John Harvey: Blog

Intersections of image, sound, and word

Last Words. Last Days

The last coherent words that my mother spoke to me were during her final days in hospital, where she died of breast cancer: ‘I don’t want to hear anymore about religion’. I honoured that request with a heavy heart. This was the only time that she’d ever rejected either me or what I’d stood for. And only the second time that we’d had a falling out. There was, now, something […]

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ME and Me

I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) in 1987 by a well-respected paediatrician with an interest in alternative forms of therapy. The onset of the condition (the recognition of which remains controversial) followed a, now, well-defined inception and trajectory; it was, in all likelihood, precipitated by a bout of glandular fever a year earlier. My case presented many of the classic symptoms associated with ME: profound malaise, muscular pain and […]

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Come Together: The Chance Meeting of a Stylophone and a Fuzz-Wah Pedal on the Principle of Necessity

‘He one mojo filter’ (The Beatles, ‘Come Together’) From 1973 to 1975, several school friends and I formed a loose confederacy of music makers desperate to make the most of our respective incompetence. This attitude that has persisted throughout my life. Just because you don’t have a natural aptitude for something doesn’t mean you can’t be good at it. Indeed, with the requisite application, time, effort, understanding, commitment, and enthusiasm, […]

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Robin Redbreast

This is an old Welsh legend related to robin redbreast: ‘It was on the day when Lord Jesus felt his pain upon the bitter cross of wood that a small and tender bird, which had hovered awhile around, drew nigh, about the seventh hour, and nestled upon the wreath of Syrian thorns. And when the gentle creature of the air beheld these cruel spikes, the thirty and three, which pierced […]

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Martin Herbert (1957-2014)

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die (Leonardo da Vinci) Martin came into this world and proceeded to reinvent it on his own terms. That’s the indelible impression I have of a man and an artist whom I knew for a tantalizingly brief period. He was a creator of alternative histories, a maker of plausible fictions, and a hybridizer of facts […]

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Stephen Chilton (1975-2014)

I’ve lost a friend / And I don’t know why (Tim Hardin/Nico, Eulogy to Lenny Bruce (1967)) I taught Steve when he was first a BA and then an MA Fine Art student at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University. At the outset, my impression of him was that of a garrulous, grinning, and ungainly young man with interesting ears and a nervous laugh, who looked like a Mannerist version of […]

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Making Ready Duchamp 2: Sculpture Musicale

‘Cum on feel the noize’ (Noddy Holder, 1973); ‘Hidden Noise’ (Marcel Duchamp, 1916) On 28 October 2014, fine art and art history students on Art/Sound (an art history module run by the School of Art, Aberystwyth University) engaged in a workshop that provided a two-fold immersive experience: of noise and of silence. Both phenomenon involved attentive listening, but of different orders, intensities, and foci. One of the workshop’s aims was […]

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Making Ready Duchamp 1: Erratum Musical

‘Time and chance’ (Ecclesiastes 9.11) Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) was one of the most important visual artists of the twentieth century: the father of Dada, minimalism, conceptualism, and performance art, among other movements. He was also one of the pioneers of what would become sound art. In 1913, Duchamp developed three musical pieces of which Erratum Musical is the most complete. The title translates into English as ‘Musical Misprint’. Like the […]

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The Amazing Bending Professor!

‘City of Bend: Noise Permits’ (website for Bend, Oregon, USA) My engagement with circuit bending (as it’s called today) first began when I was 16 years of age. I stumbled upon the technique by accident while attempting to fix a portable radio. And so did many other teenagers of my generation, it would seem. In the next four decades, circuit bending would develop into a significant sub-genre of ‘noise music’. […]

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My Diaries

 ‘Painting is just another way of keeping a diary’ (Pablo Picasso). ‘Keeping a diary is just another way of painting’ (Pascal Obispo). In July 2014, I published a public diary in order to provide ‘an insight into my activities, challenges, discomforts, and discoveries as an academic and a creative practitioner’ (John Harvey, [website]/’Blog’). Every other diary that I’ve kept is private. The first private diary was begun on January 1, 1971. My Lett’s Schoolboy Diary […]

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