OCEAN ARTic Journal 1 – 20/VII/21

The work undertaking in the residency was warmly received and so evolved into a commission for a completed work for performance and recording. The working title of LIGHT WATER IS BLACK WATER has been adopted, and the project now proceeds under that name.

The software now performs another purpose. In the residency, the software was where all of the elements came together and were calibrated to function as an ensemble work.

With the commission the focus turns away from the processing of data to the requirements of both recording and performing the work. It almost feels like I am dismantling the work already completed as I dig down to uncover and recalibrate individual elements with a view to scoring playable parts from the various narratives playing out in the data model.

I’ve plugged the bach library into the Max software. This has thrown me right back to nursery school. Progress is slow, frustrating and will remain completely unintuitive until that magic moment when the sheer amount of time and repetition that goes into trying to achieve even the most simple tasks works up its own muscle memory until it - the unintuitive - becomes entirely intuitive. For the past few days, however, I remain lost in a pre-school sand pit of a completely unfamiliar vocabulary - cents - onsets - far too much mathematical calculation.

Time is compromised by having to start addressing the admin required who co-ordinating a group. I’ve been checking on who is available when in September and October for rehearsals, checking where we might rehearse, and wondering where I am going to find the time to take the data scores and arrange them in such a way as to prove interesting for the seven players to play, and interesting for anyone else to listen to.

The focus has certainly changed from the data, and the sensitive subject matter, to the meat and gristle of getting an eight strong ensemble together in the one place at the one time, with a van full of electronic equipment and cables in order to make a noise. A noise which I will have crafted, considered and fretted over. A noise which I can just about hear in my head. Any musician will tell you just how far from the noise in the head is from the noise in the ear!

Meanwhile, the partnership is under pressure to realise a performance before the end of November. Partly, I imagine to ensure some kind of alignment with the COP26 conference, and partly on account of agreed project timelines. The queen’s Hall would prefer that we took a performance slot in January 2022 as there would only be Monday slots potentially available in November. I don’t know enough about events to know whether November Mondays are going to be quieter than January Saturdays. Both seem to have a pretty poor chance of pulling folk from their homes.

I take swims in the bay in the warm evenings, and drink a beer on the sand as the last few day trippers make their way back to their cars. The day seems to sigh, and an empty peace prevails. I can almost make myself believe that I am in control.