The composition derives from Habbakuk, Chapter 2, verse 2, and deals with the prophecy’s calamitous middle section. The verse, from which the title derives, refers to God’s command to the prophet to translate the oracle (the vision he had received) into a text by a process of inscripturation. In all likelihood, the prophet would have written it in wax on boxwood tablets large enough to be readable in a public place. ‘Plain’ implies that the writing was to be clearly legible. Habakkuk would probably have written the text in large-letters.
Writing, which is denoted process in the text, is also integral to the particular box set of records that I procured for this CD project. A pair of previous owners, Beth and Bill, inscribed their names on, and annotated, the records’ sleeves, providing information about each disc’s content. They also included several inventories of listening (see ‘Beth & Bill’). I converted the writing into sound, as follows. A condenser and a contact microphone were attached to a soft pencil (which Beth and Bill had used to write their annotations and inventories), and a stethoscopic microphone attached to a resonant support on which one of the record sleeves they wrote upon was secure. This captured the acoustic output of the pencil as it interacted with the sleeve. The signals from the three microphones were combined using an audio mixer and, finally, recorded as a digital sound file.
This file was transferred onto vinyl discs, so that the sonic inscription could assume the same medial format as the records and be manipulated on DJ turntables. In the culture of vinyl records, these substituted for the tables upon which the Habakkuk’s vision was written. The sonified writing was also played on virtual DJ turntables, that is to say, a digital simulation of a pair of analogue DJ turntables, and played through modulators. The samples derived from these manipulations, along with untreated extracts from the sonified inscription, became the raw materials out of which the composition was made.
To be true to the principles governing the other compositions on the CD, I wanted to include the biblical verse on which ‘Write the Vision …’ is based, while, at the same time, separating and containing it. In this way, the conceptual integrity of the piece (an articulation of the source text using only the sound of writing) would be preserved. The solution came on listening to Johnny Cash’s (1932–2003) ‘The Man Comes Around’ (2002). The song is bookended by readings from Revelation. In this way, Cash divided the source text from the imaginative and expository application of such in between. I borrowed the idea.
The composition begins with the reading of Habakkuk, Chapter 2, and verse 2, and ends with verse 3. The latter includes the line: ‘For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak’. That, to my mind, was an instruction to be followed: the composition must, therefore, conclude with speech. The penultimate section evokes the sound of dark and worrisome thunder, and articulates the themes and mood of the oracle: judgement, condemnation, catastrophe, violence, comeuppance, woe, and death.
And the Lord answered me, and said
Write the vision,
and make it plain upon tables,
that he may run that readeth it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time
but at the end it shall speak, and not lie
though it tarry, wait for it
because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
Habakkuk 2.2–3 (spoken text).
Habakkuk 2.2–20 (written text).
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