October 28, 2020

I dreamt that Boris Johnson was the manager of a local Boots pharmacy. 8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: A day for teaching and research at home. First, a spot of email ‘hoovering’, file tidying, and teaching prep. Already the evening admin’s tasks were mounting up. 9.00 am: A PhD fine art tutorial. As our discussion proceeded, the sky darkened ominously, thunder rumbled in the south, and hailstones beat (with a sound like dried peas) upon the windows.

10.00 am: More tea! In and between tutorials and postgraduate admin I made a bid to finalise the CD’s track-list, while listening again to several of the more recent compositions. For the first time since I’d begun the project, I’d a settled sense of the compositions’ coverage and divisions. (In the background: Thomas Tallis’s Spem in Alium.) I focussed on the interludes derived from accounts in Jones’s Geographical … .

‘Like Waves Perfectly immovable’ is based upon Jones’s recollection of a natural phenomenon that he’d encountered on one of his many walks, as an itinerant minister, across the South Wales valleys:

For once going over the Beacon Mountain, the Valley of the Ebwy-vawr was filled very high with dark Clouds, whose Surface was like Waves perfectly immovable, thro’ which I could see nothing in the Valley, either Land, Trees, or House; tho’ it was clear upon the Mountain about me.’

Ebbw Fawr valley

For Jones, unusual natural occurrences were resonant with supernatural allusions. All of the created order had either a parabolic potential or else pointed towards biblical concepts and stories. He was reminded of Noah’s Flood. The global inundation may not, he considered, have risen as high in that valley as did those clouds.

There was not either the temporal or the mental space to attend to composition today — what with all the other demands on my attention — so, where there was opportunity, I concentrated on generating potential sound recordings in readiness for ‘research Friday’.

1.45 pm: I recorded the sound of paper being crumpled. The longer I manipulated the medium, the smaller its facets became, and the higher their pitch sounded. While the result may be applied to a composition, its pure form has merits too. The recording was an artefact and a performance complete in themselves. The paper was an instrument; the crumpling, an articulation of one of its many sonic potentials: ‘paper sound sculptures’. Thereafter, I made a paper ‘cat of nine tails’ to wave feverishly in front of the microphone in order to create a sound that would summon the frenzied wings of a flock of swallows that had flown into and embedded their beaks securely in the clay roof of a decommissioned coalmine and, unable to extricate themselves, perished.

4.30 pm: An amble. Mrs H had prepared a delicious vegetarian curry for dinner. 7.00 pm: Postgraduate teaching prep and admin. In the background, more ‘thunder’: corners to fight; problems to resolve. Some matters simply wont settle; and an old penny turns up.

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