October 24, 2020

We’re now in the position of having to govern the Government.

7.00 am: From tomorrow, after the clocks go back, until the end of Winter, darkness will begin to prevail at this time in the morning. Saturdays proceed like any weekday, but at a slower pace. I linger over my cereal, while scrolling through political and cultural tweets, and stare unfixedly into the distance, supping my tea. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: Studiology. I returned to birdsong, removing what was good and replacing it with something better. 10.00 am: The mixdown of the ‘John ab John”s final section was complete. Inadvertently, I’d replayed yesterday’s found sample with a micro-sample of one part looping in the background. Intriguing. I recalled the overture to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): the utter darkness of the screen (which was, in itself, an unsettling experience for cinema-goers at the time) accompanied by Gyorgy Ligeti’s Atmosphères (1961).

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The sound also put me in mind of an account, in Jones’s’ Geographical … , of the Skirrid (Ysgyryd Fawr), which is part of the Black Mountains. When I pass it on the train travelling south to Newport, pictures of Mount Sinai gather in my imagination. Local legend has it that a rent in the side of the mountain was created at the moment of Christ’s death (Matthew 27.50-54).

Jones regarded many aspects of the Welsh landscape as having been shaped by the actions of God’s displeasure at human iniquity. On re-reading passages from his book, I was reminded of the several references that the author made to early industry in Wales. There are sounds in a number of compositions that evoke industrial noises, if inadvertently. My instinct is to engage both the landscapes of wrath and industry in the form of ‘interludes’, placed in-between the apparitional compositions comprising the Noisome Spirits suite. I took up ‘John ab John’ once again. One blackbird served as many; singing at different speeds; near and far; forwards and backwards. I’m pleased to have been able to include a feature of my experience during lockdown.

1.30 pm: Finding a way of incorporating into the composition the coach-driver’s cry ‘Wow up!’, without recourse to literalism, remained a challenge. I recorded various articulations of the phrase in readiness for processing.

The solution (for now and, maybe, forever) was to stretch ‘wow’ and ‘up’, progressively increase their pitch, and overlay both words. The effect is of a dismal and troubling drone that enters as the carriage gets nearer to John, and dies away as it travels into the distance. Enough, for now.

2.45 pm: Back, then, to the [Skirrid] piece. I recorded my reading of the passage above. An evocation of earthquakes was the call of the hour. As I began to assemble, overlay, and extract tonalities from my slowed speech, the samples that had begun the composition (those I found yesterday) fell away. (In the end, they proved to be only the scaffolding.) The composition darkened, even as the afternoon light fell away. This was, now, as much about the scene of crucifixion as it was of that mountain in Wales.

5.00 pm: A good day. A good day.

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