Summa: dairy (June 8-14, 2024)

June 8 (Saturday). 7.30 am: Ambulation.

I’d not walked in Parc Natur Penglais since last Autumn. During the winter and early spring, rain water muddies the ground. While, in its generality, the woods looked much the same as before, in their particularities, the trees and most of the foliage were different in respect to every leaf. Having forgotten the way in and out, I found myself walking up to the Vice Chancellor’s house and the cordoned-off entrance to the university greenhouses, before walking down a gravel path to goodness knows where.

9.15 am: Research admin: a putting away of sound and document files related to the Affirmation and other projects, and clearing of the decks for whatever is to come. 1.45 pm: A half-afternoon of (literally) knotty-types of domestic DIY jobs. 3.00 pm: Correspondence.

7.00 am: An evening at Aberystwyth Arts Centre to attend Miranda Whall’s Earth Speaks: The Dirty Ensemble.

The performance took place on an unlit stage; the performers illuminated their tabletops and instruments with discrete lamps attached to their foreheads. They reminded me those worn on helmets by miners underground, and cast upon the scene the evocation of a subterranean world of soil, oil, and coal. All were dressed in boiler suits — like a dystopic version of the 70s band Devo — which unified and anonymized the participants. Against the backdrop of music and sounds, an androgenous dancer slowly crawled across the floor, making movements that — at one and the same time — suggested either some creature giving birth to itself or shoots straining to reach through the ground’s surface towards the sunlight. The other members of the ensemble played a 50-minute improvisation that recalled the abstracted, disciplined, intelligent, and tightly-executed delivery of a free-jazz group. Moments of exquisite delicacy and quiet were followed by brash and uneasy sections of acoustic and electronic mayhem. I heard the sonorities of a rain forest morph into those of industry, and, then … silence. Who contributed what to the overall soundscape was a matter of indifference. These were artists acting together as a single organism. The conception and delivery of the piece were remarkable achievements.

June 10 (Monday). 6.00 am: Blustery. The clouds moved swiftly and cinematically, from right to left. 6.30 am: Writing, and a review of the week ahead. 7.15 am: I made a cursory overview The Aural Bible series websites, correcting broken links. Then, I examined the track division times on the series’ online releases. When I first began uploading tracks, a decade ago, streaming was far slower than it is today. As such, I didn’t need to include the 3-second break at the end of each track (as one would on a CD) to provide a transitional silence between them. Today, with better broadband connections and faster streaming times, tracks move from one to another almost seamlessly. Therefore, I needed to decide whether the album tracks required compensation. A task for the day.

Alongside, I returned to the unsolved problem of rig scale, portability, and ease of setup. Today, my thinking will begin at the end: with the container or a flight case — that’s to say, with what its possible to carry. And this case must house not only sound generators and modifiers but also whatever power supply is required. Alongside, I began the process of objectifying and classifying my methodology and technology of sound making to date.

4.00 pm: An ambulation up and down Plascrug Avenue. 6.00 am: An evening with my computer-tecky, who’d visited to install a new wi-fi card on my studio desktop computer. I’d had half a mind to assay the procedure myself. But the task proved vexing enough, even for an experienced operative. 8.00 am: Reading.

June 11 (Tuesday). 5.30 am: Arise. 6.30 am: A critical stock-take of albums released since 2015. 11.00 am: For some time, I’ve wanted to commute the contents of the Studium website, on SoundCloud, to the John Harvey: Sound website. (The free-version of the former platform limits the size of the files that can be uploaded and the overall capacity of the owner’s account.) I began constructing Studium: 2007-24 — an:

aural depository comprising samples, exercises, asides, illustrations, drafts of, studies for, residues of, misfits from, and isolated components related to past and current sound-art projects.


June 12 (Wednesday). 6.00 am: Writing. Studyology. Heads down, continuing to compose texts for the Studium album. 12.30 pm: The start of a slow process of track remixing and loudness equalisation. While searching through my archive of equipment photographs, I came across one of a modified Stylophone, which I’d made in 2009. (The device was used on the track entitled ‘TestStylophonics (September 16, 2016)’. I’d rewired its component board, using various circuit-bending techniques, via a series of switches which enabled the re-routed power supply to be turned on and off. I also added two terminals (the screws mounted on the fascia); when I touched them, my body was converted into a large external conductor and resistor. A potentiometer was introduced to control the level of voltage across the instrument’s circuits. Eventually and inevitably, as higher than recommended currents passed through circuits that weren’t designed to deal with them, the Stylophone burned out. But by then the instrument had served its purpose. I’d not intervened with the normal operations of a Stylophone in fifty years. When I was 14 years of age, I began expanding its meagre repertoire of sounds by joining the device to a guitar amplifier and effects pedal. The latter was, in turn, subject to circuit-bending techniques of the terminal kind.

June 13 (Thursday). My world has turned full circle, once again. Today I remember my parents, with great gratitude, and glance backwards towards my inception, with astonishment. 10.55 am: A woman shouted ‘John!’ downstairs, from the landing. It’s always the same voice saying the same word, emanating from the same part of the house. An auditory illusion (on this of all days).

6.00 am: Arise. 7.00 am: Studiology. I continued mixing tracks for the Studium album. 2.00 am: Listening, listening, listening, while regularising the tracks’ descriptors. Not since The Bible in Translation (disc 2) (2016) have I released an album of such breadth — stylistically, technically, methodologically (untypically, many of the tracks derive from improvisation), and temporally (the oldest source material derives from 1973). In breaking away from a concept-driven modus operandi, the imperative to make completed work, an adherence to continuity, and strict compositional strategies, new directions opened up. While these couldn’t be acted upon at the time the sound works were laid down, and may never influence the center of my concerns, they nevertheless embody an important principle. Namely, that a ‘playful’, an open-ended, and a goalless engagement with either the medium or an approach to making yields possibilities that would not present themselves in any other way

June 14 (Friday). 6.30 am: Arise. 7.30 am: Copy editing the Studium text. There’s a lot of it. I’m committed to providing sufficient background for the listener to enter the work other than through their ears alone. It’s what I hope other artists would do for me. How a composition has come about, what has been deployed to realise it, and when and where it was made, are of considerable interest to me. Too often, however, album information is limited to the artist’s name, track titles, and the release date. I suspect that, in the majority of cases, the artist is either too eager to release the work or else typing-shy. In my late teens, my friends and I would pour over the gate-folds of progressive rock albums, reading the names and models of every guitar, effects pedal, keyboard, and drum cymbal listed thereon. This enriched our engagement with the music.

2.00 pm: I returned to the Affirmation text for one last proof read. It’s astonishing what I’d missed on the first, second, third, and fourth time ’round.

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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