Summa: diary (May 1-4, 2024)

May 1 (Wednesday).

Discussion and discovery; recognition and resonance
From Aberystruth to Aberystwyth (exchanging a ‘ru’ for a ‘wy’, only)like I never really moved
A homecoming, of sorts; the end and the beginning, now clasp hands.

The common baseline; a different timeline
Shared loves and curiosities; visible, invisible

This world and the next.

Failures of resolve, folly upon folly, hopeless hope
Promises rescinded; needing something lasting
(I could write a book.)

Walk with me a while, across ‘The Moss’ and down ‘The Ballers’, over the lines towards West Side.

Wanting confession, but without talking
Wanting a hearing, but from the heart

Wanting comfort, to give and receive.

Same old bruises; same new wounds.

6.00 am: Awake. 6.45 am: Writing. 7.30 am: Studiology. Over the past few days I’ve begun and, this morning, completed ‘Statement VII’. I began the suite’s final tracks: ‘Statement VIII’ and ‘Panel VIII: The Church’. The conclusion of a suite needs to be conclusive and have some relationship to the introductory composition, at the very least, while demonstrating stylistic continuity with, and distinction from, those that precede it. (Diversity in unity.) In these respects, the end is hedged about by more design limitations and conditions than the beginning.

11.00 am: A coffee and conflab with the artist Susan Forster. Having returned from Japan and my encounters with Zen gardens, my response to her work has changed, albeit subtly. Some of the pieces, I now sense, occupy a liminal space between presence and non-existence; here and there (wherever that is). The apertures, penetrations, and cavities — too small to pass through; too dark to see through — serve as portals to or openings-upon another place. Thus, what’s rendered impenetrable and obscure is invested with the weight of the mysterium. Their surfaces conceal a domain of shadows, from which light cannot escape. Their stories are uttered in silence — ‘signifying nothing’.

1.30 pm: The afternoon was taken up fabricating and preparing samples of chorale music with which to construct melodic lines tomorrow morning. My studio PC inexplicably lost Wi-Fi connection. The problem is local to the computer. (Sigh!)

May 2 (Thursday). 6.30 am: Writing. 8.00 am: Studiology. The samples fell into place effortlessly. The melody (such as it is) comprises non-repeating units based upon pre-existing choral music that has been slowed, reversed, segmented, reordered, and imbricated. The outcome is a musical line that bears no relationship to the source, other than in terms of essence and style. Ordinarily, this would serve a spine around which the other elements of the composition find their place. On this occasion, the line sounds complete in itself.

I’ve always had a deep suspicion of works that fall almost effortlessly into my lap. It’s an immaturity on my part. My innate protestant work ethic insists that hard graft and many hours are the necessary pre-requisites of success. This is nonsense, of course. Like the four-minute mile (1.6 km), it didn’t take long to run, but required considerable prior time and training (and a great deal of talent) to achieve. Thus, those works that may appear to have been ‘gifted’ to us are, in reality, the hard won fruit of labour past.

2.00 pm: On return from my eggs hunt in town, I continued manufacturing samples for ‘Statement VIII’. No doubt this final piece will be nothing short of a long drawn-out trial in comparison. 5.45 pm: A house call by my trusty computer tecky. Diagnosis: the errant computer’s Wi-Fi adapter board may be broken. (Sigh!). 7.30 pm: An evening on the composition and of reading.

May 3 (Friday). Perhaps the UK Conservative Party’s mantra should shift from ‘Stop the little boats’ (referring to the perceived immigration crisis crossing the English Channel) to ‘Stop the little votes’. It had performed very badly in yesterday’s local bi-elections and council elections in England and Wales. 8.15 am: Writing.

8.45 am: Studiology. There are times (and this are one) when you must rethink the whole composition from the ground up. Begone presuppositions and arbitrary conditions. I aimed to complete the task by the close of the afternoon. By lunchtime, the framework was in place. By mid afternoon, it was in the bag. The sixteen substantial drafts of the suite now complete, the next phase of the development is to return to the beginning and extract a preliminary mix of each one of them, so that the tracks can be heard with the statements and compositions interleaved and as a whole.

May 4 (Saturday). 7.45 am: Ambulation. Clevedon Pier it is not. Aberystwyth’s Royal Pier was the first pleasure pier opened in Wales, in 1865. Then, it was much longer. A succession of fierce storms had emasculated the prominence from 794 ft (242 m) to 200 ft (61 m). It’s in an appalling condition.

9.00 am: On my return home, I stopped off at the pharmacist to discuss my new pair of spectacles. The lenses have a anti-glare coating that warms the temperature of colours seen through it. Of absolutely no use when making and processing colour images. ‘Fix, please!’ 9.45 am: Studiology. I looked again at and interrogated the first piece that I’d made for the suite: ‘Statement I’. What could it learn from the successive statements? Was it too bald, presently? The earlier material was finding its feet — finding the way to what was to come. As in essay writing, the last thing to be written is the introduction, a second time.

The ‘Affirmation’ suite is 35+ minutes long. In the 1970s, the type of albums that I bought averaged between 38 and 48 minutes in length, on two sides of a 33-rpm vinyl record. Each side could hold up to a maximum of 25 minutes of material. Of course, within this constraint, the album was as long as the music needed to be. At its conclusion, and on reflection, the suite appears to be complete and the natural end-stop to period of composition that began a decade ago. Future projects such as ‘Malchus’ Ear’ already occupy a sonic territory in a different land. Thus ‘Affirmation’ may prove to be, not a part of an album but, an album unto itself.

2.15 pm: Composition over — a dismantling of the sound rig.

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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