John Harvey: Blog

Intersections of image, sound, and word

Robin Redbreast

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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)

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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

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 ‘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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Expansive (10 05 2014)


The term ‘gas’, derived from the Greek khaos (chaos), was first used by the Flemish chemist Jan Baptist van Helmont (1577-1644) to denote an occult principle which he believed inhered all matter. For him, gas summoned the sense of the ‘proper elements of spirits’. On Saturday 10 May 2014 I gave the opening speech at the Expansive exhibition of works by Rebecca Backshall, held in the Gas Gallery/Oriel Nwy, Aberystwyth on the […]

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Preface to ‘Art/Sound’

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 ‘What I have in my own mind is a complete fusion of the two concepts’ (Herbert Read, Education Through Art (1943)). The ‘Art/Sound: Practice, Theory & History 1800-2010’ module will be launched at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University in September 2014. It’s anticipated that this will be the first in a suite of modules, presented under the aegis of the eye(aɪ)–ear(ɪə(r)) group, designed to explore the interaction of image, sound, and […]

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In a Silent Way


‘Shhh/Peaceful’ (Miles Davis). St Beuno’s is a Jesuit centre situated near St Asaph in Wales. The retreat provides training in Ignatian spiritual exercises for people of faith and, sometimes, for those with none. I spent three days there in cloistered silence in order to hear. The practice of silence involves a cessation of talking and the avoidance of unnecessary noise. In those parts of the house where silence was observed […]

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