July 30, 2020

You’ve learned cuisine; designed a recipe; sourced, bought, and prepared the ingredients; cooked them with love and care over time; and presented them on a pristine plate accompanied with polished cutlery. But all the diner is really interested in is the taste.

WFH: DAY 105. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: I came across a link to a previously unreleased sound composition from 1964 by Steve Reich entitled Livelihood. It’s a distillation of 10 hours of ‘surreptitiously recorded conversations and noises’ made inside a New York cab when he was a jobbing driver. The piece embodies the essence of so much of his later works.

In 1985, I began recording events in my life and moments of experience using the, then, relatively new mobile technology of the Sony Walkman Cassette-corder. This was the Box Brownie of sound recording technology. As my recent reading has suggested, phonography has yet to become the sonic equivalent of photography. Early on, sound-recording mediums were hijacked by music. Furthermore, most of us aren’t attuned to listening to our everyday experiences of the world; the ear requires training. While we’ve grown used to seeing the world as a static image (through photographs) in the absence of sound, we aren’t yet comfortable hearing a kinetic world in the absence of an image. (Sound effects records and documentary recordings of the human voice speaking are exceptions.)

9.00 am: The first of three PhD fine art tutorials. The further the students proceed through the degree, the greater their respective differences of trajectory, modus operandi, and requirements. One cannot teach on the basis of a template at this level.

10:00 am: A Skype consultation with an intending MA applicant. Would it be better to defer entry until 2021? Will the world (and the university) be substantially different in a year’s time? The postgraduate school has always thrived on the students’ interactions. It’s a genuine community: mutually supportive, humane, and committed. You can’t generate that spirit on Zoom and Teams alone. Real-world encounters, and a context in which students and staff can enjoy one another’s contributions in a relaxed atmosphere, are required. We have managed to preserve that during lockdown, only because the students had already gelled together in the year and months prior to it. How can you develop a trusting relationship with only a moving digital image of someone that you’ve never met?

11.00 am: The second of three PhD fine art tutorials. Research can be personal, passionate, and provocative. The uniqueness, heart, and convictions of the researcher interests me as much as what they explain and advocate:

12.00 pm: The third of three PhD fine art tutorials. How does one advise the next generation of academics about career choices; getting and staying on the ladder; different types of ladders; constructing your own ladder; and shaping the academy to be more inclusive, equitable, and humane?:

1.45 pm: Back to my own intractable struggle with recalcitrant ideas and mediums. You break the bond or contract between teaching and personal practice at your peril. The afternoon began amid the howls of a deliberate feedback loop created between the digital recorder in monitor mode and the attached microphone placed in close proximity. The capture was then slowed by 8x and modified with the addition of -1 and -2 octave harmonics.

In the heat of summertime, with the studio windows open, the sound of neighbourhood children playing in the adjacent gardens and the whirrrrr ‘n rassp of lawnmovers is too clearly audible. And not helpful when you’re trying to compose over monitor speakers. 4.30 pm: I did the rounds in the heat of the late afternoon:

7.30 pm: Genesis, Chapter 34, and onwards … listening as I went.

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July 31, 2020

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