August 22, 2014

There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a Pilgrim.
(John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, part 2, 1678)

So, I press on. I’ve been exercised by my comment that: ‘tweakable guitar pedals … [yield] more potential at one’s fingertips than at one’s toes’ (August 20, 2014). It’s possible to separate an effector from its on/off button by assigning the function of the latter to a switchboard, operable by foot. In this configuration, the effector can be mounted at table-top height, on a handboard, so that the guitarist is able to adjust its parameter ‘pots’ and switches manually, while still playing (more or less):


Back to the Art/Sound module and on to the lecture about abstraction, jazz, and improvisation. On this occasion, I’m developing the PowerPoint slides and inserting the slide markers into the text as I write. It’s a more organic and swifter way of going about things. Principle: never stop interrogating the modus operandi; there’s always a more intelligent and efficient way of completing a task:


Mid morning, I began preparing files for the Matt. 20.11 track in tandem with writing, and returned to both activities after lunch. It’s my habit to conduct the same activity over only two sessions in the day. The third session is set aside for a contrasting pursuit. For example, if I’m engaged in a theoretical or textual project in the morning and afternoon, I’ll try and do something practical in the evening. The division of my working day is ‘on this wise’ (as they say in the King James Version of the Bible): 8.30 am – 1.00 pm, 1.30 – 5.30 pm, and 7.30 – 9.30 pm. However, increasingly, I’m forced to carve out a fourth session from 10.30 pm to 2.00 am. That’s fifteen hours a day, maximum. My usual work expenditure is 11.5 hours per day for 5 days of the week, and a further 9.5 hours on a Saturday (both in term and ‘holiday’ time). That’s 67 hours in total. This doesn’t include a further 17 hours of guitar practise a week, which are research related. However, I’m paid to work only half that number of hours. Small wonder that so many established academics are either seeking to change their career or retire early, or dying before their time as result of stress-related illness and sheer frustration.

Mid afternoon. I attended the hospital for an X-ray appointment. It’s the best experience one can hope for in a health care institution: pain free (unless you’re in for a mammogram) and thoroughly interesting. All that kit, alarming radiation, shimmering lasers, sparkling blue lights, conduit, and buttons. I may have embarrassed myself by asking too many technical questions about X-ray photography. If you don’t ask … :


I enjoyed a fascinating if sobering afternoon searching for early representations of the transatlantic slave trade and African-American culture to illustrate the influence of ‘black music’ on the development of  jazz.

After the evening meal … :


… I searched further for images and field recordings of ‘negro spirituals’ and work songs. The first African American ever recorded was George W Johnson, in 1891. He performed a derogatory song called ‘The Whistling Coon’ written by Sam Devere — a black minstrel (that is to say, a white man who’d been ‘blacked up’):

Oh I’ve seen in my time some very funny folks
But the funniest of all I know
Is a coloured individual as sure as you’re alive
As black as any black crow
You can talk until you’re tired but you’ll never get a word
From this very funny queer old coon
He’s a knock-kneed, double-jointed hunky-punky mook
but he’s happy when he whistles in tune.

Small wonder the citizens of Ferguson, St Louis are so angry.

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