Summa: diary (May 13-19, 2023)

‘I think I loved her more when she was dead than when she was alive’ (The voice of a stranger in my dream (May 13, 2023)).

May 13 (Saturday). 6.30 am:

7.30 am: Ambulation and shoppology:

9.30 am: Studiology. Over the past few days I’ve reacquainted myself with analogue and guitar pedalboards, with a view to developing instrumentality for the second EVP-directed and the first psychic-guitar improvisation-based compositions.

May 15 (Monday). 6.00 am: Rise. 7.30 am: Exercise regime. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Studiology. Each technical failure yields knowledge about the performance and structure of a sound rig that I wouldn’t have acquired had things proceeded smoothly. Specific, locatable, identifiable, and comprehensible problem solved, I pressed-on with generating sounds derived from the first eight words of the Nicean Creed for the remainder of the morning.

After lunch, I established a direct input from the electric-guitar effectors into the main computer before returning to the morning’s task. Before long, I’ll turn from generation to composition. I’m not intent on illustrating either the text or its visualisation in the icon. Rather, it’s my reception of the emotion or mood of the image and text that I wish to articulate.

May 16 (Tuesday). ‘Night terrors’. I awoke abruptly in the early morning feeling very anxious and despondent. (And, I’m not someone who’s prone to anxiety.) In the dream, I was living in the hollowed-out remains of the dark and capacious late-19th century interior of either a chapel or colliery engine room, watching the rain pour through the cracks of an ornate plaster ceiling.

8.00 am: An ambulation. I anticipated that the day would be disrupted by domestic matters, so I set myself to tasks that I could be taken up and put down again easily. The UbuWeb: Sound site has a deposit of open-source material related to the sound culture of the paranormal, going back to the beginning of the 20th century. It includes examples of trance speaking and breathing, EVPs, glossolalia, xenoglossolalia, spirit knocking, spirit communication through mediums, and paranormal music, among other phenomena. I plundered this treasure store for samples that might be incorporated in the psychic-music-improvisation composition (which comes in and goes out of focus in the background to my present commitments). 7.30 pm: I commenced an extraction of salient material.

May 17 (Wednesday). 8.30 am: Studiology. I extracted material from yesterday’s extractions to serve as the basis of loops and percussive accents. I suspect that there’s enough material to sustain several further sound works on the theme of EVPs. At this stage, it’s necessary to ignore preconceived compositional ideas and remain responsive to the source’s own suggestiveness. Embedded in new material are new possibilities … always.

1.30 pm: Into town to buy paint for several outdoor domestic projects. The supplier has a mixing machine that bears the residue of many years’ blending. This is a slow and accidental painting that has undergone a gradual and largely unobserved development. It’s a very complex and dense accretion of spills and drips. Yet, the surface appears unified, uncluttered, and unburdened by the process that has brought it into being. (An ideal for painting in general.) I recalled Jasper Johns’s encaustic layering in his White Flag (1955).

7.30 pm: I reviewed the modified extracts of EVP and other types of paranormal sound recordings that I’d captured during the afternoon. There’s a dispiriting melancholy in the ‘voices of the dead’. They sound afar off; adrift between this world and the next — not knowing either where they are or their present state of being. They speak out of the darkness and a miasma of static, swelling and waning like weak shortwave-radio signals.

May 18 (Thursday). 8.30 am: Studiology. I strive to work beyond my present capability — to reach beyond my grasp. There’s no point playing only to your strengths. You’ll soon get tired of that game, as will your audience not long afterwards.

Today, I made no inconsiderable headway with the second EVP-based sound work. The piece proceeds moment by moment; there’s no over-arching structure. There needs to be an apparent artlessness to the composition; it must sound like an actual EVP capture. This level of realism represents new territory for me. As, too, the entirely monoaural sound field. I say ‘apparent’, because to achieve the illusion of fortuitousness requires much deliberateness and deliberation. The sound work is fabricated, for the most part, from wax cylinder and early magnetic-tape recordings of female ‘spirit’ voices speaking in German and Ancient Egyptian. These found sources are, in effect, torn into small fragments and reorganised randomly by an algorithm that mimics the action and output of a ‘spirit box’ — a device used by ghost hunters to sweep through AM and FM frequency bandwidth in milliseconds. Against the background of the noise that the device generates, EVPs can be heard (so it’s claimed).

One of the recroded voices in the collection belongs to Janet Hodgson — the young girl who was at the epicentre of the Endfield Poltergeist phenomenon (1977-79), which allegedly took place in a council house in that area of London. She was possessed, supposedly, by an inhabiting spirit named ‘Bill’. It’s his gruff and threatening ejaculations that are heard in recordings (10:00) made by investigators representing The Society for Psychical Research.

284 Green Street, Enfield, London (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

10.00 am: Proof of presence. I have a ‘thinking cap’, now. It was purchased, when I was last it London, from a Nigerian woman who owned a stall at Elephant and Castle. She was selling head wear for woman. ‘I have something for gentlemen too’, she said, and disappeared into a storeroom to re-emerge with this well-millinered red bonnet. I couldn’t resist.

May 19 (Friday). 7.45 am: Studyology, and a review of the week that has passed. 8.45 am: A jaunt into town to pick up bits ‘n bobs for a long weekend away. 10.00 am: Family catchup. 10.30 am: Studiology. I reviewed ‘EVP2’ [working title]. It’s 95% there. I tinkered with the alignment and the relative loudness of the sample components before putting the composition aside (as I would a canvas, with its face to the wall) for the time being.

1.45 pm: I opened-up the ‘Always the Same Guitar’ [working title] session. The title (in translation) is taken from a lithograph by Honoré Daumier entitled ‘Séance Musicales: Toujours la Même Guitar!’ It illustrated an article called ‘Les Spirites’ [The Spiritualists], published in Le Charivari, November 8, 1865. This was the year in which Allan Kardec published his Ceil et L’Enfer, ou La Justice Divine Selon de Spiritisme [Heaven and Hell, or The Divine Justice According to Spiritism]. And in which Édouard Manet first exhibited his Olympia.

6.30 pm: The opening of Hydro Psyche at the Arts Centre, Aberystwyth. This collaborative show includes paintings by Karen Pearce. She exhibited an informal suite of small collagist-abstractions based on rivers that, to my mind, marked a turning point in her work. New territory … for her. I could see where they’d came from (in her prior approach to landscape paintings) and could sense where they might be going.

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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