Summa: diary (November 18-24, 2023)

November 18 (Saturday). 8.00 am: Proof of presence:

8.30 am: Studiology. I revisited the ‘Cherubin Hymn’ composition on the Spirit Communication album. The accompanying recording of clamorous street preaching, taken from my aural diary, was getting in the way of the angelic choir part — which was, in any case, complete in itself. ‘Remove all superfluities, John!’ It’s a salutary lesson about not releasing or exhibiting work too soon. Let the tea brew for a while.

While playing BBC Radio 3 Live, I heard for the first time about the German musician, Felix Klieser. He plays the French horn with his foot, having been born without any arms. It’s an inspiring example of the principle that ordinarily insurmountable problems need not prevent you from realising your goal. ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’, as they say. I suffer from Dupuytren’s Contracture in my left hand. It effects only the little finger, mercifully. But even after two operations, my ‘pinky’ is still bent at a 70° angle. The condition is incurable. It’s a disease. While a minor disability in the broader scheme of things, it does have a significant impact on my guitar playing. My finger span is now limited to the distance between the first and fourth frets. This has implications for both scalar and arpeggio runs and shaping chords. Both have to be re-invented around my limitations. A lesson for life, perhaps.

11.30 am: Back to my digital pedalboard: the Line6 HX Effects. This will be dedicated to modulation filters exclusively. I’m still on a learning curve with this device. I’ve never warmed to menu-based multi-effects pedals.

November 20 (Monday). 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Studylogy. A review of the week ahead, admin, catch-up, support, initiatives, and writing. 10.30 am: Townward, in the wind and rain, for my 6-monthly dental check-up. There’s no pain quite like paying. 11.30 pm: Back at the desk. Tea in hand. Onward. I am determined to get the first draft of the track descriptors completed by the close of the afternoon. 4.30 pm: Achieved.

7.00 pm: Studiology. Test-bedding Pedalboard III. This flexible unit (the effectors can be either reordered or replaced easily), which is buffered at both ends, will sit in the FX-loop of the HX Effects unit.

November 21 (Tuesday). 7.30 am: Turbulence

8.15 am: Studyology. On to the finalisation of the album introduction and track descriptors (5,500 words+): prune, condense, and clarify. For me, making work is a form of exorcism. Once a project is complete, I expel it from my system. Only then can I move forward towards something else — something has already been seeded long before the present project will conclude.

Spirit Communication is dedicated to the memory of Phoebe Williams (1995-2019). She was a student at the School of Art, and someone who I’d known since she was a very young. While not religious in any conventional sense, Phoebe possessed (in common with many artists) an intuitive belief that reality extends beyond the bounds of the merely sensory. I think she’d have found the album’s material intriguing.

4.00 am: I’d not walked through the cemetery for some time. The half-light of the late afternoon in late November closes off the wider world. I moved through a shadowless proximate landscape of close-toned shapes, under the slowly stirring lights along Plasgrug Avenue, in a state of unexpected and mild euphoria. 7.30 pm: I returned to and finalised Pedalboard III, before tidying up around the studio. All three boards and the HX effects unit must now be tested in concert.

November 22 (Wednesday). 8.30 am: Studylogy. On with the third and final redraft of the introduction and descriptors. Today began and remained in half-light. Half-light is a condition of the mind and soul too: a mood between joy and constructive melancholy, faith and uncertainty, and hope and the faltering optimism. By lunchtime, the redraft was complete.

The afternoon was set aside to develop the Spirit Communication website’s main page. 4.00 pm: A coffee in town with an old friend. I’d not seen them in to talk to in a good few years (and not for want of trying). Some friendships last for a short period only, others come and go over time, while others remain constant and enduring. These are differences not of quality but, rather, of type. Some develop from mere acquaintances, while others come out of the blue. Some transform into relationships. Some relationships revert to friendships. Most friendships enrich you beyond measure, but a few turn sour. None are self-sustaining. They require love, trust, empathy, practical commitment, availability, emotional support, mutual respect, imagination, listening, and time.

November 23 (Thursday). 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Studiology. A day for inserting the completed textual material into the album page on my Sound site and the bespoke website.

Today is the 60th anniversary of the first broadcast of BBC’s Dr Who series. I was four years of age in 1963. The programme first came into my orbit sometime between December 21, 1963 and February 1, 1964, during the second story, by Terry Nation, which introduced the Daleks. Delia Derbyshire’s utterly remarkable radiophonic realisation of Ron Grainer’s theme music, together with the visual titles — created using the innovative ‘howl-around effect’ (a type of video feedback) — made a profound impression on my aesthetic response to image and sound, independently and in relation to one another. Both were (to my mind back then), like the paradox of the Tardis’s external and internal dimensions, transcendental — in that rarely used sense of the word: ‘not knowledgable of construction’. Mysterious artefacts.

November 24 (Friday). 8.30 am: Studiology. By noon, I’d completed the Spirit Communication website and begun updating the main John Harvey website. The Aural Bible series album pages on the Sound site will need to modified and amplified in line with the seventh addition.

Before lunch, I caught up with a friend and one of my former PhD tutees on Skype. An afternoon updating the main website. 4.00 pm: The weekly, Friday walkabout. The town is at its best at this hour of this time off the year. I hastened my pace to keep warm in the chill air.

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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