February 1, 2020

I’m on the outside looking inside.
What do I see?
Much confusion, disillusion,
All around me
(King Crimson, ‘I Talk to the Wind’, In the Court of the Crimson King (1969))

8.15 am: A communion. It felt as though this would be a busy day: many parts, several duties, complications, small ambitions, untested procedures, and discussions in my head. 9.00 am: Off to town, in the crisp air and sharp sunlight, to that great food hall in the northern quarter, returning via the health-food shop and the express supermarket.

9.45 am: Pause. Tea. Strategizing. 10.00 am: There’re many things that I could do, but only one thing that needed to be done today. ‘Start filling the bath, John!’, the voice urged impatiently.

I set up the recording equipment in the bathroom. I knew the sound that I was listening for (it was already in my head.): a splash!:

More particularly, I was aiming to re-present the sound of a box full of money being cast into a ‘lake of clear water’. In the account from Edmund Jones’s book Apparitions of Spirits, the act of casting-in the box was accompanied by ‘such a noise as if all about was going to pieces’. The narrative doesn’t imply that the sound of the splash (which is not mentioned in the text) was in any way connected with extraordinary sonic phenomenon that followed. However, in order to generate material for an electro-acoustic response to the story, I required a sound that would have been indigenous to the original event and context: that of a splash.

Objects of various weight, surface area, size, and material were dropped into the tub. In the process, I got soaked. (I recalled bathing my boys when they were toddlers.) Initially, I’d thought of recording a box-like object being thrown into a lake in the locality. But the attempt may have jeopardised the life beneath the surface, and created a splash that would not have been separable from the ambient sounds of the natural environment. In the bathroom, the surroundings provided a silent backdrop with only a hint of acoustic reflection. Moreover, the bath itself contained, and thereby compressed and focussed, the sound of the impact and its aftermath. I was under no illusions that the recordings would provide me with exactly what I was listening for. They would serve a starting point, rather. (This was foley work.) If the wind was low tomorrow, I’d make field recordings in Parc Penglais tomorrow afternoon, in order to capture ambient sounds separately.

1.00 pm: A light lunch, I examined the morning’s work and extracted the potentially useable material. The process of development, I suspect, will not be unlike that used to develop the sound of a nuclear detonation for the composition entitled ‘Wisdom is Better Than Weapons of War’, on The Biblical Record CD. The sound was fabricated by dropping a tone arm on the surface of a record and slowing down the output by 200%+. On this present occasion, however, there’s a direct correlation between the source and the reality it seeks to summon:

2.30 pm: I returned to the source text in order to better understand the context of the account that I was dealing with, and discern whether the information therein could be used to shape a composition based upon it.

5.00 pm: ‘Eject!’ I looked forward to taking up an invitation to dinner this evening from someone who pitied a poor lad who’d had to fend for himself during the last week or so.

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