WFH: DAY 52/LENT 21. 7.00 am: After the rain:
7.30 am: A communion. 8.00 am: I made final preparations for the Art/Sound lecture, at 10.00 am. I took up my script and read an alarming notification that I’d scrawled at the top of the first page, two years ago:
‘Why didn’t you try and locate them immediately, following the last time you delivered this lecture, John?’ (Sigh.) Likely or not, because I’d have straightaway pelted-off to the painting studios to teach for the remainder of the day. Mercifully, I had a digital copy. And since today would be this lecture’s last outing, I wasn’t of a mind to start searching for the lost sheep. I was feeling better than yesterday, but still not as good as I could be. A corner had been turned, nevertheless.
Late last night I received a email from the Cuban photographer Abe Morell, who wrote enthusiastically about my book, entitled Photography and Spirit (2017). He references the tradition of spiritualist imagery in his own work. This week, I came across an article on the Japanese artist Aki Onda, He claims to have picked up voice messages from the Korean artist Nam June Paik’s (who died in 2006) on a radio. It’s an example of what is commonly called Electronic Voice Phenomenon (a topic which we’ve addressed in the Art/Sound module). Such claims needn’t be true to be interesting. Onda had used tape-recordings of these posthumous ‘broadcasts’ by Paik as the basis of sound-art works. His description of the modus operandi underlying his creative operations chimed, in some respects, with my own:
I tend to find something rather than create something. It’s lots of editing. Technically, I’m like an editor — editing ideas, sounds, visuals, text.
9.00 am: Emailery, and a little reading. 9.50 am: My kit and the Teams room were ready for the ‘off’:
A recent Times Higher Education tweet highlighted an article that pointed to a problem caused by online lecturing. Educators no longer receive their post-performance high. It was proposed that in order to adapt to the anticipated technological dystopia –wherein lectures may continue to be delivered online, even when normal-world returns — ‘university teachers must kick the dopamine addiction’. I couldn’t read the online article, because I don’t subscribe to the THE. As the late great Professor David Trotter once remarked to me: ‘I don’t see why I should pay to be depressed’. Personally, I’ve rarely considered lecturing to be a shot in the arm. These days, most academics are too tired to feel anything other than exhaustion in the afterglow. But I would lament the displacement of face-to-face lecturing by either recorded or synchronous delivery. It would be like watching drama performed on TV rather than experiencing it, live, at the theatre.
11.45 am: Module upload and mop-up notifications completed, I took to the streets. I’d not been out in several days. The weather was bristling. (Spring begins in fits and starts.) It was heartening to see and hear the children playing in the grounds of the local primary school.
12.30 pm: Home and email catch-up. 1.30 pm: I returned to what I hoped would be the last lap of mastering the CD tracks. I would have to hear the whole album again, again, and again, and on different sound systems. Each track had to be honed in order to sit flush with the others. Small adjustment of between -1 and -3 dB can lever significant changes. There’s a darkness and melancholy in the work. Would they have been so much in evidence had the compositions not been conceived during the pandemic? Once this project is in the bag, I’ll not want to hear it again for months. That’s the only way I’ll be able to flush it out of my system. I listened to the tracks in forward order, in reverse order, alternately, first and then last, and second and then the penultimate, etc. Hearing a quiet track followed a loud track confuses the auditory assessment. It’s difficult to compare extremes. Loud tracks must be measured together, and quieter ones, likewise.
4.30 pm: My ears needed a rest. I turned to DJ kit procurement.6.30 pm: Practise session. 7.30 pm: I listened to the tacks on the mid-field studio speakers. Small adjustments continued. Different sound systems revealed different flaws.