Summa: diary (February 1-7, 2023)

Discipline is a determination of the will. When I get to the end of my life, there’ll be resolutions that remain unfulfilled. They’ll be so, not because I didn’t have enough time but, rather, because I’d insufficient passion and commitment to realise them.

February 1 (Wednesday). Where is today’s sense of urgency to be found? 8.30 am: I completed yesterday’s note taking on angelic singing before heading into town for a dental appointment. 11.45 am: An x-ray was taken of my left upper-rear molar. There’s evidence of a minor infection at its root. Perhaps this is contributing to the problems that I’ve experienced with my left eustachian (Euston Station) tube? An extraction of the offending tooth may be the only way of testing my hypothesis.

11.30 am: Back at my desk, I dug deeper into ideas suggested by the notes. My enquiries have drawn me back to the 1904-5 Welsh Revival and the Azusa Street Revival, Los Angeles, which began in 1909 and had been inspired by the movement in Wales. The Azusa Street Revival gave birth to Pentecostalism. Tongues speaking and, it was reported, angels singing were prominent phenomena at the services. 2.00 am: On, then, with a review of relevant journal indexes. Patterns of thought began to emerge. I pressed on in this vein into the evening.

February 2 (Thursday). 7.00 am: Shaving to Bach’s Ich Habe Genug (Cantata No. 82), on Radio 3. 8.45 am: Studiology. I don’t want to become a stranger to the Digital Audio Workstation desk and my equipment by remaining too long in the study. In my head, ‘The Singing in the Air’ [working title] project is now tentatively earmarked as the seventh release in The Aural Bible series. The ‘John!’ [working title], ‘Creed’ [working title], and ‘Harry Grindell Matthews’ [working title] are now placed in the ‘NEW PROJECTS’ folder. They’ll be worked-up alongside The Aural Bible VII compositions. The source material for ‘The Singing’ will be a recorded reading of the entire Bible. (A number of testimonies suggest that the angels sang Scripture.) I have essayed this mountain before. The page-by-page superimposition of the sound files was used as the basis for ‘Plate 12: Pneuma: A Bible in the powerhouse (1 November 1991)‘, on the Penallta Colliery: Sound Pictures album. Alexander Scourby’s pioneering recorded reading of the whole bible was, likewise, superimposed to create the foundational sounds of my ‘God Breathed‘, on the Biblical Record album. My reading was captured at a sample rate of 44100 Hz and at 16-bits depth. This profile is too low for the purposes of ‘The Singing in the Air’ project. So, I’ll have to record the whole Bible again, at maximum resolution.

7.00 am-5.00 pm.

This morning, I reviewed the integrity of the current sound files for all the projects — listening again. 2.00 pm: On my list of ambitions that is ‘The Life to Come’ document, constructing an additional promotional website is close to the top. The John Harvey site has, over the years, grown into a totalising account of all I’ve been and done since I first set out on he royal road to art, in 1977. It’s comprehensive and archival in nature. And, as such, the main site is insufficiently immediate to the uninitiated and idly curious. I need a complementary site that is summative, succinct, focussed upon my artwork, and linked to the main site intertextually. Now that I’m self employed, the new site will also advertise my wares: work for sale, new releases, and consultancy and tutorial services. I began writing ‘About’.

February 3 (Friday). My lower back is grumbling ‘real bad’. Poor posture at my desk over the last few says is the culprit, I suspect. Today it would be ‘standing [in] room only’, for the most part. 9.00 am: Today, my primary task is to begin testing the integrity of the DJ desk set-up, in part and as a whole. This type of operation can be grim. I’m fault-finding; and faults will definitely be found.

9.00 am-5.00 pm

Label everything! Inevitably, computer and equipment software require updates along the way, and the studio must be reconfigured in order to accommodate the new rig. So, there I am, schlepping heavy equipment around the room while suffering back pain. ‘What’s wrong with you, John!?’ Having confirmed the throughput from the sampler to the recording device, I faced the challenge of balancing the output levels of the ‘dry’ (pure) and ‘wet’ (modified) signals. A buffer unit (or signal booster) needed to be inserted into the ‘dry’ chain to make its signal as ‘hot’ (or strong) as that which was passing through the ‘wet’ chain.

Buffer unit, with schematic of insertion

February 4 (Saturday). Domestics: 1. ‘Electric rice’. One member of the household accidently spilled squash on their computer keyboard. One method of drying a sodden object is to burying it in uncooked rice — which absorbs the moisture (in the manner of silica gel); 2. ‘That was close!’ When defrosting liquid food, check that its container isn’t punctured. ‘Lessons will be learned!’

February 5 (Sunday). Candlemas. At the service from St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London, the Rev. Lucy Winkett asked a searching question arising from the account of Simeon’s reception of the Christ-child at the Temple. Simeon had been waiting for the coming of the Messiah and told by God that he would not die until he’d seen him. Having taken-up the baby in his arms, Simeon prayed:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.

Luke 2.29-30.

Lucy’s reflection was this: What would you need to accomplish either in your own life or that of others before you’d feel able to cast-off from this world with equanimity? This is not about ‘bucket-list’ wish fulfilment. Rather, it addresses our most necessary and important ambitions and yearnings. Which should be few, worthy, clearly-defined, possibly the things that only we could do, and attainable (albeit by dint of enormous effort, concentration, and determination on our part).

St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London (February 5, 2023).

2.00 pm: My lower-back ache floored me for most of the afternoon. I stared at ceilings, listening to jazz. Periods of recovery have always been fruitful for me. When my body is out of sorts, my mind flies and ideas and emotions fall like shooting stars. This afternoon, my visual-acoustic memory was saturated by the reverberant interior of the St John’s Ambulance Hall in Blaina, Monmouthshire. (I’d had occasion to recall the building recently.) It was here that I’d ‘play’ my mother’s old and woefully out-of-tune piano on my twice-weekly visit to my maternal grandparents. My grandfather was the area officer and principal instructor in first aid, for which he was honoured with a CEM. The majority of his tutees were coalminers. He held the keys to the hall; so, I had access anytime I wished. I can find no photographs of the interior during the 1906s. Which is a blessing. There’s only a vague and abstracted image of the room, ringing with the cacophony of the instrument’s sounds. It’s a recollection in which sound and vision are inseparable. (A pause for thought.)

We’ve a polished black Bechstein upright at home. It’s a lovely instrument in the opinion of our tuner (who just happens to service Rick Wakeman’s Steinway concert grand too.) I’ve never had a piano lesson in my life and, for this reason, always been reluctant to touch it. But, perhaps, the exorcism of this inhabiting memory may require me to relent in the future.

February 6 (Monday)

6.45 am.

I slept on the floor last night. Which was rather like camping-out in your own home. 9.00 am: In-between periods of back-care (laying down, sitting bolt upright, and alternating hot and cold packs on the effected area), I gingerly prodded and poked, programmed and updated, and inserted and unplugged, while moving from one component of the rig to another as I continued to test the integrity of the signal chains. As in many other areas of life, how something is predicted to operate on paper doesn’t necessarily play-out in reality.

February 7 (Tuesday). One small faulty (but fixable) TRS cable was the cause of a multitude of malfunctions further down the line. (Such is life.) Some components didn’t work because they weren’t designed operate on a low signal strength. (So be it.) By lunchtime, all pathways and routes had been tested and passed. I’d now had more options regarding the sound profile of the rig than was good for me.

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