February 21, 2020

Anyone will tell you / Just how hard it is to make and keep a friend (Joni Mitchell, ‘Jericho’, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter (1977)).

7.45 am: I checked that all my gear was in order in readiness for the morning’s workshop with PhD students on the university’s training programme. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.25 am: Up-hill to the campus and the School of Education and Psychology department. I left home appallingly earlier because: a) I wasn’t sure where ‘P5’ was situated; and b) It’s helpful to have buffer-time in which to get used to unfamiliar AV equipment (and its idiosyncrasies).

The workshop was entitled ‘Ways of Working with Sound’. The majority of attendees were doctoral students from Creative Writing. It wasn’t too difficult to adapt the content to their needs. And, they were game. That’s an enormous help to a tutor. The ‘spirit of teaching’ was present. Today, we went places. The workshop’s material could easily occupy an entire day. All I was able to present in two hours was a ‘teaser-trailer’ for something far more searching. Education, at its best, changes us even as we engage it. And the best education occurs when both tutor and tutees agree to be open to possibilities, generous to one another, and yield to the process.

11.15 am: Back at homebase, I edited the uploaded sound files produced at the workshop. (In the background: The Who. Loud, powerful, defiant, and real. How could Pete Townsend play guitar so well while jumping around like he was on a pogo stick, and wiggling his bum?) I mixed the ‘4th Performance of the Impromptu Aberystwyth University Music Department’, which assumed a temporary existence during the workshop. The small orchestra of rattles, shakers, bottle-blowers, and scrunchy tin-foil players followed a chance procedure, devised by John Cage, governed by the toss of a coin:

2.00 pm: Back to the ‘Noisome Spirits’ paper. I wanted this to be 90% in the bag before the close of the weekend. Then, next week, the sound composition would have my full attention.

First, a search for an eighteenth-century map of Breconshire. In parallel, I sourced a number of on-line tutorials that would get me deeper into the complexities and potentialities of my analogue and digital sound mixers. I despair at the inability of some companies to adapt to changes in Apple’s and Microsoft’s Operation Systems. In this day and age, digital hardware should be future proof as a matter of principle. The digital recording feature of my Tascam M-164 UF mixer has been redundant since the introduction of Windows 8 and IOS 10.7:

6.30 pm: Practise session: using only my ring finger and pinky. 7.30 pm: On with the paper. The structure is determined. I can proceed in a line, now, from the two-thirds mark to the end.

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