Summa: diary (May 25-31, 2024)

There’s wisdom, too, in knowing what you’re not.

May 25 (Saturday). 7.30 am: Ambulation. I sat on a bench and looked outward, conscious of the sea’s breadth, both laterally and horizontally, and its stillness. Far above, a commercial plane gleamed in the sunlight and passed silently eastward. I was, I saw, I heard, I knew, I felt while, simultaneously, in a reverie about friends who were elsewhere and impossible futures.

2.00 pm: ‘But if you don’t know what the question is, John, how do you hope to find an answer?’ As I push beyond the technical and methodological limits of the last project, my reach extends into a void of unknowing. Am I seeking to create a self-contained portable ‘instrument’ for improvisation and (perhaps) solo or ensemble performance ? If so, what would provide the input signal: an electric guitar, a sample, or a turntable? If so, why would I want to do this? Always, I endeavour to carry with me the best and most characteristic elements (the ‘voice’) of previous projects. While, at the same time, the aim is to range wide of them. I do not believe that it’s possible to reinvent oneself authentically. There has been, and is, and will ever, only be one me. I may seek to change my outward vesture, but the body shape underneath remains the same.

May 26 (Feast of the Holy Trinity). The Conservatives have announced that they’ll re-introduce Mandatory National Service, if re-elected. (There would, I imagine, be an buy-out clause for children of the rich and greedy.) The policy is unlikely to enamour the party with vast swathes of Generation Z, who’ve been canon fodder in the Tory’s war against commonsense, compassion, and accountability for the past fourteen years. Better to have promised a program of compulsory euthanasia for the over-60s, to ease the burden on the state pension fund. That, at least, would’ve made more economic sense.

11.00 am: ‘In’ church.

May 27 (Bank Holiday Monday). 8.00 am: A review of the week ahead. 8.30 am: Studyology. Writing. Now that the composition and production of Affirmation is complete, the work of developing a written account of the release begins. Each of the previous seven albums in The Aural Bible series has a dedicated website and extensive descriptors on the John Harvey: Sound site. 11.00 am: A reciprocated visit from the artist Susan Forster, bearing a quartet of warm homemade Japanese buns. A welcome addition to a warm and wide-ranging conversation.

2.00 am: Back to the written account. This is the first occasion I’ve had to stand far back from the project’s conceptual framework and rootedness in the history and theology of the text and its visual and musical interpretations. The explanatory text needs to be concise and yet sufficiently fulsome to enable the listener to comprehend the context, content, and intent of the album as a whole and each track.

May 28 (Tuesday). 8.00 am: GP catch-up. ‘Of making many appointments there is no end’. 8.15 am: Correspondence and appointments dairy. 9.20 am: My GP practice ought to reconsider the ambiance of its waiting room. It has that ‘everyone else has gone home’ vibe. At least the upbeat, piped music has been silenced. The few that are present on the occasions that I have visited, still maintain the COVID-19 protocol and sit as far away from each other as possible. Which, if you’re in an environment with those who may have other contagious diseases besides, is a wise strategy.

10.15 am: Studyology. A review and revision of the Affirmation text that I’d begun yesterday. In the background, I played a number of the earlier releases in The Aural Bible series. I’ve not been able to do this for some years, wary that too great an exposure to past work might have too great an influence on my current endeavours. I rarely put up my own visual work on the walls of the home for the same reason. By he close of the afternoon, the first draft of the descriptor was well underway.

On listening to the seven previous albums, I was struck simultaneously by their consistency with and difference to one other. While exhibiting stylistic unity the compositions cover a great deal of ground, sonically, technically, and conceptually.

Remembering Phoebe, five years after.

May 29 (Wednesday). 7.00 am: Writing, correspondence, and composition. 9.45 am: Off to town for a mop crop. ‘Short back and sides and a trim on top, please’. My hairdressing needs require little sophistication. As were those of the lady with the visionary stare standing beside me in the stalls. 11.00 am: At the Arts Centre, the examination season was, I imagine, coming to an end. I met my former colleague and fellow explorer in the domain of sound, Dr Dafydd Roberts, for a long overdue coffee and conversation. We discussed his most recent performance outings and the vagaries of complex equipment rigs.

2.00 pm: I returned to writing and listening, and (once again) remembered friends who were elsewhere and whose predicaments were challenging. ‘Human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward’ (Job 5.7).

May 30 (Thursday). 8.00 am: The wind rattled the casement windows. ‘Write-0n, John!’, encouraged the inner-tutor. In the background, I played Dafydd Roberts’ Carauias Arise!: the sword of poison, captured live in Tregaron, Wales, in 2022. I learn a great deal from listening to other artists’ improvisatory performances. I admire most what I’m able to do least.

2.00 pm: Off to the pharmacist to pick up a tube of prescription ointment that must be kept in the fridge after opening. Which means that its likely to get mistaken for mayo and squeezed over my salad. The dispensing counter is now ‘manned’ by a very upbeat, can-do assistant who keeps the flow of customers moving down the queue. We were in steady hands.

The School of Art, Aberystwyth University’s funded PhD scholarship on the topic of ‘Nature Restoration past and present: changing attitudes to the natural world’ is proving an attraction for some of my former MA Fine Art students. The practice-based research project is a collaborative partnership with The National Botanic Garden of Wales. By 5.00 pm, the lion’s share of the Affirmation‘s introduction was complete. 7.30 pm: A consideration of the above project on behalf of potential applicants, and Eventide. (Homage to Ethelbert White.)

As our day ended, the verdict on Donald Trump’s trial was announced. From the perspective of an outsider, it would appear that America’s second Civil War may have deepened.

May 31 (Friday). 6.00 am: Arise. 7.00 am: Writing. 11.00 am: I inserted the introductory text, album details, and ‘lyrics’ (such as they are) for each track to the John Harvey: Sound website. I’m loath to write explanatory notes for each composition on this occasion. To particularise too much is to impose an authorial interpretation that may prevent listeners from entering into the works with hermeneutical and associative freedom. I listened to the album on my desktop sound system and realised that the sub-woofer had packed in. The absence of bass presence changes the relative loudness of the tracks’ elements alarmingly. Instructive.

2.00 pm: Having had nearly a week away from the album compositions, I returned to reassess my loudness balancing decisions for the last time while conducting project administration. 3.00 pm: An initial consideration of the album’s cover design. The owners of the cover image — The Icon Museum and Study Centre, New York — have graciously waived the reproduction fee. In an age of mandatory income-stream generation, which drives museums today, this gesture is very rare.

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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