November 16 – 17, 2017
Brno, Czech Republic
Record turntable and loop effects pedal, mixer, and PA system.
34 × 33⅓ RPM, 12” vinyl records—predominantly musique concrète compositions, along with experimental, electronic, and other modern works from the 20th century.
The turntable and other equipment sit on a table at floor level and the records are stacked in a pile to one side of the turntable. The audio output of the turntable is routed to the stereo inputs of a loop pedal before passing through a mixer and out to the PA.
For larger audiences a video camera can be placed above the stack of records so that the image of each record sleeve can be seen on a projection screen as it is being played.
The performer begins by taking the uppermost record sleeve from the pile, removing the disc and placing it on the turntable. With the turntable rotating at 33⅓, the needle is placed in the centre, run-out groove of the record. When the needle is locked in the centre groove, the loop pedal is pressed and the sound of one revolution is captured. The length of this loop is approximately 1.8 seconds and now repeats. The needle is then lifted, the record removed and put back in its sleeve on a new pile next to the original. Immediately, a second record sleeve is taken from the first pile, the disc removed and placed on the still rotating turntable. The needle is placed in the run out groove of this record and when the needle is locked in the centre groove, the loop pedal is again activated to capture the sound of a single revolution, the same length as the first. This second sound is overlaid over the first loop, both now repeating.
The above process is repeated with subsequent records from the first stack. The scratches, hisses, and other sounds in the centre grooves of each record are overlaid progressively and the sound builds in density and complexity, in the fixed tempo dictated by one revolution of the record turntable.
The original stack of records at the front of the table dwindles as each disc is played and the growing stack of used records becomes visible behind the first stack. The performance lasts until all of the records’ centre grooves are played. The last of the thirty-four records is only captured for a third of its rotation.
When all the records’ centre grooves have been over-laid, the resulting accumulated sound is allowed to play for a short while before the loop pedal’s parameters are altered and the sound is faded out.
At the end of the performance, which typically lasts between seventeen to twenty minutes, the loop pedal is turned off and the turntable is stopped.
Musique concrète is music constructed by mixing recorded sounds, first developed by experimental composers in the 1940s.
SEAN DOWER is an artist who lives in London. He is the 2019 Henry Moore Institute Fellow.