July 22, 2020

Our restless spirits yearn for thee (Bernard of Clairvaux, ‘Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts’ (1090–1153)).

WFH: DAY 98. 7.45 am: A communion. 8.30 pm: Emboldened by my second cup of the morning, I stared in to the dark abyss of what I didn’t yet know. In my experience, the way to fulfillment and resolution (in both life and work) lies along the road of difficulty, frustration, and trust.

9.00 am: Studiology. I re-read the text to the singing angels composition, as well as the account of another example of purportedly spirit-induced sound associated with the onset of death:

Many years ago, the Revd Mr T. Evans, the curate of Caerleon, writing below stairs at night, heard near the fire like the sound of sweet, small bells. He called Mrs Evans from bed to hear it. She came, but heard nothing. He called the maid, and she also heard nothing. Mrs Evans desired him to go to another room to see if he could hear it. He did, but could hear nothing. That time, two years hence, their child died in that room, and that part of the room where he heard this sweet bell ringing. Here it is plain that this was the agencies of some invisible beings or spirits who exactly knew the time of his child’s death, so long before.

Perhaps the Rev Mr Evans had suffered from tinnitus (which can produce a ringing sensation in the ears). I’m drawn to the simplicity of the sonic event — one that masks a great difficulty. For the last thing I’d countenance is recreating the phenomenon using sweet-sounding, ‘small bells’. That would be far too literal. Oddly, when I auditioned those bells in my mind’s-ear, I heard a ‘glass harp‘ instead.

10.00 am: I returned to the third composition in the ‘almighty noise of everything being blown to pieces’ suite, and confronted the outstanding question: How do I create an audio-metaphor for the sound of someone praying? Some weeks ago, while stretch-processing the recording of water ripples, I noticed in the ‘whoosh’ and slurry of noise what sounded like a voice speaking in an unknown language. (Electro-acoustic glossolalia.) A good place to begin, I thought.

The first phase of the processing involved removing the reverberant reflections from the stretched source recording. This flattened and compressed the sound ‘image’, so that the ‘voice’ sounded as though it was being heard within a small and confined space, and at a respectable distance. (The audient is a ‘voyeur’.):

12.15 pm: Helicopters circled the town. I listened, rather than tried to compete. (It later emerged that this was an emergency rescue mission to safely retrieve two casualties from the Rheidol River, nearby.) The de-reverbed recordings were passed in and out of the Revox tape recorder. 1.30 pm: One of the nicest things: sliced kiwi fruit (unpeeled) and a ‘square’ of 85%+ dark chocolate. (Chipped-plate, optional.) This is considered very sophisticated for a valley boy:

The ‘Revoxed’ version was then mastered in order to remove extraneous frequencies. At one point I thought I could hear the Lord’s Prayer being whispered in Welsh. (Audio pareidolia.) At that point, I knew I was on the home run. The, now, whispery (under-the-breath-like) representation of private prayer needed to be embedded in another sound; as it stood, the sample was too present. It ought to be, rather, like a sponge-finger in a jelly trifle — still visible (audible) through a pure and translucent coloured enclosure (such as a low-frequency ‘hum’, perhaps).

3.00 pm: A little reading:

3.30 pm: ‘Think at a tangent too, John!’ Wise words. Don’t put all your conceptual eggs in the same basket of procedure. 4.30 pm: Towards:

I walked through the churchyard, to the village, and returned via the municipal cemetery. Signs of the time:

7.30 pm: I’d left the studio with an inkling that the raw materials of the ‘This Sweet Bell’ composition had presented themselves to me. Some things are given rather than worked for. I pulled out my presentation and text once more. Part of me knew that I’d already spent far too long on both (due to the necessary reconstructive surgery that I’d undertaken after it had been scorched). But I knew that a still better job could be done. (In the background: Cream’s Disraeli Gears (1967).)

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