Summa: diary (January 13-17, 2023)

Purpose’ (Psalm 138.8).

‘Has it ever struck you that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going?’ (Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1963)).

January 13. Diaristics:

St John’s Ambulance Hall and the rear of my maternal grandparents’ house, High Street, Blaina, Monmouthshire (1987).

I remembered my childhood experiences of Blaina […:] the journey from the backdoor of Gran’s and Pop’s house to the High Street; the night a large toad crossed the pavement in front of me, outside the King’s Head [pub]; […] the rooms and windows of the St John’s Ambulance Hall; [and] walking the rusty bridge that crossed the main road, below Beynon’s Colliery. I remembered the times that Dad went to, and came back home from, work: his 5.00 am rise for the morning shift and return, at 9.30 pm, from the afternoon shift; and my dog pacing the dining room as she heard him approach the house. It’s all gone.

Diary (February 3, 1991).

9.00 am: Studiology. 11.00 am: A coffee and catch-up in town with Professor David Ferry. He is one of our former External Examiners. His observations on the state of art education in the UK are always invaluable. We’re both retired now, and had much to share regarding our respective adaptation to the new environment. Busyness is still one of the salient motifs of our lives. We also have a deep passion for recondite expressions of music in common.

2.00 pm: DJ desking. 7.30 pm: Reading. At the close of the day I, like some over-pious character from a moralising Victorian novel, examine myself and innumerate those things that gave me pleasure and for which I’m grateful. Those things which had been an irksomeness to the flesh were also scrutinised. How can my attitude towards them be improved?

January 14. 8.30 am: Breakfast. (Or, better, ‘break fast’.) During weekdays, I don’t eat from 6.30 pm one day until 1.00 pm the next. This habit (intermittent fasting) has improved my digestion and kept me trim. It’s not for everyone, but the regime works for me. 9.00 am: A communion. 9.30 pm: Into the rain and town to buy greens and eggs. I stopped off at a local waterhole to remember friends and our conversations there in times past.

10.30 am: Studiology. Further DJ desking. The day’s objective was to attach a 12-gang AC plugboard and an additional equipment stand to the desk. Much bradawlling, screwing, measuring, cutting, Velcroing, clamping, and securing was in evidence. The bare desk has an austere beauty not unlike a protestant nonconformist communion table or an Anglican altar on Good Friday. Next week, the ‘elements’ will be set out upon it in the expectation that a sought-for blessing will fall.

8.30 am-5.00 pm

5.00 pm: Downtime. On Saturday evenings I watch a film, accompanied by a variety of cheeses, cured meats, chocolate, ice cream, crisps, and either a non-alcoholic beer or Pepsi, followed by a glass of milk. My sons’ partners refer to this ritual as the ‘Harvey pig-out’. Begone self-discipline!

January 15. 1.00 am: I stirred from a dream in which I’d tried to ascend a dark, steep, and narrow wooden staircase that led to a place of light and safety above. At the bottom, a laminated stair gate barred the way. As I attempted to rest it ajar, an invisible force resisted my efforts. Eventually, I tore the gate from its hinges and defied the malevolent spirit to follow me. As I reached the top of the stairs I returned to consciousness and heard my late father shout ‘John!’ — as though he was standing in the bedroom. The manner in which he uttered my name was like that preserved on an audio recording that I’d made for my Aural Diary project. It captured part of a telephone call that we shared on my 30th birthday. In 2014, I composed a loop-based sound work entitled And Also a Beloved Daughter, in honour of my mother. This, too, was based upon an Aural Diary entry. I’ve wanted to construct a companion piece as a memorial to my father. Given that my thoughts are currently directed towards sonic manifestations of the departed and the supernatural then, perhaps, now is an appropriate time to rekindle the ambition.

6.00 am: I rose to the chill air.

6.30 am

9.30 am: In the morning, I turned to the (possible) book project once again. At this stage in its development, I’m keen to develop ideas and test the water of the subject’s viability, rather than dive into primary and secondary textual sources. Presently, the project feels like a house with many rooms of different sizes, all of which are painted white, bare-boarded, and without furniture. I walk from room to room imagining what I might put in them. Today’s room will include a study of sound recordings purporting to capture choirs of angels singing. The phenomenon was also witnessed, supposedly, during the 1904-1905 Welsh revival. The so-called ‘singing in the air’ was heard in the rafters of chapels following revival services, and aerially — above the mountain tops — moving in the direction of the revival’s course. It was this phenomenon that inspired The Aural Bible series, at the outset. But I’ve never yet had an opportunity to deal with it directly in my sound works.

I’m not working towards any definite outcomes in respect to my research endeavours, currently. Instead, I’m allowing ideas to find me by being available for work. I’ve the luxury of allowing projects to develop organically and at their own pace. You cannot force change. But come it must:

It’s not about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.

Miles Davis

January 17. 7.00 am: Waking. 7.30 am: Reading. 8.00 am: Communing. 8.30 am: Walking:

Playground, Plascrug Avenue, Aberystwyth

It was -5°C, and I’d neglected to bring my woolly gloves and the beanie that my younger son had bequeathed me. (Is this a ‘hand-me up’ or a ‘hand-me down’?) The frost penetrated deep into the ground; ‘Earth stood hard as iron / Water like a stone’. The cold air and brittle light enlivened. I walked down Llanbadarn Road, through the municipal cemetery, passed what looked like sugar-frosted gravestones, and up and down Plascrug Avenue, before returning home. Great gratitude! En route, I talked with a member of the School of Art’s staff. We discussed their working life/my working life. No longer the same. ‘Retirement has come with an enormous sense of imperative’, I confessed. ‘Ars long vita brevis! ‘”I want more life!”‘, to quote Roy Batty (Blade Runner (1982)).

9.30 am: I returned to the studio, reinvigorated, and started to arrange the DJ desk in order to proceed with ‘Creed’ [working title]. In essence, the activity would involve a conversation between the needs of the equipment, my own, and the principles of ergonomics. Around and about this focal point, I listened again to the tape of the conversation that I’d had with my late father in 1989. Sound recordings offer a partial and temporary resurrection. Dad‘s death was accompanied by electronic sound. He suffered a fatal heart attack around 10.00 pm on Sunday, March 17, 1991, while watching TV at home, in Abertillery. At precisely the same time I was watching TV at home, in Aberystwyth. My set suddenly stopped receiving the dramatisation of a ghost story that I was watching and, instead, emitted a static image, white noise, and an abrasive shriek of feedback. It had never done so before and never did again. I’ve no explanation for either the coincidence or the TV’s behaviour. Some would interpret the phenomenon as representing my father, in extremis, reaching out to me, telepathically, through the intermediary his and my TV. A sort of’ ‘tele’-psychic link-up, if you will. Thus, the “John!” [working title] project begins.

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