June 22, 2018

Thursday, 7.00 am: Morning:

As I was about my ablutions, I caught a radio article that discussed the problem of grade inflation at UK universities. In essence, too many first-class degrees are being awarded. The rise in number has been coterminous with the period since students began to be charged tuition fees. (‘Money is the root of all kinds of evil.’) Students want ‘bang for their bucks’. Now, that’s a principle of which I approve. However, they cannot buy attainment; it has to be earned. A good degree is awarded rather than sold. At the School of Art, a first-class mark, whether it be given for attainment in an individual module or for the degree overall, signifies excellence. And excellence is relatively rare. So ought to be its recognition, therefore. Today, both universities and schools are under pressure to call silver, gold and bronze, silver. When I was a student, departments could go for years without ever awarding a first.

Another ‘issue’ (read ‘problem’) facing universities, which was brought to light at a meeting I attended yesterday, related to the relationship between staff and their research students. It can get too cozy. Some PhD candidates are apt to form an emotional bond with their supervisor. It can lead to a sense of dependency and exclusivity, such that the they’ll not countenance being taught by anyone else. Moreover, the supervisor risks losing their critical distance and capacity to say the difficult thing, when needed. Of course, friendships frequently emerge during what can be a protracted period of intense and searching one-to-one tutorials, during which both parties necessarily yield a great deal about one another. (This is particularly so in the field of creative-art research.)  It’s not a marriage, but it is a mutual commitment to a successful outcome.

9.00 am. The house is silent and I’m alone. Now I can sing, dance, and play the guitar very loud for the next few days. Most importantly, I can begin and end recording the backing tracks for ‘Write Up the Vision …’.

Friday, 8.00 am: Having made trial of the acoustic and recording set-up yesterday, and given initial consideration to my grant application, I was now in a position to begin recording proper (once the various, tedious updates were installed). Time moves more irregularly when you are living on your own. But I’m a creature of habit, and maintain the intervals for meals and tea breaks with tiresome regularity. Very British. Very me. No one has ever been able to rescue this boy from that habit.

One of the components (likely or not the tube-based preamp) in the set-up was picking up a radio broadcast. The seagulls were unusually lively in the morning, too. And, all of a sudden, the traffic sounds seemed louder. (‘Close the Velux vent, John!’) 10.00 am: OK. I decided to go for it:

I needed to ensure that the speed of writing remained reasonably constant throughout the process. To this end, I deployed a visual metronome running at 66 bpm. On with Chapter 1 and verse 5, Take 1. Each verse would be recorded as a separate file. Each letter of each word would be written separately and distinctly, following God’s instruction to the prophet to inscribe the message plainly, so it it could be read easily and swiftly. The first take had too much ‘barky’ dog in the background, bitty bumps caused by the movement of furniture on the table, and distracting mechanical sounds made my the process of writing. Isolation was called for. In the end, I removed the stethomicrophone and lavalier microphone, and repositioned the contact microphone towards the end of the pencil. The latter doesn’t pick-up any acoustic information in the environment, only the vibrations of the pencil’s carbon tip on the paper – which is all I wanted. (Simplify. Simplify!) Take 2.

Over lunch and a bowl of noodles (a treat), I was struck with the realisation that there were two other compositions that could be components of The Aural Bible III project: The Remnant That Remaineth (Brophy and Harvey, 2017) and my recent ‘astro-musical’ piece, which I’ve renamed When the Morning Stars Sang Together. (The title is taken from Job, Chapter 28, verse 7.). Along with the unpublished Nomine Numine, the three pieces share a drone-based structure:

For the first part of the afternoon, I updated the website presentations for the two works. The text would need some adjustment too. (A job for next week.) A review of the on-going reconstruction of this website was also undertaken. It’s getting there. 3.45 pm: I bounced to the School, to check my mail and take in the sunshine:

4.30 pm: Home. I wasn’t getting very far with my sound writing. However, the execution would take far less time than the set-up and experimentation had done. It was on its way. I reviewed a remix of The Remnant that Remaineth before dinner. The original rendering felt a little too tentative. There’s an air of confident defiance about it now. And I hear details to which I was previously oblivious.

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