my ashes scattered):

Instinctively, I followed the sheep paths parallel to the mountain’s edge. In the mythos of this area, malevolent fairies inhabited this terrain. Beware! I lay down, as I always did, with my back to the world, and faced heavenward:

In that moment, little seems to matter, everything seems possible, and nothing else encroaches. There are some problems that I’ve taken to the top of that mountain and left there. Others have returned with me to the foot of the climb. But neither they nor I have come back unaltered. The process of articulation, the one-way discussion, and the unbearably honest and searching examination clarified and distilled the former and consoled and emboldened the latter.

2.30 pm: I took lunch with an old school friend. We’d not seem one another since 1975, I suspect. He’d remained in the area; there was no reason to leave. The roll was called: friends who had died prematurely, or retired early due to poor health, or developed type 1 or 2 diabetes, or divorced, or disappeared without trace, or kept their distance for no discernible reason:

6.00 pm: Having ridden a bone-shaker of a bus to Newport, via everywhere imaginable on route, I ate with a friend from my undergraduate days at the Newport art school. Our conversations habitually cover art, art education (bad mostly), theology, Christian experience, the dangers of religious subjectivism, the possibility of delusionalism, the nature of friendship, and the pitfalls of loneliness. He listens like a woman. A rare quality in a bloke. 9.30 pm: He drove me back to Llanhilleth.

June 10, 2018

Moving from what ‘is’ to what ‘was’. 

Saturday. The morning began at 8.30 am with an early appointment at ‘Dickie Snips’, the purchase of a rail ticket, and a visit to the chemist. The weather was uncomfortably humid. The remainder of the day had me sweating over a nuclear explosion. I constructed a composite overlay made up of three different expansions derived from the source. I would dearly love to play this through my 1000-watt PA. But would anyone or anything survive? This was a dangerous sound. Its fearfulness resides not so much in the volume and loudness (either actual or implied) as in the fullness of the sonorities.

The available recordings and reconstructions of nuclear detonations exhibit a ‘crack’ (like a rifle shot) coinciding with the initial flash. Because sound waves travel through the air far more slowly than do light waves (761.2 mph, in comparison to 186,000 mps), the visual and sonic phenomena associated with the blast are always desynchronous. My ‘crack’ was supplied by the original recording of the tone-arm being dropped onto the surface of the vinyl:

Today. I walked into town, early, to make the most of the sunshine before my rail journey to South Wales and home. (True home: the point of origin, the context of my formation and, I hope, the place where I’ll be laid to rest.) As on every such occasion, my expedition began at a local watering hole. The second breakfast. I’m letting myself go (following advice given by some concerned friends).

In the past, the opportunity to adjust my focus, put aside the trails and unresolved dilemmas of the here and now, and recuperate, just for a few days, has been powerfully medicinal. I’ll be sharing fellowship with friends associated with my secondary school days, various experimental bands that I’d played in during my teens, and art school education at Newport. One’s best friends always endure, however infrequent the contact.

11.30 am: Off! I’d be travelling from Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury to Cardiff to Llanhilleth. I was consciously living this experience moment by moment; nothing would be wasted or overlooked. 11.35 am: A tea and KitKat. (This was riotous living.) My thoughts were ahead of me.

As this Diary draws to a close, following what will be over four years of entries, I’ll need to write an overview of its achievements, rationale, insights, and benefits, before deciding whether to continue the exercise in a somewhat different form. To this end, I began rereading my writings from the period beginning mid August 2017 to the end of January 2018. I was looking for answers. In doing so, I counselled myself. This had been one of the happiest and, yet, most painful and challenging periods of my recent life. I’ve no regrets, whatsoever. Never was I more alive. The friend that I made of myself back then has remained loyal. He and I may have had a falling out on occasion, but we’ve endured the rough and tumble and grown to accept one another’s shortcomings. 1.40 pm: I caught an earlier (delayed) train to Cardiff at Shrewsbury. Cardiff:

The 4.26 pm train to Llanhilleth was filled with shoppers returning to the valleys. On arrival, I discovered that my room at the hotel wasn’t yet prepared. (There’d been staff shortages today.) I took the opportunity to walk around the town as the evening sun declined, searching for the vestiges of National Coal Board architecture. I’ve passed this building on the ‘Llanhilleth Turn’ ever since I can remember. It’s an unassuming and functionally austere redbrick construction with an elegant Art-Deco inspired tower at the rear:

On my return to the hotel, the Abertillery-bound bus came into sight. I hopped on and headed for an eatery there:

My returns home are coloured by confused emotions. I’m drawn here like some spirit revenant doomed to haunt their old stomping ground. Perhaps I’m searching for something that’s no longer present – desperate for a depth-of-place that none other offers. In my day, Sunday evenings in town were hushed and reverential. Chapel and church folk were at services of worship. Those not so inclined — in front of their TVs watching Stars on Sunday. (Shortly after I was converted, I wrote a song, called ‘Miriam Poole’, which referenced that irony.)  Pubs were ‘dry’, then. This evening they blazed music, while overweight young men propped up the door frames and squat under the window ledges, a beer in one hand and a ‘fag’ in the other. I ate bangers and mash. (Clearly, I’m a man without culinary discernment.)

Back at the hotel, I found myself in the same room as on the last stay. The décor was unchanged:

I rested. Below my window I could hear the throaty cackle of middle-aged women who’d smoked a fair few in their time, and men whose laugh reminded me of my father. ‘I’m not wearing any knickers!’, one senior woman shouted. What does one do with such information? Should I risk meeting the natives? What would have become of me had I not escaped the valleys? The thought ought to drive me to my knees in thanksgiving.

8.30 pm: After a shower, I took a walk up the road towards the mountains behind the hotel (which was now in Karaoke mode):

All the garages and lamp-posts were painted different colours of green, to blend in with the trees:

By the time I’d returned to the hotel, those that had been tipsy when I’d left were, now, well and truly established. I find the descent into drunkenness uncomfortable to witness. I felt and looked like an outsider: as conspicuous as the ‘man with no name’ entering the bar in Sergio Leone’s A Fist Full of Dollars (1964). ‘Is he the accountant?’, shouted one customer to the bartender. I didn’t look back; my guns weren’t yet loaded.

June 8, 2018

6.00 am: A poor night’s sleep. I got to work early, caught up with emails, and levelled my inbox to ‘0’. Several ideas related to the ‘Wisdom is Better Than Weapons of War’ composition came to me while I’d tossed and turned; so my struggles weren’t wasted. I’d act upon them today. 8.30 am: Off to School. It was an utterly bland day, without feature or recommendation. That annual Summer ‘quiet’ had descended upon the Edward Davies Building. The ‘kids’ had left home and the busyness was over. I missed them already.

9.00 am: A student and I laboured to make a Skype connection (the one that we’d missed yesterday). Both of us were impotent in the face of a capricious internet, WIFI, computer, or software – either one or the other, or, perhaps, all of them in collusion. 9.15 am: No more messages were being exchanged. Had we given up? Was the one imagining the other crying into their tea? Silence can be uninterpretable. So many possibilities. Having ‘banished’ all students from my Facebook account, FaceTime was no longer a possible back-up. (Sigh!) ‘Oh gosh! Would we have to resort to the telephone, now?’ Eventually emails (another last resort) were traded. We planned to delete one another as contacts on Skype (an uncomfortable metaphor in the context of recent history) and resend friendly invitations. No success, still. We’ll try again next week. Perplexed and dismayed:

10.00 am: Back at homebase, I acted upon my sleepness-night-ruminations. Could I make the action of a tone-arm being being dropped onto a record sound like a nuclear bomb going off? Over the air, from a great distance away, I could hear the plaintive sound of a trumpet and a tuba being played, and the cheer of an appreciative audience. (I recalled Sgt Pepper.) The outside world was noisy today:

Various computers had, unilaterally, decided to undergo a significant update. In the interim, I conducted a word search for ‘race’ and ‘tribe’ in the Bible. In the four verses that mention ‘race’, it refers to athletics rather than to either colour or ethnicity. ‘Tribe’ (which has nothing to do with race, colour, or ethnicity) is the dominant term of contrast; it refers to a distinct people or social group. ‘People’ and ‘nation’ are chief among the other discriminations.

Afterwards, I began working-up samples of highly-overdriven noise (think of a Saturn V rocket on full thrust), derived from the opening moments of the whole-Bible overlay that I’d made some months back, for the ‘Wisdom is Better …’ composition. I’ve no idea whether or how they’ll be used. And I’m not interested in knowing, presently. Creative solutions are rarely linear and predictable. I was ‘playing’ on the canvas; seeing whether any of the paint stuck:

I began processing the sound of the ‘bump’ of the stylus when dropped onto the vinyl disc from 2 cm above. Having slowed-down the recording by factors of up to 700%, I played it back over the monitors and subwoofer. ‘My goodness!’ (Or less polite sentiments to that effect). I’d got it in one on this occasion:

But immediately it struck me that I’d never heard the sound of a nuclear bomb on detonation. My sonic image of the event was constructed entirely from cinematic (and, therefore, fictive) interpretations of the explosion. There are several reconstructions of actual test sounds available on the Internet. I didn’t want to emulate them. The characteristics of my ‘big bang’ were dictated to by the source material and the process. (This has been one of the abiding rigours of my discipline in sound and visual practice.) However, I was astonished at just how authentic my own interpretation of the phenomenon sounded. Everything that could rattle or vibrate in the studio … did. Truly terrifying! I knew that I’d found the opening to the composition and the aesthetic territory that it was moving into. (The part dictates the whole dictates the part.):

Castle Romeo nuclear test, Bikini Atoll, March 27 1954
(courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

I played the clip of David Lynch’s imagining of the Trinity nuclear test, at Whitesands, New Mexico on July 16, 1947, from Episode 8 of Twin Peaks: The Return (2017). (This is one of the most astonishing moments in television history: original, frighteningly beautiful, ambitious, and stunningly executed.) Lynch doesn’t render the sound of the explosion. Instead, he articulates its emotional impact through music, using Krysztof Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (1960). Could the whole of the spoken Bible be conceived as the fall out from that initial explosion, in my composition?

7.30 pm: I put polish to the final PhD monitoring reports, and wrote up notes in preparation for the validation committee on June 13.

June 7, 2018

7.45 am: A communion. 8.15 am: A readying for a busy day of teaching and admin ahead. Yesterday (a Diary sabbath), I began work on the composition(s) about racism. As a way into the biblical text, I read through Martin Luther King Jr’s famous ‘I have a dream …’ speech, which he delivered at the The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on 28 August 1963 –  just over a year before Scourby made his recording of the scriptures. The speech contains a number of allusions to biblical texts. I determined to remake some of King’s pronouncements by collaging together the same words spoken by Scourby. In this way, just as the Bible had been incorporated into his speech, his speech would, henceforth, be incorporated into the Bible:

President Lyndon B Johnson meets with Civil Rights leaders
Martin Luther King Jr, Whitney Young, and James Farmer (courtesy of WikiCommons)

9.00 am: I awaited a Skype call that didn’t materialise (which isn’t quite the right word for something so patently immaterial). The second call at, 10.00 am from China (5.00 pm), did however:

10.20 am: Off to the Old College for what will be my regular Thursday, postgraduate teaching day over the Summer period. The weather was invigorating; the sun transformed everything over which its poured its goodness:

The day began with two PhD Fine Art tutorials. The latter mutated into an indoor picnic and a discussion about the student’s latest exploits abroad. A good morning: trajectories were established; opportunities, realised; and new undertakings, resolved. There’re times when the ‘spirit’ of illumination graces a tutorial in an exceptional way.

2.00 pm: A cancelled tutorial permitted me to venture onto the Promenade and rub shoulders (but not too closely) with the tourists. The beach bathing brigade were out in force:

3.00 pm: The remainder of the afternoon was devoted to my MA students, who were working on their September exhibition. They’re facing the toughest part of the degree so far; it’ll sort out the women from the girls. In principle, each has to:

  • Identify the most conspicuous virtues of the first exhibition’s work and enhance them.
  • By the same token, weed out whatever encumbered or limited the earlier work.
  • Establish a set of objectives that, while tied to those of the first exhibition, exceed them in clarity and ambition.
  • Refine and tighten the conceptual underpinning of the work.
  • Refine the technical and methodological underpinning of the work.
  • Interrogate everything (again). Accept nothing as read.
  • Work increasingly independently, and trust their own judgement far more.

7.15 pm: Admin catch-up. Again, it was bitty but necessary stuff.

June 5, 2018

7.00 am: That first thing in the morning look of querulous, glazed desperation, when I stare uncomprehending into the bathroom mirror, feeling and looking a decade older, and waiting for my brain to stir:

7.30 pm: ‘Slacking, John!’ There’s a wave of tiredness that hits after the assessments are over. The body and mind crave a holiday. At such a time, one’s efforts need to be redoubled. ‘Surf the wave! Come on, you waster, get to it! Make something of your life … today … NOW!’ He’s a stern and brutal taskmaster, that one. 8.15 pm: A communion. 9.00 am: Into the inbox and on with responses to my PhD monitoring queries. In the background: Henry Purcell’s Bonduca or the British Heroine (1647). Wil ‘the carpet’ was outside my study and studio completing the final landing. He’d made great strides yesterday: three storeys in one day.

10.00 am: Back to ‘Saul>Paul’, and further adjustments to the relative volumes of the samples. It’s not a matter of establishing a unity of loudness. I’m using amplitude to interpret dynamic emphases in the spoken text. The ‘Blind’ suite has few types of element, by design. Therefore, each has to be exploited to the full. Making the most of the least is one of the defining characteristics of a discipline. I work best when the constraints are greatest. In the absence of restraints, either implicit in or suggested by the source material, I cultivate limitations and impose them on my practice. This is of the essence of self-discipline:

12.00 pm: I was half-way through the composition. My ears were ‘tired’ of hearing. I made ready for a trip to the School and a pastoral tutorial at 12.30 pm.

1.30 pm: Following lunch, I moved on to the third section of ‘Saul>Paul’. This was such slow work. Painstaking calibrations. I was still contemplating whether the composition could be half the length (comprising the first and second sections only). They encapsulate the narrative of Saul’s intent to persecute the Christians, and his blinding, encounter with Christ, and conversion on the road to Damascus. (This is the scene that’s invariably depicted in Western European art.):

Caspar Diziani, The Conversion of St Paul, Santa Giustina, Padua (courtesy of WikiCommons)

4.00 pm: I took time out to review a job description. Academic posts have a bewildering and intimidating complexity these days. ‘Only Superman/Superwoman need apply!’. Afterwards, I made a cursory exploration of the issues of racism and segregation in the Bible, in advance of the next suite or composition. It’s a huge topic. Presently, I need to establish key texts only.

7.30 pm: Bits derived from many aspects of my life preoccupied my evening. How to deal with the humdrum? Look! From the studio window, in the distance, the sea reflected white as the sun bowed towards it. Throughout the house, small wonders of light and shade played on the white walls and through glass – an ephemeral phantasmagoria:

How does one forget? It’s a dreadful process. Two scenarios: 1. You want forget what has been either distressing or traumatic; 2. You need to forget what don’t want to forget. At various times in my life, I’ve faced the challenge of both. Sometimes, I forget things because either they aren’t memorable, or I wasn’t paying them enough attention, or else the memory of other things crowded them out. Other things, I’ve unconsciously misremembered (misrepresented the facts to myself in the retelling) in order to cope. The passage of time, too, has blurred the detail and stifled the intensity. That’s been a mercy.