For those of you who are not familiar with the process of printing a relief block, and those who are, I took some photos when I proofed a recent block yesterday. It is my illustration for what will be page 19 of our book of Blaise Cendrars' poem Trans-Siberian Prosody and Little Jeanne From France translated by Dick Jones, to be published by The Old Stile Press.
Inked block on the press bed. I've put two wooden runners either side of the block thus raising the heavy roller sufficiently to allow the block, plus paper plus blanket, to pass under it. That's because my press is an etching press, not designed for relief printing which doesn't require the strong pressure used to print etchings. I'm merely proofing each of my blocks so I can see what I'm doing during the process of cutting them but the final edition, text together with images, will be printed by Nicolas McDowall on his big letterpress in Wales. On his press, the ink is deposited on the block and/or type by the press roller itself whereas on an etching press plates must be hand-inked as the metal roller serves only to apply pressure.
My press, ready to roll.
And here's the finished print. Unlike this photo the actual paper is white. This is the text which will go into the space on the left:
Now for something completely different. Many years ago (1973 to be exact) a book I wrote called Designing With Natural Forms was published by Batsford - it's out of print but copies can still be found in public libraries and via Amazon etc. It was illustrated with my drawings and with photographs by the late Ted Sebley. The experiment I set out to do was to focus on only four natural forms as if I'd never seen them before and then see whatever ideas came up. The four subjects were: water, a pineapple, the hand, eggs.
During the first experiment, I asked Ted to photograph a tray of water while I tilted and shook it to make various sorts of waves.
A few of Ted's photos. From the one on the top right I traced an enlarged detail:
And then got the idea to turn it into a musical score.
I'm not a musician and never followed this idea up but recently, after reading an extremely interesting post on Dominic Rivron's blog about Daphne Oram, I decided to ask Dominic (a very able musician and teacher) to see if he could do something with it. To my astonishment he actually came up with a composition that I could never have imagined, let alone created. I'm taking the liberty of copying below what he wrote in his email to me about it:
I don't have good enough equipment to overdub myself humming it ten times so I opted in the end for something I'd been into a while back: using the "low-fi" MIDI sounds that get used on computer games and the like to make original pieces. The music I'd made then was probably John Cage-influenced, with a nod to Eno and to Gamelan music.
I used the notes you'd written and gave the ten parts to ten different MIDI sounds. The first statement of your piece lasts about 1 minute 11 seconds. You mentioned in the book the possibility of playing it at different speeds, so I followed the initial statement of the piece with progressively faster (and louder) statements. Each time the music is played each part get passed to a different MIDI sound, to make a sort of "round".
I don't know if something like this can be judged by normal musical criteria (however you define these) but as a reply to what was an improbable improvisation on my part all those years ago, I find it delightful and am moved that Dominic was willing to give it his full attention - thank you, Dominic!
And to end this Sunday-almost-Monday post here is the view from my window yesterday at dusk.