July 21, 2020

WFH: DAY 97. 7.15 am:

8.15 am: Emergency admin was waiting in my inbox. The plans for the day had begun to reshuffle, even before they’d had a chance to be implemented. I may appear to function like a robot, but I’m adaptable.

Yesterday, I came across a BBC News item about a young and academically able woman who’d taken her life while studying for a BSc in Physics. She suffered from a severe social anxiety disorder. Accounts such as this always give me pause for thought. I’ve known students who’ve faced the same type of challenge. I’ve advised them to seek support from their GP and professional counsellors. As staff, we’re neither psychiatrists nor social workers nor professional carers. And we shouldn’t pretend to be. (‘A little learning is a dangerous thing.’) All that we can do is offer emotional support (‘the cup of human kindness’) and ensure that the demands of studentship are within their capacity to undertake safely and relatively stresslessly. Education, at its best, ought to be challenging, pleasurable, enthralling, and fulfilling. We can each of us be stretched without dislocating any bones:

9.00 am: Postgraduate encounters of the urgent kind. ‘How are you feeling?’ is a question posed to and by me in the context of video calls. It’s a heart-felt courtesy. One oughtn’t to assume that life presently is as it was the last time we talked. Me … I’ve noticed that, these days, I don’t respond either with great enthusiasm or adversely to anything. During lockdown, my emotions have operated within a narrower bandwidth. Music, art, literature, cinema, and theatre remain a tonic and consolation. But I recognize that my reaction to them was far stronger in the past. I suspect that the absence of face-to-face contact with others has taken the edge off life. Our passions must be shared in order to be enjoyed fully.

11.00 am: A pastoral tutorial:

11.30 am: On with postgraduate ‘sorting’ (advising, encouraging, emailing, and reminding). 11.45 am: Mornings are a good time for writing. Evenings aren’t; they’re better spent on research and admin. Sound production can take place at anytime in the day, mercifully. I slipped into research mode as the hour moved towards lunchtime.

1.30 pm: Back into the studio and (after Adobe had updated everything that moved) a review of yesterday’s work on the singing angels composition. ‘Why do you take so long to do things, John?’ Actually, I don’t; I do things relatively quickly. It’s discovering what needs to be done that takes me so much time. While reading an interview that John Cage gave in 1984, yesterday evening, I alighted upon an exchange that illuminated his view on treating found sound. It accords with Pierre Schaeffer‘s position:

I wouldn’t wish to be dogmatic on the matter. But if you need to greatly modify a sound, then maybe you don’t have the right one in the first place. By the close of the afternoon, the composition was chugging-along nicely. I’d make additional refinements tomorrow morning.

4.30 pm: I returned to my usual circuit. The avenue was particularly lovely this afternoon:

Signs if the times:

7.30 pm: A document that was lost to the great ‘fire’ some weeks ago was retyped. I would learn something that I’d not known previously, in the process. Guaranteed. (In the background: BBC Radio 3’s Choral Evensong from Manchester Cathedral, 2010.)

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