November 20, 2015

7.50 am. I discharged my duties to my ‘flock’: writing emails notifications regarding tutorial appointments, while chivvying the discouraged, supporting the lame, and stirring the indifferent. 9.00 pm. Putting all that behind me, I launched into the sound studio and picked up the ‘Image and Inscription’ composition once again. Here my mind will remain for the next two days. As is my practice, I began the day’s work, first, by reviewing the efforts that I’d made at the beginning of the week. The next task was to download, and to set up software and a routing path, that would enable me to record directly from my MacBook’s output. (Sunflower in combination with Audacity works a treat.) The set-up enabled me to capture, for example, a micro sample of sound that was being played in loop mode on the Audition DAW.

Working programmatically is a new and fascinating experience. I found myself ‘audioising’ (or whatever is the sonic equivalent for visualising) sounds before I manufactured them. The opening ‘scene’ of the text is set in the the Sinai desert. I found biblical illustrations on the Internet, made in the same period as my two source engravings, to serve as a tangible reference to the subject and focus for my sonification:

J W M Turner, ‘The Sinai Desert’, engraved by E Finden (c.1870)

I suspect that, in my endeavour to interpret the visual source evocatively, I’m working like a composer of film scores:

12.15 pm. Hoorah! The repairman from Worcester has fixed the household boiler (which was disabled by last weekend’s storm, in all likelihood). We now have hot water and heat in the home, after a five-day cessation and much crouching pitiably over bar fires.


I’m disciplining myself to maintain a much slower pace of development than I’m accustomed to for this soundscape. The concepts of space, speed, and time are intimately linked. My work on Strictly No Admittance (2015) taught me a great deal in this respect. It’s fascinating how one work prepares you for, and anticipates, another. 2.50 pm. A break, and preparations for a second visit to the osteopath. Into a day of vacillating moods:


I arrived for 3.15 pm. Some places have a strong presence. This corridor aches visibly, having, perhaps, absorbed the discomfiture of those who sit there awaiting treatment:


4.20 pm. Back at homebase, I reviewed the efforts I’d made in the early afternoon. I needed to open up the tonal spectrum of the tracks. When superimposing sounds, one must maintain the distinctive identity of each, in concert —  as one would the instruments in, or sections of, an orchestra.

7.15 pm. The danger of a programmatic approach to composition is that of becoming too figurative in the realisation of the source. In an unexpected way, my sojourn in the osteopath’s corridor had suggested an imaginative (speculative) approach to the composition that would provide the ballast necessary to counter literalism. The ceiling illumination connoted the idea of either an electrical disturbance or static in the air — such as might have preceded the dramatic onset of lighting and thunder around the summit of Mount Sinai, later on in the narrative (Exod. 19.16-17).

The first ascension of Moses upon the Mount inaugurated the divine encounter and the dramatic natural phenomena. His ascent, and, later, God’s descent, provided the trope for the conclusion of Spielberg’s Close Encounters if the Third Kind (1977). Towards the end of the film, Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss) climbs Devil’s Tower, Wyoming to confront the alien mothership, which is coming down from the starry heavens to meet him. The ascent (Exod. 19.3) required a sonic motif. A task for the morrow!

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