Summa: diary (February 1-3, 2024)

One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age (James Joyce, The Dead (1914)).

February 1 (Thursday).

7.00 am.

7.30 am: ‘I took the old track’ over the Buarth hill, which I would climb twice, four days a week, to work at the School of Art, passed the railway station, and down Terrace Road to the Promenade. ‘The Ladies’ Extreme Swimming Club’ [or so it seems to me] were dipping in what must have been an extremely cold sea — and without wet suits. I applauded them (in my heart).

8.00 am.

9.00 am: Boots the pharmacy opened 15 minutes later than advertised. ‘Sorry. Short staffed.’ The town used to have several other ‘chemists’ (as pharmacies are more often referred to in the UK). On closure, Boots absorbed their customers. Goodness knows how its pharmacists will eke out time to also diagnose illnesses and prescribe medications, under new government legislation. While walking through the municipal cemetery last week, I alighted upon the grave of ‘James the Chemist’. I’d heard his moniker uttered in gratitude and with respect, many years ago. It was a mark of distinction to be inextricably associated with your occupation. Apparently, he was the son of another ‘James the Chemist’. The handing down of trades was not unusual in this part of Wales. 9.30 am: Writing.

10.30 am: Studiology. As ‘John the Sound’, I reviewed yesterday’s compositional work, tweaked and shunted samples, and interrogated both the process and my aims. My original conception of the (formerly ‘Creed’ now) ‘Affirmation’ [working title] suite was as follows. I’d create sixteen pieces corresponding to the number of panels that make up the Nicene icon. Each would comprise two elements: a backdrop and an improvisational overlay. Whether this will work in practice remains to be seen/heard.

2.00 pm: I maintained my course, steering between what the panel shows, what the creed says, and what the biblical text relates about the Creation, while at the same time endeavouring neither to illustrate nor rationalise any one of the sources.

February 2 (Friday). 7.45 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Studiology. A final (for now) pass over the first piece: ‘I believe in one God the Father almighty’. The compositional material comprises processed recordings of that phrase spoken, word by word. Each word is overlaid eight times (being the number of words in the phrase) to approximate a choral or congregational effect. Thus, as in a greater proportion of my work, ‘The Word became [sound]’ — to adapt the Apostle John’s assertion regarding the incarnation (John 1.14).

10.00 am: I tested my Skype video and audio, and read through my notes, in preparation for the afternoon’s radio interview. Back to piece 1. In sound, as in every other art medium, the difference between too much and too little is a hair’s breath. 11.40 am: In order to clear my head, I headed into town on the weekly egg-hunt. 12.15 pm: I reviewed the morning’s work. ‘Is this composition too complete in itself as to permit an additional overlay?’, my inner-tutor responded, unnervingly.

2.00 pm: ‘Hello, Vienna!’ The radio interview lasted over an hour and a half. The discussion ranged from aether, electromagnetism, 19th-century Spiritualism and technology, to the compositions on my Spirit Communication (2023) album. ‘The tracks are like stories’, the interviewer observed. I’d never before thought about them like that; but, she’s right.

February 3 (Saturday). 6.00 awake. 6.50 am: Breakfast. 6.45 am: A communion. 7.30 am: The Saturday, long-walk — into the half-light and dense fog (which hung, immobile, for the remainder of the day). Much of the town and the coastline had been erased. (I thought of J M Whistler.) It’s the first time that I’ve seen the beacon at the end of the harbour wall flash. This morning, I felt invigorated, grateful, and content. I took a hot chocolate at the hut on the Promenade, and toasted the sea.

The Promenade, looking towards the pier, Aberystwyth (8.15 am, February 3, 2024); J M Whistler, Nocturn: Blue and Gold, Southampton Water (1872) oil on panel, Art Institute of Chicago (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

9.00 am: Home. 9.15 am: Writing. Pleasure can never be the measure. The is an axiom from the realm of not only morality but also professional practice. I could fritter away a great deal of time doing many things I enjoy. But few things: are really necessary; likely to make an original contribution to my field; maintain my interest consistently; continue to encourage me to exceed my present competence; represent an abiding passion (as potent as love), without which life would be a very sallow affair; and will, on completion, enable me to leave this world confident that I’ve fulfilled the task for which I was placed here.

10.15 am: Back to the Visual Practice Archive. Now that the website has a subdomain, it can be populated. This will take some time. I shall begin at the beginning, with the ‘Undergraduate Work 1977-81’ portfolio, and work my way to the present. (In the background: a tribute to the recently departed free-jazz percussionist Tony Oxley, on The Sound Projector Radio Show.)

2.00 pm: I attended an Open Studio Event at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, hosted by the artist Karen Pearce. She was once one of my MA Fine Art students. At times, we slipped into tutorial mode. Not that I wished or needed to teach her anything.

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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