July 25, 2018

5.15 am: Sleep betrayed me last night. I’m losing the knack. There were momentary dreams, though: fragments – monochrome and dark, hard and corrugated surfaces, broken shafts, chaos, movement, disruption, many voices, incomprehensible speech. I tossed from my back to a foetal position, from left to right; arm across the brow, keeping out the morning light; breathing softly … deliberately; and mentally scanning my body from toe to tip. 7.00 am: There was brown water in the washbasin, caused (as an automated message from Dwr Cymru would later explain) by firemen using hydrants in the course of fighting a local hotel fire on the Promenade. (I pondered my dream again.)):

8.45 am: Having dosed-off in my study’s rocking chair during ‘a communion’, I eased myself into the morning with a review of incoming mail. I’ve a very clear agenda for the work that’ll be undertaken in the studio today. The schedule for the next few months has to be tight. As such, each day must count. The itinerary includes trips away, as well as productive and rejuvenating distractions – which can provide the necessary fillip to intelligent productivity. The first order of the morning was to complete the stretch transformations of the acoustic writing samples. Thereafter, I’d interrogate their interrelations. Then, I’d complete the VirtualDJ array, in order to make initial recordings of improvisations based on the same material. The vinyl pressings of the sound had arrived at the School; so, I would also be able to make a number of trails using this medium and turntable technology. Everything would then be in place. A schematic of the conference performance rig needed to be drawn up too:

10.00 am: I walked to the School to pick up my records. Along one side of Llanbadarn Road and into the distance, towards the Promenade, a deflated fire hose skirted the curb like a large yellow tapeworm. A line ‘drawn’ through the town. Under any other circumstances, the gesture would’ve been beautiful and magnificent:

While waiting for processes to grind-down, I set up equipment and inspected my new records:

After lunch, I continued along the parallel lines of activity that I’d established during the morning. I bounced from one of three tables to another, while processing files, building and testing rigs, and wondering why I was feeling so upbeat (almost euphoric) on so little sleep. The work excited me. I was hearing new things … thinking new thoughts:

4.30 pm: Now, I felt tired. The crash. (A fifteen-minute dose did the trick.):

My elder son came home in the late afternoon. After dinner, we sat down at watched this year’s Prom performance of Holst’s The Planets (a piece with which I’d been briefly preoccupied of late, while composing When the Morning Stars Sang Together). I’d not before realised how often he’d deployed repetitive motifs, in the manner of loops, throughout the suite. Was he inspired by the principle of planetary orbits, I wondered?

7.30 pm: I took the vinyls out for a spin (quite literally) in order to make trial of the modulation array. The present set-up may not be the most appropriate. But there’s only one way to find out. Always … Always, my first efforts sound weak, obvious, and arbitrary. What am I aiming to articulate? What rationale must govern the sculpting of the sound? Ultimately, I’m searching for ideas and evocations of which the sounds are a manifestation. I reminded myself to retain the sonorities and characteristics of the source, as far as possible. The objective is to improve rather than change them.

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