Summa: diary (January 8-12, 2023)

John Harvey, a coalminer, died in the Universal Colliery disaster, Senghenydd, on October 14, 1913. He was 28 years of age (Diary, February 8, 1989).

January 8. 3.00 am: The moon shone like a searchlight through the gap between the bedroom curtains and onto my face. We eyed one another until she moved from sight, and I returned to sleep. White light in the silent night: like God’s softly-spoken benediction, a parent’s lullaby, and a lover’s reassuring whisper. 3.00 pm: I began reading:

This is a sane, sceptical but balanced, and historically-informed work. Like a bag of raspberry ruffles, it was difficult to put down.

January 9. 7.00 am: An awakening. 7.30 am: Reading. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Writing. This is, now, the daily pattern for limbering-up. 9.30 am: The morning and afternoon was dedicated to the ‘Nothing is Without Sound’ [working title] project, while glancing sideways at the Harry Grendill Matthews (1880-1941) project. He and the ghost hunter Harry Price (1881-1948) shared several unadmirable traits and dubious approaches to research. They’re other connections beside.

12.30 pm: Chris Iliff, tutor at the School of Art, reported on his successful fixes of this blog site’s bugs. He’s a gem. As the book proposal deepens, the notional publication enlarges and a provisional structure begins to emerge. Inasmuch as my head was in the realm of spirits, I continued research on the book, focussing upon the here and now (which are slippery terms in the context of paranormal studies) and putative sound recordings of angels singing, the damned crying, demons shouting, and aerial trumpets announcing the Second Coming.

7.30 am-5.00 pm

January 10. 8.00 am: A phone call to my GP surgery. ‘Your position in queue is: 8’. (Sigh!) And, just as I get to ‘1’, my landline phone’s battery expired. (SIGH!) I’m presently reading my diaries for the period 1989-91. By then, I’d completed my PhD in Art History. This was begun in 1986, and undertaken full-time. During the period of my candidature, I’d lost my mother, got married, contracted glandular fever, and taught both the largest Open College of the Arts provision in the UK, and on the then, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth’s, then, Visual Art Department’s BA (Hons) Fine Art course. The glandular fever mutated into Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a condition that (to a greater or less degree) has dogged my path ever since.

9.30 am: Today (this week), the morning is devoted to music theory and praxis. The extent of my forgetfulness — within a week — is nothing short of paranormal. Which is why musicians worth their salt practise (and, therefore, remember) daily. And fingers and mind must absorb and recall in sync. I’m fascinated by how my brain fails to learn. There are many more zones of stupidity than there are of competence, therein.

1.30 pm: The afternoon was taken up with technological hardware and software (as I pushed on with the ‘Creed’ [working title] and performance projects) and biological hardware, in conversation with my GP. These days, I’m reasonably good at making an informed self-diagnosis and setting forth a plan of action and referral. My left Eustachian tube is blocked, and getting more painful. It’s also causing a significant loss of hearing in the corresponding ear, as well as effecting my head and neck.

8.00 am – 5.00 pm

January 11. 8.30 am: Diaristics:

I’m gaining much insight […] from reading [Abraham] Kampf’s exhibition catalogue on Jewish Art. The nationalistic-Jewish endeavour to create a definitive artistic expression threw a light on my own research into Welsh art. I believe that it may be profitable to address the ‘imagery’ of Welsh Nonconformity in my own work. But, I should be careful not to isolate the religious aspect. Rather, it should be integrated with those other influences that have shaped my visual sensibility: the valley experience and Modernism.

Diary (January 2, 1991).

At the time, I was holed-up in a perishingly cold chapel in Aberystwyth, drawing the pews and Bibles as seen from the gallery. Eight years later, I began the initial paintings in The Pictorial Bible series of visual artworks (1999-2015). A decade later, I made my first tentative translations of the sound culture associated with the Bible and Welsh Nonconformity. These would eventually be incorporated into The Aural Bible series (2015 to date). Between them, the two series fulfilled my ambition to incorporate and fuse those influences. But, again, the realisation of the resolution was a longtime coming. Nevertheless, it has formed the bedrock of all that I’ve done subsequently. If you want to ensure that your house endures against the storm, then, dig the foundations deep. That takes time and effort, which won’t be percievable to your audience; they’re interested only in the edifice that you’ve built upon it. And, that’s the way it should be.

John Harvey, A Wordless Gospel: Mark (2014), The Pictorial Bible III, carbon powder and liquid gold on paper, 25.2 × 33 cm (Authorised Version).

9.30 am: Writing and website admin. (In the background: BBC Radio 3’s Choral Evensong.) 10.30 am: Studiology. On, once more, with learning the new (and somewhat forbidding) software and hardware skills required to further the ‘Creed’ [working title] project. ‘Learn only what you need to undertake the next step, John, for goodness sake!’, the inner-voice barked. Identify, define, isolate, and, dissect each problem in turn. (I was winning, finally; but only for now.)

8.30 am-5.00 pm

‘Spare review: The weirdest book ever written by a royal’, vaunts the BBC website regarding Prince Harry’s autobiographical diatribe. No! I think the Daemonologia (1597) by James I (James VI of Scotland) takes the biscuit. It’s a fascinating read, and a book that served me well when I was conducting research for my The Appearance of Evil: apparitions of spirits in Wales (2003). I don’t believe that folk (either royal or plebeian) in the sixteenth century were any more credulous, or superstitious, or downright bonkers than they are today. However, what they did possess back then — which we sorely stand in need of today — was due seriousness about, and respect for, the forces of evil and the reality of the invisible world.

January 12. 8.30 am: I was deeply saddened to hear that the British jazz-rock guitarist Jeff Beck had died two days ago. He was 78 years of age. I came to his work late, via a recording of his performance at Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in 2007. My elder son and I heard him and his band at the O2 Arena, London, three years later. They were opening for Eric Clapton — who is a far less engaging and innovative player, in my opinion. Beck was a maestro. He picked the notes using his thumb, rather than with a plectrum, and held the neck of a Fender Stratocaster with his other thumb wrapped over the fretboard. Books on ‘How to Play the Guitar Properly’ deplore these practices. Jimi Hendrix gripped the guitar neck similarly — in a manner that appears both desperate and encumbered while, at the same time, movingly elegant. Beck attended Wimbledon School of Art in the early 1960s. Art students are prone to throw-out the rule book and do things their own way. I shall pick up my white ‘Strat’ in his honour, today.

Jeff Beck, the Palais, Melbourne, Australia (2009); Jimi Hendrix, the amusement park, Gröna, Lund, Stockholm, Sweden (1967) (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

11.00 am: Off to town to acquire materials with which to modify my new DJ desk on Saturday. I returned home via the School of Art. It was good to see and talk with some of the staff and postgraduate students once again. I also had an opportunity to take another look at Paul Croft’s excellent Collaboration in Practice: British Lithography 1800-2022 exhibition — which now comes with a book attached.

There’s a type of lithographic mark-making process that recalls the purported ectoplasmic swirls which appeared on the glass-plate negatives of some so-called spirit photographs in the early-twentieth century. In both types of image, there’s an illusion that what’s visible on the substrate has been frozen in time, and the result of actions and agencies (be they either natural and explicable or otherwise invisible) beyond the control of the operative.

‘Lo-Shu Wash Test Print’ from Paul Croft, Collaboration in Practice: British Lithography 1800-2022 (Aberystwyth: School of Art Press, 2022); ‘Freak Markings’ from Ada Deane and F. W. Warrick, Warrick’s Experiments in Psychics (London, 1939).

2.00 pm: This morning, the ‘Creed’ files were successfully inserted into the Ableton Live 11 software and connected to the Plus 2 sample launcher in readiness for playtime and further adventures along the learning curve tomorrow. I returned to music theory.

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