Summa: diary (February 18-23, 2024)

February 18 (Sunday). Plasgrug Avenue, after the rain. Shallow pools. I looked down and saw the trees above. I’ve not known the avenue flooded in this way before. Usually excess water accumulates elsewhere in the area, to form a temporary bayou.

February 19 (Monday). In dream world last night, I interspersed the sampled words taken from the creed with samples of music derived from my re-composition of music made by a Russian Orthodox choir singing the same. The result sounded plausible enough to justify enacting in waking world. 8.00 am: Writing. 8.30 am: Studiology. Correspondence and files dispatched to the website developer for the visual practice archive. I took up ‘Affirmation’ [working title] where I’d left off late Saturday afternoon. A review of my dismal efforts to date.

The text to the creed that I’m using differs from the historical version in that I have replaced the first person plural pronoun with the first person singular pronoun. This is for two reasons: first, my setting is not intended for communal and liturgical use; and, secondly, the composition is an expression of personal conviction. 10.00 am: I acknowledge my reticence and let rip (once again). The outcome of my efforts must reflect upon the theme of the text — the cataclysmic events surrounding the moment of Creation. For me, sounds are at their most purposeful when most interpretive, in the context of my work that is. Ideally, they need to be about something other than themselves.

I improvised on the sampler at a fair lick. It’s output was fed through a delay modulator with a two-second delay on the left channel followed by the same on the right. A cacophony ensued. The recording was, then, processed in the same way, thus doubling the ‘image’. Thereafter, and for the remainder of the morning, I manufactured transformations of the original output. These reworkings must pass at the bar of two criteria: First, they must be intrinsically qualitative; secondly, they must be extrinsically appropriate. (Fit for purpose.)

‘I — believe — in — one — God — the — Father — almighty’

2.00 pm: Back at the desk to review the morning’s efforts and continue processing, on the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for now. 6.30 pm: I undertook photo-preparation for the ‘Postgraduate 1982-3’ portfolio on the visual practice archive, and read.

February 20 (Tuesday). 7.00 am: Wake. Do I ever experience dreams that don’t feature me? I sometimes think about the friends I knew long ago, and wonder what they are doing … right now. Some will be waking; some will never wake again this side of the Resurrection; some will still be asleep in this world; and at least one is preparing for sleep in the next. 7.30 am: A mug of hot water and communion. 8.00 am: Writing.

9.00 am: I reviewed yesterday’s uneven achievements. ‘Simplest form, John. Simplest form’. Fewer elements, doing more. (Remember what Picasso could achieve with a single line.) On Instagram for the past few years there’s been a spate of posts about, what I call, ‘entertainment art for profit’. They show artists of modest ability making and showing off (in a manner that parents tell their children not to do) paintings that are fun to do, derivative, technically slick, soulless, obvious, and unchallenging. The works are designed to be produced in great number and quickly, to please, and, thereby, find a buyer. And some of these artists make a tidy living by both turning this trick and teaching others to do likewise. As an educator, I wouldn’t know how to dismantle them without undermining their sense of self-worth entirely.

Me … I find making things (whether sounds, images, or texts) painfully difficult, frequently frustrating, occasionally humiliating, and rarely other than slow and tiring. But this has always been my expectation. I’ve no cause to be smugly complacent or self-congratulatory. (Self-delusion is an offence against oneself.)

11.00 am: I cracked it. ‘Statement I’: completed. I returned to the first composition for the remainder of the morning. 1.45 pm: Correspondence. 2.00 pm: Back to the book for the afternoon. The story so far … . This afternoon’s theme: Genesis Chapter 1 and biblical cosmology. 7.15 am: Back to photo-preparation for the visual practice archive, while catching up with BBC Radio 4’s Uncanny. I began a letter to Danny Robins, the programme’s creator, outlining several anomalous phenomena that I’d experienced in relation to my late father.

February 21 (Wednesday). 6.45 am: Awake. 7.15 am: The Wednesday break-fast breakfast. 7.45 am: Popped out to post my poop. (Said quickly and repetitively.) This was not an act of personal vendetta against the Post Office for their unconscionable dealings with employees but, rather, of sending a faecal sample for analysis in response to the NHS’s bowl screening program. The wind was up and the rain came down. 8.15 am: Writing and correspondence.

9.00 am: Studiology. Maintaining the momentum — on with ‘Statement II’:

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.

Nicene Creed, lines 2 and 3.

2.00 pm: A visit from one of my former PhD Fine Art tutees. Time for catch-up and an exchange of ideas. I could see their future opening up before them. 4.00 pm: I make further changes to ‘Statement II’. The composition has found its form quickly. 8.15 pm: An initial review of the ‘Painting & Construction 1985-95’ portfolio that’s in preparation for the visual practice archive.

My interview with an independent German radio channel will broadcast at 11.00 pm (GMT) and 12.00 am (CET) tonight.

Geisterstunde [Witching Hour] is an experimental, informative programme dedicated to the ghosts of radio. It tells the story of the invention of radio and the tales of magic, the occult and the paranormal that accompanied it. Between music, experimental sounds and stories, we talk about historical facts as well as myths, literature, film and pop culture.

February 22 (Thursday). 7.00 am Wake. 7.45 am: Writing and correspondence. 8.15 am: Studiology. A review and modification of ‘Statement II’. 9.30 am: Off to town — gingerly avoiding the puddle that cars splash through and drench pedestrians, even at 20mph — to the hairdressers for a head-edit.

10.45 am: Back in the studio, I made preparations for the second composition: ‘The Son (Creation)’. Some theologising before sound manufacture began. The Father and Son, co-participants in the making of all things. The ‘The Father (Creation)’ and this composition are, thus, a pair of complimentary perspectives on the same event: the Creation. As such, the compositions should share certain formal commonalities. The beginning in the Judaeo-Christian tradition is the paranormal event par excellence, from which the normal, natural, and supernatural — earth and heaven, the material and immaterial, plants, animals and insects, humans, angels, all other unseen spiritual entities, energies, authorities, and potentates — proceed.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him.

Colossians 1.15-16.

1.45 pm: I listened to the morning’s harvest. Here was a beginning too. During the afternoon, the best fruit was picked out from the basket, honed, and placed (provisionally) in the new composition. 7.00 pm: While processing photographs for the archive, I listened to the podcast of Leisa Schmidt’s radio programme. If only the UK’s commercial radio could be as thoughtful and inventive. The German language makes anything spoken sound so earnest and significant.

February 23 (Friday). 7.30 am: Tidy-up. 8.00 am: Writing. 8.30 am: Studiology. Back to ‘The Son (Creation)’ composition, as tree surgeons wielded snarly-whiny buzz saws and pushed felled branches through a clattery chipper machine outside my house. I need to work in an anechoic chamber.

I made exceedingly slow progress with the new composition. Which isn’t unusual, for me. The construction of a plausible sound world — which the mind and ear can inhabit — takes time. And this is a world that was before all worlds. 12.00 pm: I took to the streets in the sunlight, on an errand and umbrellaless, and returned in haste while chased by an emptying rain cloud. ‘Let that be a lesson to you, John!’ 2.00 pm: Some forward movement. By 3.00 pm, I had a possible beginning and end. Thereafter, I manufactured further sounds. 7.30 pm: An evening on the archive.

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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