Summa: diary (June 17-21, 2024)

June 15-16 (Saturday-Sunday). The weekend was an interstice, during which I finalized website updates and made an alternative loudness mix of the Studium (2007-24) album, for comparison; prepared the studio and study for the next projects; and reflected backwards and forwards of present moment. ‘Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?‘, to quote Paul Gauguin’s painting of the same title. It was like breaking the surface of the water, and taking a deep breath before submerging once again.

I shall break from The Aural Bible series’ cycle and mode of composition, and return to writing the book and related papers on sound in the Judaeo-Christian scriptures. Wherever I go next with sound practice, it’ll be in the direction of this research. I also want to move towards improvision and a (notional) performative mode. The Studium project recalls the value of the former and the possibility of the latter. I’ve played sound works in public before. One context has been the academic conference. My ‘performance’ was an exemplification of what I’d discussed in my paper; it was pre-composed, and executed as though from a score. Keeping to one’s time allotted time is a necessity in this culture. The other context has been collaborative events, in which I have made an in situ and a parallel improvisatory response before a visual artist’s work.

Towards lunchtime on Sunday, a light aircraft — bright white in the sunlight, against an otherwise silent blue sky — circled the neighbourhood for almost ten minutes. Its sound is one of my life’s motifs. Like a motorbike’s drawl, as it travels into the far distance and silence, the sound of a propeller plane far above has, for as along as I can remember, summoned in me a state of profound reverie and well being. It’s a trans-historical motif; an acoustic continuity that has accompanied me from childhood to the present.

July 17 (Monday). 6.00 am: Arise. 6.30 am: Writing and admin. 8.30 am: Studiology. A final assessment and upload of the amended loudness profiles of the Studium tracks. 10.00 am: A review of the studio notebook. This is often at my elbow went either designing a project or building a rig or recording the results of equipment trials. Today, is set aside for exploring the possibilities of an electric guitar in relation to only one or two effectors. The objective is to assess the potential of a strictly limited means.

I used a Steinberger ‘Spirit’ guitar (because its small, and manoeuvrable in a test setting), a Sherman Filterbank 2 (4th square, above), and a FMR Audio RNLA7239 compressor (to prevent the Sherman unit emitting sounds so loud as to wreck my ears and amp). I’ve not before used the Sherman unit as a substitute for effects pedal. The output reminded me, variously, of Chick Corea’s synthesiser-processed electric piano and Pete Cosey’s VSC3-modified electric guitar, heard on Miles Davis’ live albums during the 1970s: funky and mean.

FilterbankTest (17 06 2014)

June 18 (Tuesday). 5.45 am: Arise. 6.00 am: Writing. It’s not possible to play a guitar and manipulate the controls of the Sherman unit simultaneously. Foot-pedal effectors have the advantage in this respect. Two solutions presented themselves: first, the guitar output is looped; and, secondly, pre-recorded samples of guitar-playing are launched from a sampler. Either approach would facilitate a hands-free operation of the desktop effectors. But neither promotes a fully improvisatory mode. I’m aware, too, that this way of thinking perpetuates the input/modifier, or instrument/effector, binary. Whereas the two should be considered as one: a single, integrated ‘instrument’.

8.30 am: Studiology. I set about trialing both solutions. (To act, rather than merely speculate.) The first solution opened up the filter’s sonic capability, but closed down melodic control and progression.

FilterbankTest (18 06 2024)

The second solution required the development of discrete and discontinuous samples of guitar playing. The ‘dry’ (unprocessed) guitar signal was processed through Pedalboard I, which is dedicated to different types of distortion effectors (gain, fuzz, overdrive, compression, wha-wha, bitcrusher, ring modulator, and feedback). The ‘wet’ (processed) guitar signal samples were triggered from a sampler and passed through the Sherman unit. I wanted to avoid musicality as far as possible, while maintaining a tonal centre. Thus, the sounds revolve and resolve around E minor.

7.00 am: I looked over the new Archive of Visual Practice website. This a representative (rather than a comprehensive) account of visual art practice from my Foundation Studies (1977-8) to the last project in The Pictorial Bible series (2000-15), when image-making was adjourned and sound became the preoccupation. The task, now, is to caption the nearly 300 images in 5 portfolios before publication.

June 19 (Wednesday). 6.00 am: Arise. 6.30 am: Writing. 8.30 am: I returned to manufacturing sound samples. 10.00 am: I had five contrasting samples to process before uploading them to the sampler device. 12.00 pm: Processing and practice complete:

FilterbankTest (19 06 2024) I

2.00 pm: Finally, and out of curiosity, I unplugged all the devices from the Sherman unit and fed its output into its input to create a feedback loop. This way, the device produced and modified its own internal sounds which were, in turn, outputted into its input again, cyclically. I’m astonished how controllable this method is. I hear the pained groans of Bebe and Louis Barron’s soundtrack to Forbidden Planet (1956).

FilterbankTest (19 06 2024) II

June 21, 2024 (Thursday). 6.00 am: Arise. 6.45 am: A review of the week’s ‘doings’; (terms like ‘successes’, ‘achievements’, and ‘progress’ would be premature). There have been ‘developments’ of ‘interest’, let’s say. However, in and of themselves, they’re not enough (for me). They must to be: less arbitrary; allied to something else; more disciplined, ambitious, innovative, impressive (to me), and fulfilling; and capable of an interpretive function.

7.30 am: A break from technology, and an initial navigation of the new archive site. In the background I played so-called ‘experimental’ music by artists I know, while listening with a learning ear. ‘What is threshold below which works like this are deemed to have failed?’, asked the inner-tutor. Answer that question, and you’re on the way to establishing a criteria of assessment.

9.00 am: The beginning of the slow march forward, captioning and organizing the images according to folder while learning a new software environment. Finalisation will take weeks, and won’t (after today’s initiation) again be at the forefront of my activities. Neither the past nor the future should take precedence over the present.

June 21 (Summer Solstice). 10.00 am: The release of the Studium (2007-2014) album. The past is put to rest. The eighth installment of The Aural Bible series, Affirmation, will follow on July 1. Thereafter, I’ll be up-to-date.

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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