Summa: diary (February 5-8, 2024)

A man at war with himself.

February 5 (Monday). 7.30 am: A communion. 8.00 am: Correspondence. 8.30 am: Writing. Some challenges resist straightforward or evident solutions. They’re intransigent. The mind hits a tall wall as soon think about them. As we approach the challenge, it at first appears too enormous and complicated, demanding of time, energy consuming, and far beyond our capacity to grasp. The problem it presents cannot be easily broken down into manageable parts. We begin to doubt our commitment to, and the necessity of, meeting the challenge. But, when graced with a more favourable temper, we acknowledge that the challenge must be overcome. There’s a refrain in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (1989), by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury (a book I read to my children many times over), that goes:

We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

It’s one of the most mature and realistic pieces of advice about facing obstacles that you’re ever likely to read. 9.30 am: And so, with that mindset, I push forward into the hour, the day, and the week ahead.

In the foreground of today’s activities: further refinements to the colour/note guitar fretwork schematic. This is a 12-division chromatic colour scale is mapped onto the 12 tones that comprise the chromatic music scale. In this scheme: A = pale yellow, and G# = pale green. I see and can remember the patterns and the relationships between the tones far more readily when they’re rendered visually.

In the background: sourcing historical recordings of Russian Orthodox choirs singing the Nicene Creed.

February 6 (Tuesday). 7.30 am: A gathering of thoughts. 8.00 am: A review of yesterday’s work and its implications. 8.30 am: I constructed the 0-5 fret position schematic of all notes in the D Major scale. 10.00 am: I returned to versions of the Nicene Creed sung by Russian Orthodox choirs, which I’d found yesterday. The last time I visited a orthodox place of worship was in 2006, in Helsinki. The Uspenski Cathedral has an imposing iconostasis.

For the remainder of the morning, I re-equalised and optimised yesterday’s acquired recordings. I’ve no real sense of how the choral samples will integrate with the composition thus far. One thing is certain: if they can, they will; but not in a way that has been heard within the corpus of the series so far. Another certainty is that progress is neither linear nor consistent.

1.45 pm: I returned to the book. (Ears, hearing; metonymy, metaphor.) In the background: Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (1908-9). The downpour has been incessant today.

7.30 pm: The evening shift was committed to resizing, polishing, and pruning photographs for the ‘Undergraduate 1977-81’ portfolio of the visual practice archive. This will be a representative rather than a comprehensive archive that’ll provide a sufficient account of my activities from their formative period to 2014 (for now).

February 7 (Wednesday). 7.00 am: Breakfast. I practice intermittent fasting, and take the meal only on Wednesday (sometimes), Saturday, and Sunday. The benefits to maintaining a healthy weight and good digestion far outweigh the sacrifice. 7.30 am: A communion. 8.00 am: Correspondence. 8.30 am: Studiology. ‘Throw a spanner in the works, John!’, recommended the inner-tutor. ‘Maximize incongruity to begin, then, tame it … if necessary’.

9.30 am: A brisk walk up Penglais Hill without stopping to the Arts Centre for conversations and a brief wander. Why on earth put a cash machine that charges for transactions at the centre of the university. Students (and staff) can ill-afford this unnecessary expense? ‘This isn’t the Manchester Curry Mile, you know!’ I walked through the Students’ Union cafe to the shop. I miss the students’ spark, self-discovery, puzzlements, and carefree spirit. (Characteristics that are just as likely to be evident in a mature scholar as they are in a 18 to 21-year old.)

11.30 am: Back at the desk. I dropped in the choral sample and pressed it to work. Integration and separation in tension. Stereo and mono in complementarity. Wide field and narrow field in conjunction. Loud and quiet in counterpoise. Acoustic contrapposti. In experience, when something more is added, then, something else must be subtracted. Clarity of both conception and audition. Where’s the discipline? What are the delimiting regulations? 4.00 pm: There are only so many problems that can be solved in a day. I rested my ears, and read. 7.15 pm: I continued with the archive photography.

February 8 (Thursday). 7.00 am: The predicted heavy rain had arrived. 7.30 am: A communion. 8.15 am: Studylogy and schematization of G-Major. 9.45 am: Correspondence (with a solemn and heavy heart). 10.00 am: Studiology, and the completion and dispatch of the photographs for the ‘Undergraduate 1977-81’ portfolio of the archive. 11.15 am: To town (in the perishing cold) for victuals, computery things, and cosmetic requisites.

12.00 pm: A review of yesterday’s work on the first composition for ‘Affirmation’ [working title]. ‘Aerate; remove from the room all those chairs that nobody ever sits upon; cover the furnishings with white clothes; clear the knickknacks from the mantelpiece; and take down the pictures, John’. All the time I’m asking: How many rooms are there in this house? And, what about those twelve texts (the lines of the creed) that surround the sixteen images of the icon: how will they be audiolised?’ A penny dropped. 3.00 pm: Reading.

3.30 pm: Rumination. What are the shackles from which I want to be liberated? If not this, then what? If not here, then where? If not now, then when?

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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