Summa: diary (March 1-6, 2024)

March 1 (St David’s Day/Start of metrological Spring).

I’ve known hiraeth in several ways. There is the yearning for my home town (my spiritual home) in the time of my youth, when love, faith, and an awareness of providence were vital and heady, and family and friendships were still intact. These days I’m able to revisit the place periodically, if only to remind myself of that which was. Allied to this, is a longing for a landscape of pitheads and coal tips, smoke and dust, snaking chains of coal trucks and terraced houses, chapels and cinemas, precipitous green-grey mountain slopes, and ‘the dark hills and heavy clouds’ (to quote Heinz Koppel) that was before me (in prospect and time) and, afterwards, has remained within me. Finally, there is that version of the same place which never was other than in my heart and soul.

7.30 am: Domestics. 8.00 am: Writing. 8.45 am: Studiology. I listened again to ‘The Father (Creation)’ and knew immediately what needed to be changed. After which, I reviewed the 22 improvised loop constructions for ‘Statement III’ that I’d manufactured yesterday afternoon, and chose one that fulfilled my expectations better than the others. 12.00 pm: Townward, after the rain and hail, on my weekly egg hunt.

1.45 pm: With ‘Statement III’ in the ‘can’, I began considering the third composition, ‘The Son (Annunciation and Nativity)’, and assembling what will be either a choral foreground or backdrop. Back to ‘The Father (Creation)’. Genesis, Chapter 1, verse 1 in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates the Hebrew thus:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 

‘Wind from God’ can also be rendered ‘great wind’ and ‘spirit of God’. If ‘wind’, then this would be the first potential sound maker — as it blew cross the surface of the black ocean — in Creation.

Wencelaus Hollar (1607-77), Chaos (first state) engraving [n. d.] (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

March 2 (Saturday). 8.30 am: ‘Failed Delivery’. Both a Tesco Express staff member and I couldn’t secure QR recognition on the return good’s label machine. (Sigh!). 9.30 am: Food preparations for lunchtime guests. 1.00 pm: Arrival! The artist (and my friend and former colleague) Dr June Forster and her husband entered bearing flowers and chocolates. I’d missed her repartee. ‘Bring out the old stories. Name names. Tell me about your new work’.

March 3 (Sunday). Along with a good many joggers, dog-walkers, and amblers, I took in the cool balmy air and breaking sunlight while walking without intent along the Promenade. Like John Bunyan’s protagonist in The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678), my journey was punctuated by encounters. First, June Forster and her husband were travelling in the opposite direction. We stopped and regaled ourselves with recollections of yesterday’s meal and conversion. Just as I crossed from the Promenade back into town, I bumped into the artist Brigitte Bailey (whom June and I had lauded in our conversion the day before). ‘It’s a small, small world’, in Aberystwyth especially. And the richer for it.

March 4 (Monday). Two dreams. In the first, I met Rembrandt. He was a volunteer guide at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and wearing his 418 years remarkably well. In the second, I was introduced to a technique of tree pruning (see: February 23, 2024) derived from the preparation and better preservation of cut flowers — which entails slicing-off of the bottom of the stalks at a 45-degree angle. 7.30 am: Awake.

8.00 am: Writing and correspondence. 8.30 am: A communion. 9.00 am: Studiology. I returned to where I’d left off on Friday: sculpting wind; sculpting (sine) waves. The source material is the sibilance isolated from words such as ‘visible’, ‘sitteth’, and ‘Pontius’, amalgamated, slowed down by a factor of ×25, and lowered in tone by two octaves. Listening: the ‘wind’ sounded like the undulating peaks and troughs of an incoming tide too. This conflation evoked the biblical image of wind on water. 12.00 pm: Completed. I returned to ‘The Son (Annunciation and Nativity)’ and then ‘The Father (Creation)’ in order to integrate this material into the composition.

2.00 pm: Further work on ‘The Son (Annunciation and Nativity)’ choral section — which is complete in itself. But is it sufficient for the task? I’ll need time and much re-listening to come to a decision. Presently, it sounds naked and too raw for comfort. The inner-tutor whispered: ‘Soft and gentle, John. Your reticence reflects more upon you than it does the section’. 4.00 pm: Meanwhile, on with ‘The Son (Crucifixion and Deposition)’. A glitch in the data transfer between the PC and a MacBook, which produced fierce digital spikes in the files, took an hour to solve. A faulty memory stick was the culprit.

7.30 pm: I finalised the final portfolio for the archive: ‘Pictorial Bible III’:

March 5 (Tuesday). 8.30 am: A communion. I stood still, listened to the waves breaking on my far left and right, and immediately before me, and looked toward the horizon and beyond (in my soul) as the acute-angled sunlight pushed the town’s shadows into the Irish Sea. In the photograph I’ve two shadows, one behind the other: a double image. Instinctively, internally, it made sense.

9.15 am: Prescriptions obtained, I sat at my study desk and set my thoughts in order. For some, this winter has been long and hard. The cold temperature, sullen skies, and darkness have compounded their sense of hopelessness, powerlessness, and defeat. They’re sickened by the toXic waste of uncorroborated news, vitriol, divisiveness, extremism, conspiracies, and prejudice that spews into the river of our lives; righteously angry at mendacious, self-serving, avaricious, and irresponsible leaders and business people, whose wickedness goes unimpeded; wearied by tears at the plight of the downtrodden; and longing desperately for wisdom to be vindicated. The coming of Spring has been a particularly welcome balm this year.

9.45 am: Studiology. I reviewed yesterday’s work. ‘The Son (Annunciation and Nativity)’ is working its charm upon me. On to ‘Statement IV’. A morning of improvisations toward structure. The process, on this occasion, is based upon a repetition and overlay of the word ‘crucified’. A repetition of the cognate ‘crucify’ occurs in the narratives of Christ’s trial. Pontius Pilate asks the baying crowd who he should release: Christ or the criminal Barabbas. The latter, they replied. Then asked what he should do with Christ — ‘Crucify him … crucify him’, they cried (Matthew 27.11-26).

Anon., ‘Give us Barabbas’ (late 19th century) engraving (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

I made ten versions. The idea gelled on the sixth take. One of my regulatory principles is to proceed beyond the successful take for just a few more. Who knows whether better than good is just around the corner.

1.45 pm: I processed the file that would be ‘Statement IV’ and began the composition which would follow. 3.00 pm: Both Facebook and Instagram went down. Pandemonium, cold-turkey syndrome, hack-paranoia, and self-help groups erupted spontaneously like bubas on X (ex-Twitter). It was a global outage. ‘Something went wrong!’, announced one platform. Which is as good a diagnosis as any of this world’s present predicament. We’re far too dependent on these modes, both practically and psychologically.

March 6 (Wednesday). 7.30 am: A fresh and cold morning, clear sky, birdsong, stillness, and sense of well-being. I took an emotional snapshot of the moment — one for the album, and for those days when life will not be so sustaining. I launched into the Wednesday breakfast: naked porridge (unadorned). 8.00 am: Writing and friendly messaging.

9.00 am: Studiology. I reacquainted myself with the crucifixion narratives, a practice which many Christians will observe during lent and as Easter approaches. The Nicene Creed is a short-form expression of what is the longest and most detailed accounts of in the Gospels:

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.

My sonic abbreviation of the event focuses on the three hours of his death, from noon to 3.00 pm, and the supernatural phenomena that accompanied it: the darkness, earthquake, and tearing of the temple veil. The last time I dealt with the theme of the long darkness was 44 years ago, as an undergraduate. At the time, I was making images of active and decommissioned National Grid sub-stations. An interest in making metaphors for biblical concepts based upon the everyday world (a parabolic approach to visualisation) has been one of the pillars of my practice ever since.

John Harvey, There was a Darkness Over All the Land (1980) mixed media, 55 × 37 cm.

10.45 am: I reviewed yesterday’s work on ‘Statement IV’ and decided to have another bash at this composition using other takes from yesterday’s session. ‘Is it better or simply different to, and qualitatively the same as, the previous one, John?’, the inner-tutor enquired. 12.45 pm: The desk rig was booted up in readiness for the afternoon’s constructions.

1.30 pm: A sunlit jaunt outdoors, passing abandoned shoes. 2.15 pm: An afternoon editing sounds from yesterday’s session and generating more, with an emphasis on earthquakes.

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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