August 7, 2018

Hope not for what cannot.

9.00 am: A brief survey of my personal website following its rebuild on the foundations of a new and more sophisticated template. When the final twenty-six posts of this blog have been published on the present site (sometime in early September), the Diary will/may re-emerge, at some juncture, within a new subdomain. This’ll be at the following address:, within the framework of the recently commuted John Harvey: Intersections of Sound, Image, Word, and Life blog. There’re still access ‘issues’ to resolve. 9.30 am: Email catch-up. On our way home in the car yesterday, we listened to my elder son’s music playlist: an eclectic mix of Abba, Johnny Cash (The Man Comes Around)), Neil Diamond, David Bowie, Gerry Rafferty (Stuck in the Middle with You and Right Down the Line (I can no longer listen to the former without also visualising the torture scene from Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.)), and Nick Cave (Into My Arms). As I broke-up the dry and compacted soil of admin, I replayed some of them.

10.30 am: Studiology. I reviewed the work undertaken last week for the ‘Write the Vision … ‘ composition, before returning to the VirtualDJ rig to finalise extracting sound samples by this means:

For an hour, I puzzled over why my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) wasn’t receiving a recordable signal. It was only at the point of preparing for an alternative, and entirely unsatisfactory, approach to encoding the source that I realised the sub-mixer hadn’t been turned on. Sometimes you have to reach the end of the road before you rediscover your sense of direction. Onwards …

After lunch, I continued manipulating material for a further ten minutes. And, sometimes too, it’s only when you think that you’ve exhausted all the possibilities that something unexpected occurs. I continued, therefore, for a while longer. The files were then sifted on the DAW. There were nuggets amid the coal dust:

A jet aircraft passed over head, its engines, in conjunction with the Doppler effect, followed the same arc of tonalities as the sample that I’d just extracted. Wonderful! By mid afternoon, I’d found sufficient material to be going on with. Over 90% of the samples end up on the cutting-room floor. One must sow much to reap little in this work.

It’s less a lack of resources and technical facility than of imagination that keeps us from realising something worthwhile. With sufficient imagination and staying power, almost anything is possible. Towards the end of the afternoon session, I prepared the batch of samples for stretching. I wasn’t not assuming an outcome, but my imagination suggested that there may be fruit ripe to pick from this tree.

I was tagged by a Facebook friend to a YouTube upload of sound effects from the Original Star Trek series. I’ve loved and admired these noises since I was very young. No doubt they fed my developing sensibility for soundscapes and electrical blip and bleeps. Some things don’t change; they just get clearer.  The effects sounded plausible, intriguing in and of themselves, and, in design, like the precise sonic analogue of the switches and flashing lights on the Enterprise’s control panels.

Star Trek
(courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

7.30 pm: Back to the stretching exercises, as it were. A good harvest. It remained to hear whether these new sounds would both mesh with, and sufficiently contrast, with those that already comprised the composition. Attentive and critical listening was required:

An evening passed to the west:

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