August 30, 2017

8.00 am: Emails and more remote communications were undertaken in advance of a day in the studio. 9.00 am: I extracted from the CDs, which I’d received yesterday, the audio files of the sermons.  These will be processed digitally, and then transferred onto cassettes. While the files were downloading (tortuously slowly), I set up a microphone over one of the turntables in readiness for recording:

The aim is capture the unamplified sound of the stylus as it traces through the grooves. The recording will need to be made in the early hours of the morning, when there’re neither ambient sounds inside the house nor outside the studio and its environs. At the time of writing, I hear:

a wheelie-bin being pushed parallel to the house;
the clank of planks, and the chink of scaffolding being assembled across the road;
the tumble of rubble into a skip nearby;
a jet aeroplane, high above;
a small dog barking next door;
vehicles passing in the middle distance;
the screech of gulls over the rooftops;
the whirr of the CD reader in front of me;
the laptop’s fan;
the click of the keyboard beneath my fingers.

The surface recording will provide the starting point for a composition that responds to the narrative about the blind (and other disabled persons) described in John, Chapter 5:

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had (John 5.2–4).

I assume that what’s being described here was a local superstition. My mental image of the movement is of a gradually escalating disruption of the water’s surface. This will be the focal point of the sound piece. (Perhaps it should be presented at Bethesda Welsh Independent Chapel, at Llandewi Breffi, Ceredigion, Wales.)

The data transfer from CD to computer was problematic – a conflict of codices, I suspect. My workaround involved uploading the material to iTunes before downloading it from there to the desktop and, finally, into the DAW. Few things in life are straightforward. And other people don’t have it easier either. (That’s a lie we tell ourselves.) By noon, the files were ready for review:

12.15 pm: I needed to hear the first sermon (each is from 50-minutes to over one hour in length) through, in order for me to acclimatise to the dynamics, pace, and musicality of the preacher’s voice.

After lunch, I began the process of transferring the digital source onto cassette. This is an analogue process and, therefore, had to be undertaken in real time. A 50-minute+ source doesn’t fit neatly onto one a side of a 90-minute tape. Ah! The joy of physical mediums:

While this was turning over in the background, I extracted samples of ‘silence’ from the sermons. The concept of ‘silence’ (in the Cageian sense) is always conditional. In this context, it represents the space between words, between speech. In that ‘silence’ can be heard the sound of the chapel interior’s ambient space, the congregation’s movements and coughs; a baby’s cry; the preacher drawing-in breath; and vehicles passing outside the building. The tape remembered everything.

8.00 pm: I continued transferring the sermons to tape while taking a initial and cursory look at a new sampler, The device will provide the means to launch extracts of the ‘silences’ derived from the afternoon’s recordings:

Then, I set up the recording devices to capture the surface noise of the vinyl on the turntable in readiness for a late-night session, after everyone else in the house was asleep and the world outside, quieted.

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