August 24, 2018

Remember me. Remember me (Henry Purcell, Dido and Aeneas (c.1688)).

1.00 am: Having ‘pulled a late one’, sleep came more readily. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: A telephone call; a hospital appointment confirmed. The operation will take place as this Diary ends. That’s a neat and tidy resolution to both projects. 9.00 am: Back to the conference paper and on with reading. Fascinating!:

Today, parents and others fear that pocket calculators provide an external resource for what ought to be the internal resource of memorized multiplication tables. Calculators weaken the mind, relieve it of the work that keeps it strong (Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy (1982), 84).

Goodness knows what Ong would have made of smartphones and tablets. But he has a point. Today, too, the mind (or more specifically its ability to concentrate) is weakened by the multiplicity of other, tangential, activities that accompany almost every other activity we engage. Presently, I’m reading and making notes while listening to Purcell’s The Fairy Queen (1692), monitoring incoming emails, listening out for the doorbell, making tea, thinking about tomorrow’s work, calculating the impact of losing the use of an arm for two weeks will have on my work during the first half of September, uploading CDs to iTunes, and writing and photographing this Diary. My attention is dispersed, or promiscuous. One can’t be focussed and distracted simultaneously.

On occasion, however, the focal and the peripheral elide:

Even in a personal diary addressed to myself I must fictionalize the addressee. Indeed, the diary demands, in a way, the maximum fictionalizing of the utterer and the addressee. Writing is always a kind of imitation talking, and in a diary I therefore am pretending that I am talking to myself. But I never really talk this way to myself. Nor could I without writing or indeed without print. The personal diary is a very late literary form, in effect unknown until the seventeenth century (Boerner 1969). The kind of verbalized solipsistic reveries it implies are a product of consciousness as shaped by print culture. And for which self am I writing? Myself today? As I think I will be ten years from now? As I hope I will be? For myself as I imagine myself or hope others may imagine me? Questions such as this can and do fill diary writers with anxieties and often enough lead to discontinuation of diaries. The diarist can no longer live with his or her fiction (Ong, 100).

To whom am I talking in this Diary? To myself, both now and in the future (‘Did you learn your lesson back then, John!’); my children (in a future that doesn’t include me); friends and acquaintances (who’ve remained loyal supporters of these posts over the years), and (the vast majority) anonymous readers from all over the globe. Ong’s observations are also relevant to the contemporary culture of the ‘selfie’ and the constructed persona. I don’t accept the dogma that all auto-representations are facets of our true selves, any more than I believe that fictions are versions of fact. We generate these alt-images, I suspect, because we’ve not come to terms with who we are. And who we are is often more interesting and nuanced than the scrubbed-up versions of ourselves that we project to ourselves and others. Moreover, the camera does lie, because it’s manipulated by those who’ve the capacity to deceive. ‘Not looking our best, today, John! Too many late and sleepless nights, have taken their toll, boyo!’:

After lunch: The rain:

A change of environment and engagement. I returned to the studio to review and advance several of the sound compositions in progress. The practice and its textual articulation must grow together. To write about the work is to comprehend it from the perspective of an insider-spectator. ‘The Lesser Light’ needed a rethink. What’s done is good … but insufficiently ambitious. I reintroduced samples that I’d originally excised – processed version of the source file – to hear whether some, or parts of a few, would sit. My experience working on ‘Write the Vision …’ had tutored my revision of the composition:

7.30 pm: In through another ‘portal’ into the realms of research output assessment. (Sigh!) This would be the remainder of my evening. I battled, first, with the medium and, secondly, with the content. Another buggy site.

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