Summa: diary (February 13-17, 2024)

May our wounds bring healing to others.
If you can bear the very worst possible news, then, you are invincible.

February 13 (Shrove Tuesday). 8.00 am: Admin, catch-up, and resettlement. 9.00 am: With ears refreshed by my weekend break, I reviewed last week’s work on the first composition and the revised scheme (which may yet be re-revised) for the whole ‘Affirmation’ [working title] suite. A reminder to myself of what there is: The icon (12 texts, 16 composite images); the sound (104 distinct word samples arranged in a 13 × 8 grid); the creed (4 sections: Father (17 distinct word samples), Son (66 distinct word samples), the Holy Spirit (10 distinct word samples)), and The Church (11 distinct word samples)). The aim is to reconcile these elements within a coherent structure.

February 14 (Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent). I awoke in the middle of the night with an immovable conviction that ‘Affirmation’ [working title] should be shorter and more concise. I’d been attempting to make a mountain out of … not so much a molehill as … a mound the size of Silbury Hill, Avebury. Restructure!

7.30 am: Proof of presence:

8.00 am: A communion. There are a handful of friends whose circumstances weigh upon me presently. 8.30 am: Correspondence. 9.15 am: Studiology. Boot up! I returned to an iconographical interpretation informed, now, by online scholarship that was directly related to the icon. Without it, I’d never have known that the second panel represented the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325 AD), at which the creed was formulated. The first panel depicts the Creation and the third panel, the expulsion from Paradise. So, the second is oddly placed to say the least. It takes us, momentarily, out of biblical history and into the Church history. The text of the creed is represented by panels 1, 3-12. Panels 14-16 are dedicated to church festivals. The second panel is not referred to in the Nicene Creed. Neither are the scenes of Adam and Eve’s expulsion, Christ’s deposition, and his descent into hell. (However, the latter is mentioned in the later Apostles’ Creed (possibly 5th century).)

12.00 pm: I set about mapping a spreadsheet of the connections and disconnections between the creed’s text and its visualisation. 3.00 pm: A coherent structure emerged: 12 texts of the creed corresponding to 12 panels of the icon, articulated as 8 sound panels:

12.09 pm: My elder son reported that he’d experienced an earthquake (4.3 magnitude) in Osaka at 3.29 pm Japan time. There was no reported damage or injury. There, locals react to these occasional disruptions as we might to a heavy thunderstorm. 7.00 am: Further work on the visual practice archive.

In absentia: Joan Harvey (my mother ‘And Also a Beloved Daughter‘), on her birthday.

February 15 (Thursday). ‘Soul-friends’ share a love that can endure separation, distance, silence, the passing of time, privation, suffering, and even death. They bring healing and solace to one another, and are rarely out of each other’s thoughts. Though apart, they’re never alone in their struggles. Prayers ascend, often. Such friendship bears the hallmark of eternity. Sweet is its remembrance.

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Writing. 9.30 am: Studiology. I reviewed the structural framework for the suite, which I’d established yesterday. Confident that this was the best division and arrangement of the material that I could muster, the process of composition recommenced with confidence. The sound panels — which corresponds to one or more of the icon’s panels — form an 8-cell grid (in my head, at least):

Each sound panel is preceded by a ‘Statement’, being a line or lines from the creed related to its theme :

1.45 pm: Isn’t it so often the case that just when you’re ready to start making a piece of equipment fails to cooperate. Diagnostics. This was the second time today. On both occasions, a plug was not fully engaged with its socket. ‘And check that the left/right configuration is consistent throughout the system, John!’ 3.00 pm: Reading. 4.00 pm: Sound check. The best I could hope to achieve at this hour in the afternoon was to prepare the rig for immediate use tomorrow morning. 7.00 am: I returned to photo-preparation for the visual practice archive.

February 16 (Friday). 7.30 am: Writing. 8.30 am: Procurement. 8.45 am: Correspondence about the visual practice archive. 9.15 am: Further photo-preparation for the visual practice archive prior to a walk to the Arts Centre at 10.30 am. 11.00 am: I enjoyed a very human and open conversation with a PhD Literature student about psychogeography and the trials and joys of doctoral study and early-career preparation. Make no bones about it, PhD study is (and ought to be) one of the greatest challenges of a scholar’s academic life — particularly if undertaken full time over three years. They will be confronted by their inability and confounded by their ignorance. The learning curve resembles a vertical line.

1.45 pm: Various rig tests to establish why there’s a gradual and incremental signal loss on the left-side of one of the mixer inputs. Is the mixer’s channel to blame, or is there either a gradual build up of resistance, or an ailing component, within the composition rig? Perplexing. I turned to AI for help. What would the Hal 9000 computer advise?:

Yes, it’s puzzling. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like this before. I would recommend that we put the unit back in operation, and let it fail. It should then be a simple matter to track down the cause.

Stanley Kubrick/Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

And so I did, by inserting a different input source into the mixer’s problematic channel, and the composition rig into a different channel on the mixer. One way or another, the cause would be tracked down. While the tests proceeded, I returned to photo-preparation, and continued on the project through the evening.

February 17 (Saturday). 5.30 am: Awake. 6.30 am: Arise. 7.00 am: The first breakfast of the week. 7.45 am: The Saturday ambulation. The first beam of morning light cut under the grey canopy illuminating the tops of the building. Edward Hopper knew this quiet, ephemeral ecstasy. I had time to kill before the chemists opened and, so, indulged an oat milk hot chocolate and oat and fruit crumble at a watering hole nearby. When I’m on my own, I always sit upstairs at a window table overlooking the street below. My pleasure is not in the view so much as in repeating the same experience, time and time again.

9.30 am: Writing. 10.15 Studiology. The composition rig and mixer are both now operating within acceptable parameters. As sunlight broke through my studio windows, I dived into the compositional fray without any presuppositions about the outcome. As one of my tutors once advised: ‘Aim, first, to f*ck it up’. That strategy has always proved liberating. The result is, often, an embarrassing mess. But a mess is preferable to a blank canvas or (in my case) silence. A mess can be critiqued and brought to order. 11.30 am: Tea, respite, and reflexion. ‘This is NOT good enough, John!’, my inner-tutor barked. Thus chastened, I resumed my quest.

‘For goodness sake, Johnny … let rip! Think John Coltrane!’ (He was losing patience with me.) Coltrane proved to be just the laxative I needed.

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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