The Record Player Orchestra was originally conceived of as an installation of more than 100 record players with which participants could interact by going round these record players and placing their stylus on different tracks on a provided vinyl record. Whether individually or in groups, these participants would be able to play numerous sounds at the same time and create new combinations of sounds and rhythms.
In the Record Player Orchestra the record player becomes an instrument that can be played by placing a stylus on a vinyl record which will then play a sound. This physical engagement with the vinyl is key to the activity as sound is produced only when the stylus is physically placed on the vinyl record. No prior skill or expertise is needed to do this and, as with most aspects of the Record Player Orchestra, all participants are beginners at playing this instrument and all become more adept during their playing. By discovering how to play the record player, participants can start to understand the qualities and particularities of this instrument, what kind of playing might be possible and what might be more problematic.
I began this project wanting to bring together as many record players and their owners together for a day to admire the variety of these devices and the part they played in enabling millions of people to listen to and enjoy recorded sound. I wanted those that came to share the story of their record player, for each record player to be listened to and for all record players to be played at the same time.
I also recognised that I wanted participants to be able to engage in a shared activity in which no one had more skill or knowledge that anyone else, in which anyone could come up with an idea of what to do with the record players and be able to explore it, and for which there was no prescribed outcome for the activity. It would be an opportunity for anyone and everyone to experiment, to learn from this experimentation and to create something that would not have existed but for their involvement. I therefore created an event that invited anyone to bring their record players and turntables and play tracks on a vinyl record simultaneously with the other record players and turntables.
In considering how people could take part in the Record Player Orchestra, I realised that a common source of sounds would be needed so that combinations of sounds could be played together to produce harmonies or disharmonies. In early experiments, I realised that putting together tones to form chords worked particularly well but that trying to synchronise rhythms exposed the limitations of analogue technology, something I was keen to explore. I also recognised that a vinyl record would need to be provided for each of the record players and that this record needed to have sufficient material on it so that there was a great enough variety of sounds that could be combined.
The Record Player Orchestra meetings – the first was on the 20th April, 2013 – has been the best way to test how all this will work and to discover how the Record Player Orchestra can develop. The first meeting was a very enjoyable and creative day in which everyone played the record players and had the opportunity to experiment with the sounds and find out what could be done with them. Some participants came with compositions, others saw the potential and tried out something they thought of during the day.
Future meetings will be arranged at locations that anyone can propose and everything that comes out of these meetings will be placed on this blog.
Roger Clarke firstname.lastname@example.org