Summa: diary (January 27-31, 2024)

Sometimes, the best we can hope to do is persevere in the doing of it. While at the same time expecting that something worthwhile will emerge from it.

January 27 (Saturday). Holocaust Memorial Day.

Rachel Whiteread, Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial (2000), Vienna (August 27, 2007).

8.30am -12.00 pm: Sea-guitar:

‘No wind, and yet a turbulent sea’; ‘It’s like KerPlunk‘; ‘Don’t look for them so often, or expect too much’; ‘there are times when I don’t want to listen to anything’; ‘keep at arm’s length’; ‘All that effort, but to little avail’; ‘Those times have passed. ‘Do Not Resuscitate’; ‘Delete (while maintaining common courtesies)’; ‘Make no provision’; ‘Some people either form or denounce an opinion too quickly’; ‘Honestly, you think this is about that?’

January 29 (Sunday). Transfiguration at Candlemas:

Choir of St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London, YouTube broadcast (January 28, 2024).

‘Long-trauma’. I don’t know whether there is such a term. If not, then, there ought to be. It would refer not to an extended period of anxiety, distress, and flashbacks following an appalling incident but, rather, to a prolonged cause and effect — such as continuous domestic abuse (either verbal or violent), or neglect (either by others or of yourself, because you’re preoccupied with caring for someone else who’s very demanding). A number of people have shared with me their experiences of this condition. It’s a burden that they’ve carried alone, in silence, and without anyone else knowing, sometimes for decades. Rarely is there any let up. The longer it goes on, the worse the situation gets, and the more hopeless and exhausted the trauma-sufferer feels.

January 29 (Monday). 7.30 am: Writing and research. 8.45 am: Studiology. 9.00 am: The beginning of a number of failed attempts to make an emergency call to my optician and alert them about the development of a large floater that’s now dancing suddenly across my right eye. (‘More earthquakes’, to quote The Duchess of Malfi.) On with testing the tabletop rig and reacquainting myself the first part of the ‘Affirmation’ [working title] sound composition: text + sound + image.

11.00 am: Modulations on the phrase: ‘I. Believe. In. One. God. The. Father. Almighty’. 3.00 pm: Eighteen samples completed, I read a little before analyzing the first panel of the Nicene Creed icon — which I always have visible when generating sounds from the text. 7.00 pm: Further research on spirit and sound technology. The more I know, see, and hear, the less I believe, and the more I’m astonished by human credulity and its capacity for self-delusion.

January 30 (Tuesday). 7.00 am: A communion. 7.30 am: Writing. Change things, gradually and incrementally. The: pattern of the day; routines of exercise; places of work; paths of travel; salutations. Keep it interesting and surprising. 8.30 am: It would be a stop-start morning, what with medical appointments intervening. I reviewed the list of questions that I’d address to my GP at 10.00 am and my notes for Friday’s radio interview. At the surgery, I made further notes. My blood indicators were all very good ‘for a man of my age’. (‘There’s still everything to play for, John!’) Back at home I continued in the same vein, while introducing Dai ‘the Greek’, our unflappable electrician, to a failed oven light.

11.45 am: At the opticians, I engaged the machine that puffs compressed air against the eye. Mildly disconcerting. However, in so doing, the device made electronic musical ‘brrrr’ing sounds reminiscent of early game consoles crossed with a chance-procedure score. Thereafter, droplets with a sting in their tail were administered to effect dilation. I looked liked David Bowie, but in both eyes. A thorough test by the optometrist suggests that there was no damage to the retina. She was surprised that I’d not experienced floaters sooner, given my shortsightedness. ‘You’ve done very well for a man of your age’. I was introduced to the Amsler Chart. Agnes Martin would have warmed to it.

2.00 pm: Studiology. I reviewed yesterday’s samples, and tried to integrate some into the first piece. This composition will begin with a sound that represents the mottled gold-leaf background of the icon which, in turn, represents the sacred nothingness that was at the beginning, before and out of which God created the heaven and the earth, spoke ‘Let’, and broke the silence. The silence was golden.

January 31 (Wednesday). 7.15 am: A communion. 8.00 am: Writing. 8.15-8.45 am: I heard small, distant sounds separated by intervals of stillness:

empty glass bottles clatter____________________a motorbike engine starts up____________________a bird coos twice____________________a car door slams____________________a bird coos four times____________________a car’s door opens and slams shut, and its engine revs____________________ two cars pass in opposite directions, the first more slowly____________________a bird coos three times____________________a dog barks____________________the front door closes____________________children talk as they’re bundled into a car and driven to school____________________two birds coo to one another.

9.00 am: Studiology, and a review of yesterday’s sound composition. Encouraging. A morning teasing samples to yield more and give of their best.

And after the ‘gold’, the’Big Bang’ of the universe begun. [The thunderstorm, recorded 37 years ago while I took refuge from the storm in the Central Library, Cardiff. That was today’s sound’s genesis.] And after the ‘Big Bang’, sounds like distant mortar explosions. [Gaza, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine, Somalia, Ethiopia, the list goes on … .]

2.00 pm: I reviewed last week’s work on the book and, during the afternoon, developed the themes of: time, motion, and stasis.

Featured image by Susan Forster.

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

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