A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man (Proverbs 24.33-34).
7.45 am: ‘Lazy, lazy, lazy, John!’, came the voice of chastening. But they were right: ars longa vita brevis. At 5.30 am, while still in bed, tossing and turning, a methodological framework for the Edmund Jones compositions arose out of the darkness. And with it, the vaguest sense of sonorities and modulations that would be new to my work. 8.45 am: I read through the text that I’d written yesterday. I was in two minds: Should I either continue writing or venture into the studio and begin processing sounds? Or, should I divide the day between both activities? Sometimes ideas arise involuntarily, and so quickly and in such numbers that I’m hard-pressed to write them down fast enough. I stuck with writing and research. My first port of call: a seventeenth-century map of Philadelphia. ‘A Scale of English Miles’ is such a surreally poetic expression:
Next stop: astrological charts. Jones drew them to determine the course of his ministry and itinerancy. The notion that the stars indicated (rather than determined) the course of his life was congruent with his Christian theology. The celestial sphere was, after all, God’s handiwork, and he’d guided the Magi to the Christ child by means of a star. In the diagram, the central rectangle represented the Earth and the greater rectangle, the heavens. The latter is divided into 12 compartments (or houses) to represent the lunar months. Within this framework, Jones charted the position of the constellations, planets, and their procession:
I returned to the research notes I’d made when writing my introduction to the Jones book to plunder ideas. After lunch, I stretched my legs: walk to and from the promenade. Apparently, there’ll be a Spring tide when Storm Ciara hits tonight. ‘Goodbye, Prom (again)!’:
2.20 pm: Back at my desk. A radical re-read Jones’ text was required. On this occasion, I was looking for entirely natural sounds in the landscape and types of deformation and idiosyncrasy evident in the witnesses’ visual description of spirits. (In the background: King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon (1970.)) Thus, my afternoon’s work was foreordained:
5.00 pm: ‘esc’.
I can begin to compose only when I’ve conceived a plan, a strategy, or an intent. But these things are mutable and responsive to possibilities that can only emerge in the process of making. As in life, all things are contingent upon all other things; all decisions must he held in an open hand. Conditions and circumstances change. Thus a ‘no’ may be only for now.