Summa: diary (October 22-27, 2022)

October 22. 5.30 am+:

9.00 am: Oh! The agonies of software updates, and their implications for hardware devices that worked seamlessly before. Saturday mornings are spent in the studio: putting away equipment, writing-up notes, and preparing for the week’s work ahead. Presently, my focus is upon the ‘Creed’ [working title] project: first, recording each of 108 distinct words that comprise the Nicene Creed, multiple times, in order to generate a ‘choral’ representation; and, secondly, launching those recordings using a sampler. Having defined the problems, the solutions will declare themselves more evidently.

October 23. It has been the schools’ half-term holiday in England during the last week. This weekend, the town has been overrun by the Brum-brigade, empty fish ‘n chip boxes, and seagulls on the make. On my walks I headed for the harbour, where only the committed tourists venture. Today, the temperature was far too warm for the winter wrap that I habitually don as October concludes, regardless of the weather. (I’m a man of mindless habit.) Throughout the pandemic, my ambulations along the Promenade have been a balm. Into the bay I’ve cast my cares, my longings, sins, and doubts. (There’s a hymn-line in there.)

The former, disgraced Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, came home from his holiday — like a dog returning to his vomit (to use that earthy biblical image) — in order to stand for re-election as leader of the Conservative Party. However, it turns out, he’d no intention of throwing his hat into the ring. Clearly, being in the public limelight once more was its own reward. He should be consigned to the deepest, darkest Pit of Venality.

October 24. This week would be dedicated to recording soem of the ‘Creed’ [working title] sound samples. 9.00 am: Having set-up the sample-launcher, I proceeded to record myself saying the first word in the Nicene Creed, ‘I’, twelve times. The dozen tracks were then stacked in sync and mixed-down (or ‘bounced’) to a single track to form a choir of one. 12 is a multiple of 108 (the number of distinct words in the source text); 9 is another. Following the biblical pattern, the former is preferred because it has spiritual significance in both the Old and New Testaments. The: twelve tribes of Israel; twelve children of Jacob; twelve disciples; twelve baskets of leftovers following Christ’s miracle of the five thousand; and many more instances beside. In my work, arbitrariness is a dirty word.

I’ve been following the recent protests by climate activists in gallery contexts. In mid-October, representatives of the Just Stop Oil movement threw tomato soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888), at the National Gallery, London. More recently, members of a German environmental group threw mashed potato at Monet’s painting of haystacks, Les Meules (1901), in the Museum Barberini, Potsdam. I doubt whether these ‘additives’ damaged the surface of the paintings. The forced conjunction of fine art and food is a strategy worthy of the Fluxus movement. (I’m prone to over-think these events.) However, I wish the soup had been manufactured by Campbell rather than by Heinz. A critical intervention between Pop Art and Post Impressionism would have elevated the gesture significantly. The use of liquefied mash potato as a medium had a Beuysian overtone. Whereas its splash upon the canvas evoked — in its colour and bravura — a paint application that wouldn’t have appeared out of place in late works by Turner — whom Monet admired.

Vincent van Gogh, The Public Soup Kitchen (1883) (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons); potato-chips haystack (2012) (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

2.00 pm: Mordant does the decent thing, and Sunak wins the prize. However, Mr S, ‘the United Kingdom’ is not ‘a great country’, as you suggest; rather, it’s a sovereign nation made up of four countries.

October 25. The ‘Creed’ [working title] project gathered momentum as I developed more efficient ways of recording and assembling the individual words. Only when the process of construction was underway, I realised that the sound in my head bore little resemblance to the mannered mode of choral speaking. Instead, it beckoned to the character of congregational confession: imprecise synchronisation, and varied tone, inflexion, and volume. This is what ‘heaven’ looks like:

With regard to the BibleSound database project, I was closing-in on the final section of the New Testament in the NRSV translation of the Bible.

October 27. 9.00 am: A consultation with another one of my former (and now concluding) PhD Fine Art students. Once again, I posed generic questions much like those that would arise in the course of their viva voce in a few weeks time. I recall three pieces of advice about preparing for public-speaking engagements of significance that were given to me by a senior professor when I was a young academic. Prior to the delivery: 1. Converse informally with someone … anyone. (This will get you used to thinking on your feet and the sound of your voice.); 2. Step outside the venue and scream loudly. (This will get you used to projecting your voice.); and 3. The third piece of advice, which I’m too polite to share, addressed some of the unpleasant physical concomitants of nerves.

12.30 am: ‘Amen.’ I concluded the third sound-scope of the Old and Testaments. The database now needs to be conceived in terms of subset categories: types, functions, descriptions, and so forth. Then, I’d conduct a final scope of ‘sound-words’ in Scripture using a Hebrew and Greek lexicon. However, the priority presently is to begin writing-up responses to the information that I’ve already gathered. In research, a varied diet of activities is desirable.

1.30 pm: I returned to ‘Creed’ and ‘son’. Once the method of processing the sounds has been optimised, creating the composit words becomes a chore. There’s little I can do about that; they just have to be made. 24 down; 84 to go. 1,296 recordings in toto.

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