Summa: diary (March 23-27, 2023)

I see best when its darkest.
Detachment, and the assertion of the self.

March 23 (Thursday). The day was taken-up with the process of extracting phrases from my father’s contribution to the telephone conversation. When decontextualised, they sound enigmatic and portentous. The phrases were treated in such a way as to mimic the salient characteristics of EVP sound profiles. ‘Spirit speech’ is often slower and more deliberate in its delivery; flanged; accompanied by harmonics; unusual in intonation, sometimes spoken backwards; heard as though from a distance; or otherwise distorted. The modified phrases will be inserted into the composition in the order that they occur in the conversation. Collectively, they represent: a sub-narrative of the text; communicating without conversing; and semantically discrete, but emotionally interlinked, statements. The results are sometimes unnerving — not unlike Swedish death-metal ejaculations in their gutturality — and at other times, plaintive.

March 24 (Friday). 7.30 am: Breakfast.

West Kennet Long Barrow, Wiltshire, UK, in toast.

EVP identification is often no different. In the otherwise random and haphazard hiss, gurgle, and spit of the audio recording, percipients claim to hear sounds that resemble something recognisable: words and phrases, in this case. The recognition of these patterns is called pareidolia. The meaningful interpretation of such is called apophenia, It’s a very human response: we like to impose order upon disorder, and to make sense of nonsense. On innumerable YouTube ghost-hunting channels, EVP recordings are first played ‘raw’, and then accompanied by an on-screen interpretive caption. (A best guess, if you like.) Of course, once read, the listener’s/reader’s brain finds it hard to disassociate sound and text; they hear the EVP through the caption. It’s a disastrous methodology.

I engaged the EVPMaker application. The software designed to generate sound material that, supposedly, spirits can manipulate in order to talk on recordings. To do so, the user must process a pre-existing sound content. (I used the aggregate of samples derived from the telephone conversation.) Thereafter:

the application splits it into multiple sections and rearranges them into a manner which makes the content indecipherable.

Softmedia website (Accessed: March 24, 2023).
9.00 am-5.00 pm.

The random disorganisation of the source recalled my systematic division and rearrangement of sound material for ‘The Conversion of St Paul’, on The Bible in Translation (2016) double album and bonus material.

The composition is based upon a recording of bell ringing at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, made while standing at the north side of building and facing west. The sound, produced by a ringing method called the Cambridge Surprise Maximus is heard to reflect off the façade of Chapter House, opposite, and thereby produce a natural reverberation, delay, and doubling of the audio image. Four 3-second samples were extracted from the recording, of which two, on this album, are used as the basis for composition. Thus, an individual sample preserves only a portion of the sequence of tuned bells.

The samples are divided into twelve consecutive sections (corresponding to the number of bells used to perform the ring), each 250ms long. These sections are reordered, digitally, following arithmetical systems of permutation derived from the principles of method ringing. In method ringing (which is a form of change ringing) each bell is given a number (1–12 in the case of the bells at the Cathedral). The sequence is permuted by swapping the position of two bells.

Permutation: a pair of alternate numbers change in each sequence.

March 25, 2023 (Saturday). 6.15 am: Glorious morning. (Will it hold?) 9.30 am: Dai ‘the Greek’ (his appellation), our electrician, fitted eco-friendly strip-lights in my studio. 11.30 am: An ambulation into town, looking seaward and beyond. 1.30 pm: Domestics. 3.00 pm: Down into the ‘crypt’, to undertake an initial reconnoitre of artworks that require rephotographing for the new website. This would be an Easter-vacation project.

6.30 am-5.00 pm.

March 26 (Sunday). 6.30 am (Or was that 5.30 am?): Today, more daylight seeped through the gaps around the curtain. I’d awoken from a dream, which took place entirely in half-light, and featured conversations with people whom I’d not seen in over four decades. (Elegiac.) We were older and wiser now, and could speak with one another with grace, forgiveness, and equanimity. These days, the distant past seems far closer than it has been since then.

Occasionally, members at St James’s Church, Piccadilly who’re either housebound or remote submit a pre-recording of themselves reading the Old Testament scripture for the day. This is played to the congregation over the church’s PA system during the service. Today, the contribution sounded as though it had been captured on an old cassette-recorder. The quality of the voice was limited in its frequency range, compressed, and dry; and there was the ubiquitous presence of background hiss and rumble; what sounded like the spools of a cassette in motion (which suggests that the microphone was intrinsic to the device); and the familiar mechanical ‘clunk’ when the ‘stop’ button was pressed at the conclusion. However, the microphone also picked up the sounds of children laughing and playing outdoors and distant hammering noises, made by either neighbours living or builders working in an adjoining property. Thus, into the church’s interior a different and distant space was introduced momentarily.

9.00 am – 5.00 pm.

March 27 (Monday). 6.45 am: I awoke to the hoot of a wooden pigeon. 9.00 am: Studiology. First, following the process that I’d used to configure ‘The Conversion of St Paul’ compositions, I subdivided my father’s one-second long opening address — ‘John! It’s me’ — into 10ths, and rearranged them in new orders, randomly. In effect, I undertook manually what the EVPMaker achieves automatically. However, the app cannot deal with any sound file that’s less than one-minute in duration. Therefore, phrases and words must still be disrupted using the ‘cut ‘n paste’ method.

4 segmentations and rearrangements of ‘John! It’s me’.

Secondly, in Adobe Audition CC, I opened the sound file containing the complete rendering of my father’s contribution to the telephone conversation, and ran the software’s cursor over it, backwards and forwards, while recording the live output using Audacity. The results were like some feverish, staccato alto saxophone improvisation. I’ve now enough material to begin composition in earnest after the Easter break.

Cursor-run over telephone conversation, in Audacity.

12.00 pm: A time to lay-down tools and a time to rest.

See also: Intersections (archive);  Diary (September 15, 2018 – June 30, 2021)Diary (July 16, 2014 – September 4, 2018); John Harvey (main site); Instagram.


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