Summa: diary (September 25-30, 2023)

There are Three Graces in my life – sound, image, and text; and I choose them all.

September 25 (Monday). 6.00 am: Awake. 6.30 am: A review of the week ahead and of the work undertaken prior to my time away, and some initial considerations regarding a wedding speech. 9.00 am: I began the final mix of the Paranormal Studies album, beginning with the first composition I’d completed: ‘John!’ The process of tweaking the relative loudness, volume, and position in the stereo field of each element of each track can be painfully and embarrassingly slow. But I think I’m getting better at it. In conjunction with this process, the changes are monitored on a variety of headphones (studio, hi-fi, and leisure units) and active and amplifier-driven speakers (small and large, expensive and cheap, professional and domestic) in different rooms around the home.

September 26 (Tuesday). 9.00 am: A review of yesterday’s mix. Minor adjustments edged the composition towards betterment. As in life, often it’s not sudden, large-scale resolutions and reformations that improve our lot but, rather, determinate and strategic alternations over time. Moreover, slow and gradual refinement is more likely to result in lasting change.

My policy is to mix kindred compositions — those that have similar sonorities and underlying processes — together. It enables me to compare like with like. On, then, to ‘Achtung’. It conflates the sensibilities of EVPs, Kurt Schwitters, and Walter Ruttmann. Having applied myself to mixing for over fifteen years, I can now discriminate a 1 dB increase or decrease in volume level within the total sound field. Several of the tracks on the album are monaural (or, substantially so). The organisation of sound is far more focussed on the centre field. All the time, I’m considering the order of the tracks — which, I’m confident, will be revealed in due course.

6.00 pm: To town, on an errand. Now that the students have returned, the local community been overlaid by another. Crowds of exited late-teenagers queued eagerly outside pubs and inside Tesco Express, as though they’d never been allowed to do so before arriving at university. This evening (in all likelihood), the School of Art would be holding its annual Freshers Welcome Party. For me, the event was one of the highlights of the academic year. The newbie students were blank slates, for all intents and purposes; their potential as yet untested. There, I saw faces expressing, variously, anticipation, release, confusion, excitement, apprehensiveness, and loneliness. The memory of this first day of the first term of the first year of their studies would remain with them for the rest of their lives.

Freshers Welcome Party, School of Art, Aberystwyth University, September 25, 2017.

September 27 (Wednesday). A day for packing, organising, messaging, booking, and resolving in preparation for a family gathering in London this weekend, to celebrate a red-letter day in its history. In between excursions up and down stairs, I listened to the remaining album tracks in readiness for mixing next week. Collectively, they cover a greater emotional range than any other album that I’ve released to date: from hellish despair to heavenly ecstasy.


September 28 (Thursday). London. 9.30 am: Departure. We were ushered-off the train at Shrewsbury because the company needed it for the return journey to Aberystwyth. Transport for Wales isn’t fit to operate. It’s not the staff’s fault; it’s the management’s historic failure to invest in new rolling stock.

12.20 pm: Arrived at Euston station. The hotel is situated in Islington, where there was an ‘angel’. The hotel is housed in the former local Post Office sorting office.

A slow afternoon of mooching around the area, before meeting my younger son for dinner at Chinatown. I’d not eaten since breakfast.

I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for several weeks, and feel the better for it. But the resolve does place significant limitations on what I can eat at restaurants and shops. In patisseries, I’m usually offered chocolate brownies, as an only option. I’ve little appetite for them. Gluten sufferers are in the same position as vegetarians in the 1980s, who were palmed-off with a nut roast, alternative almost exclusively.

I’ve been enjoying breaks in the capital for over three decades. It has an essence that remains constant. But the city, today, is more populated with both people and vehicles. Travel is burdensome. And the price of most things, astonishing. The optimism of the late 80s has given way to brash cynicism, surface politeness, and sameness. You can easily fall in and out of love with London.

September 29 (Friday). 9.00 am: An Islington morning. 11.00 am: I drank a glass of iced milk at a cafe parallel to Upper Street, and next to, well … either a contemporary art gallery selling tie-in T-shirts or a T-shirt shop in the guise of a gallery. All galleries are shops, of course.

12.00 pm: Some tube trains shudder, grind, and screech as they take the bends. Sonic ecstasy (for me, at least). Luigi Russolo would have overwhelmed. 12.30 pm: Clapham North. Walking towards the Common. 2.00 pm: A haircut. Why can’t hairdressers follow the client’s instructions? They oughtn’t to be auteurs.

5.45 pm: Both sons arrived at the hotel. A family gathering; the last before the elder leaves and cleaves tomorrow morning. 6.15 pm: We met with his prospective in-laws for the first time at a local, tasty, and sensibly-priced Italian restaurant that offered a variety of gluten-free options. It was a convivial and memorable evening. One of the waiters looked like Joe Pesci in Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas (1990).

September 30 (Saturday). Day of the Wedding. 7.30 am: ‘Up!’ A queue at the bathroom, as the Harvey Boyz competed to out-do one another in suited smartness. 8.00 am: Younger Harvey and I launched out onto Islington High Street to procure pastries and coffee for the family breakfast. 10.15 am: We headed for Islington Town Hall, where elder Harvey and his partner would become man and wife within the hour.

Couples were being ‘processed’ with the efficiency of an en masse Unification Church wedding. Parties assiduously avoided each other’s formal photographic sessions and confetti. I’d not been to a Registrar Office wedding since my own, thirty-five years ago. 11.00 am: The proceedings — which was convened in the Council Chamber — were solemn while, at the same time, relaxed, and a reflection of the couple’s personalities. I was impressed by the Registrar’s ability to infuse the occasion (which she’d likely repeat several more times during the day) with a sense of uniqueness and specialness. I now have a daughter, and she has another father.

12.00 pm: A lunch for close family members was held in an upper room of a local restaurant. (I was reminded of the Last Supper, which had also been taken in an upper room). The Groom’s father’s speech:

A—-, since you’re a teacher, and S—-, because you studied physics at university, I’d like to offer a brief lesson in colour theory.

As you know, Isaac Newton was the first person to understand rainbows. Using a prism, he discovered that the colours of the spectrum were refracted white light. Newton arranged those colours — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet — in order, on a circle. His diagram has been of great interest and use to scientists and artists ever since.

On the circle, there are three pairs of what are called complementary colours: red and green, orange and blue, and yellow and violet-indigo. The colours that make up each pair couldn’t be further apart on the circle. They’re like north and south poles. There’s no dating app for complementary colours. So, they may never have either met or been aware of one another, were it not for cupid in the guise of an artist. When a painter places them next to one another on a canvas, something truly remarkable happens.

The pairs are called complementary because they’re good together; they enhance one another. For example, red, when set beside a green looks redder — more vivid and alive. The green, in turn, looks greener because of the action of the red. What each lacks, the other supplies in a relationship of mutual support and betterment. No other pair of colours produces quite this effect. In one sense, you could say, the complementaries were made for one another.

Remarkably, these colours most unlike one another in terms of spectral hue. Which is one of the reasons why they’re also referred to as opposites. In other words, it’s their differences (as well as their similarities) that make for a successful partnership.

In the realms of light, when a complementary pair — such as red and green — are overlaid, they produce yellow. Something neither of them could’ve done independently of the other. Their potential as a couple exceeds the sum of the parts. They’ve a genuinely creative relationship.

Oh, if you combine complementary colours in paint, you end up with something that looks like mud. But you can make of that what you will.

So, let’s raise a toast to the bride and groom; to the complementaries: May you glow together as you grow together.

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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