Christian Marclay’s vinyl schizoid paradise


In experiencing this piece, I tried to un-remember the description I read about how Marclay created the recorded performance, Record Without a Cover, in part by drilling off-axis holes into vinyl records, thereby creating a wobbly effect (Concannon, 179). With this abridged version posted on YouTube, I was at first unsuccessful. In my mind’s eye, I kept trying to visualize how the record would appear, spinning lopsided on the turntable. I began again and closed my eyes, focusing purely on the sound and the physical sensation the acoustics created in my head. My stream of consciousness – almost entirely causal listening response – as follows…

begins with the glide of a needle slipping onto/into grooved vinyl… pleasant static in my ears, equally, on both sides… the muffled blip beat of a something like a chord or a drum or a drum chord if there is such a thing… bomp  bomp ba bomp… things that sound like miniature drums going back and forth between my ears while the needle static continues to resolutely straddle my left and right ears… a tambourine?… okay, probably yes as there are now the definite sounds of drums and other percussion instruments… now a flute… chimes… maracas?… some kind of horn building… many instruments from an orchestra building together, but each with their own itinerary… now moving into music from the 1960s… samples… television sounds? something on a loop..

I started off trying to determine if the music was being recorded live. I long ago lost the physical sensation of the pleasant static in my ears and became rabidly intent on attempting in vain to establish the individual sources of sonic onslaught. It is now apparent the sounds are sampled and schizophrenic, but not in a bad way…

all the while, the constant ‘beat’ of the needle on vinyl continues… although when the musical cacophony gets crazy loud, it is impossible to distinguish the subtle scratch-bump of the needle… a short repeating chaotic noise that sounds like an alarm when repeated over and over… something being played backward, but just a snippet… and then into a bit of reverb (only the tiniest bit) and more horns… string instruments and a sassy horn demanding to be noticed… distressing higher pitched tones I cannot quite place, something like an altered piano that eventually devolves into computer bleeps, but only for a moment… chaos chaos chaos with a piano in there somewhere… a thrashing organ, gasping and dying… the optimistic soundtrack to the beginning of a show (a game show?) layered with something bubbling or something that sounds like something bubbling… horns announce, cymbals crash, the Calvary horn of men sending themselves and their horses into battle… more symphony… a xylophone… and then Marclay (presumably) scratching like he wishes he were DJ QBert…

I love that the record intentionally does not have a cover so that it may acquire the patina-sound of ever more scratches and sonic individuality.



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