John Harvey: Blog

Intersections of image, sound, and word


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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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 Noises of Art

Noise accompanies every manifestation of our life (Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noises (1913)); I think it is in sound’s nature to be free and uncontrollable and to go through the cracks and and to go places where it’s not supposed to go (Christian Marclay). The boundary between visual art and aural modes of creative practice is porous. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, artists, musicians, and writers have crossed […]

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‘It’s Gonna Rain’ (‘After a While’)

‘Music is the soul of language’ (fortune cookie message, San Francisco, 20 06 2013). The cookie’s ‘wisdom’ is a misquotation. It should read: ‘Music is the language of the soul’. This has been a commonplace sentiment in music theory over the centuries. It’s derived from a crude essentialization of Plato’s discourse on the nature of music and its relation to the soul and the emotions, the education, and the physical […]

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Staking the Lizard

Burn a bridge and burn a boat, Stake a Lizard by the throat (‘Prince Rupert Awakes’). Gini Wade (née Barris) was responsible for designing one of the most revered and idiosyncratic progressive-rock album covers of the 1970s. Between 2007 and 2010, she studied for an MA in Fine Art at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University. She had returned to education, having graduated in 1967 with a BA in Graphic […]

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