Summa: diary (October 1-8, 2022)

October 1. I returned to the guitar effects rig, which is currently on the studio floor and being adjusted for ergonomic economy. I’m also interrogating, once again, the height at which a strapped guitar is placed above my waist. Having undertaken a year-long study of the Alexander technique, I (in collaboration with my tutor) explored ways in which very heavy guitars in particular could be played, both in a seated and standing position, while hung across the chest above the body’s centre of gravity. By this means, the lower back is no longer supporting all the weight. On the August 4, 2014, I made trial of our preliminary findings, while observing my posture when sat down. Today, I shortened all my guitars straps to an appropriate length. In positioning the guitar high upon the torso, the neck is elevated to an angle that permits the thumb on the left hand to be centred at the rear of the fretboard, in any chordal position.

October 2-3. The mornings were given over to the BibleSound database and the afternoons, to sound technology. As I remarked in a message to one of my sound colleagues:

I’m currently rethinking my effects rig from the ground up. It takes time and a great deal of thought. My butt-ache is reconciling mono and stereo signal paths.

The aim is: to reduce complexity to a simplicity; establish a straightforward and unencumbered route from the instrument to the amplifier via the effects rig; and maintain the integrity of the instrument’s tonal output at the end of the signal chain. To achieve this requires an investment in good quality equipment (as a baseline); a rudimentary knowledge of voltage, amperage, capacitance, and resistance; and a realistic expectation of failure — time after time after time — until success is wrested from the jaws of frustration.

A guitar is like a paintbrush. Paintbrushes come in different: types (round, pointed round, flat, angular flat, bright, liner, filbert, wash, angular wash, round, detailed round, and fan); sizes; and materials (either animal hair or a synthetic substitute). They’re designed to work with variety paint mediums (oil, acrylic, gouache, and watercolour); and to achieve specific technical effects. There’re different types of electric guitar: solidbody, semi-hollowbody, and hollowbody. Likewise, they’re made in a variety of different materials (woods, polymers, and carbon fibre); sizes; weight; finishes; shape; and calibration; and are fitted with a range of electrical components that contribute to the sound’s production. Historically, guitar design has evolved in response to the development of new types of music, such as jazz, rock n’ roll, rock, and heavy metal. But what neither a brush nor guitar will ever do is tell you what and how to paint or play, or make you a better artist or musician. By the same token, you may accomplish ends with these tools that they weren’t designed to meet. That’s the pleasure of transgression.

October 4. The shipment of CDs for the Penallta Colliery: Sound Pictures project landed, unceremoniously, in front of the garage, shrink-wrapped on a wooden palette, mid afternoon. I suspect that its journey began in Berlin and proceeded to Aberystwyth via London Heathrow Airport.

October 5. Extracts from the studio notebook; scales of response:

control > relax / compose > improvise / continue > reinvent / specialise > diversify / produce > resist / tense > release / direct > let / confident > insecure / fulfilled > indifferent / quality > quantity / quantity > necessity / encourage > disillusion / ambition > complacency / commit > prevaricate / limit > expand / fame > obscurity / energy > apathy / certainty > ambiguity / craft > idea / precise > general / determine > allow / constrain > open / cherish > relinquish /

October 6. It was heartening to read in today’s news that ‘Universities are being told to contact key family members, carers or friends if they have serious concerns about a student’s mental health – even without their permission’. Truth be told, UniversitiesUK are now allowing institutions so to do. There were too many times in my career when I sensed that a suffering student’s right of privacy (as a young adult) overrode the principles of care and safety. Regulation and rightness conflicted. As were the staff too. Now, at least, academics and other university counsellors don’t have to bare the terrible burden of a student’s confession alone.

News arrived that the award of Emeritus Professor had been conferred on me by the Vice Chancellor. It’s something of a medal of honour. There’s no money attached. Any work that I undertake on behalf of the School of Art will be pro bono. No problem. My pension is my income. More importantly, my former email account will be unlocked and I’ll have access to library provision. But most importantly I, like the Prodigal Son, will return home (notionally, at least) to the Edward Davies Building. ‘Prepare the fatted calf!’

October 7-8. There were minor adjustments to be made across the board of my social media and websites in order to reflect yesterday’s ‘change of career status’. These things take far longer to accomplish than anticipated. The guitar rig was re-routed to create a fully mono signal path through the distortion pedalboard, into a buffered volume pedal, and in and out of the receive and send loop of the switchboard. Efficiency joined hands with economy.

In the outer world: the threat of nuclear war, and of winter power cuts due to gas shortages; the reality of crippling increases in rent and mortgages; a further anticipated rise in the cost of living and public-sector strikes, the slow and dispiriting march of war in Europe; a feckless, criminal, and careless government on its last legs, and the challenge faced by the NHS as the Covid19 infection rate grows and the flu season begins. And yet. And yet, we continue to draw, paint, print, construct, instal, curate, compose, play music, write literature, perform, shout, talk with each another, laugh, remember, kiss, and so much more. Through these small acts, we defy, insist on optimism, discover hope, make meaning, fire faith, shape protest, and resist being drawn into the encircling darkness of despair.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed