Intricately carved vintage vinyl records

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46 Responses to “Intricately carved vintage vinyl records”

  1. Funkf00t says:

    ‘Mum, dad, what are those big black plates in the attic?’.

  2. Dave Faris says:

    That’s gonna make listening to that record pretty difficult.

  3. m in athens says:

    Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, sure, but I don’t see how this is an improvement. They’re kind of glumphy, and I like records, so Do Not Want. I’m sure it’s really time consuming and difficult, but still….

  4. animationarchive says:

    Media is more than a physical object- it’s an idea. To see a great idea defaced, even if it has little monetary value, is galling. Let’s tear up Shakespere and make confetti to celebrate the end of culture.

    P.S. Carl Fenton had a good dance band. Ths rcrd ws crtnly lt f fn bfr th jrk dstryd t wth hs thrd grd crft prjct.

    • scifijazznik says:

      I’m a little confused by your first post. On one hand, you say that “Media is more than a physical object- it’s an idea,” while at the same time bemoaning the fact someone is re-purposing a physical object.

      The music Carl Felton made is the idea. The 78 in question is the object, not the idea. If I cut up a few Shakespeare collections, the idea of Shakespeare and Shakespeare’s ideas don’t simply vanish. In fact, I could make the argument that Shakespeare’s usefulness has already been absorbed into the culture and isn’t really needed anyway. At least not in book form– it’s all available online.

      You undoubetedly heard Carl Fenton somehow before this particular record was destroyed. And even if you hadn’t, would it really matter? The musicians that followed him absorbed his influence and went on to make original music.

      I’ve bought dozens of CDs that were mastered from 78s and acetates. While some of the music is good, very little of it is what I would consider truly great. Most of it is average, if I’m honest. Is the average music truly worth preserving just because it’s old?

      Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who currently runs an independent jazz label. I’m under no illusion that jazz will one day be more or less a museum piece. Just because I beleive certain artists are worth documenting, sales would suggest very, very few others agree.

      However, because everything is recorded digitally, I don’t have to worry about the quality of the masters degrading. So if, in 100 years, someone decides that what I’ve recorded needs to be heard by the world, they can hear it very much as it sounded the day it was recorded. Therefore, I think digital is better than records.

    • ill lich says:

      There was no actual Carl Fenton– it was a made up name used by the studio for different amalgams of dance bands under the direction of one or two different bandleaders for the sole purpose of making records. True enough, some of those sides were pretty good, but we have no idea what kind of condition this particular disc was in before he carved it.

      50 years from now will someone be giving an artist a hard time because he used piles of Christina Aguilera cds to make a sculpture?

      • Rich Keller says:

        “50 years from now will someone be giving an artist a hard time because he used piles of Christina Aguilera cds to make a sculpture?”

        An artist like as Brian Dettmer? He uses cassette tapes.

        http://www.boingboing.net/2007/11/02/rams-head-made-from.html

        m in athens – I wondered how much culture will be lost because it’s currently in digital format. There’s so much being constantly produced. Who decides what gets saved and how it gets saved?

  5. Rich Keller says:

    They look like doilies carved by termites – delicately decayed. The irretrevable loss of information on the record makes these more poignant to me. But are all recordings worth keeping forever? Will attachements to old things keep us from developing new things?

    To paraphrase Stephen Wright, we can’t preserve everything, where would we keep it?

    I also like how thought provoking they are.

  6. animationarchive says:

    Those arguing that digital is better than records, I defy you to find this particular song on CD. This is not the same as making a potato chip bowl out of Frampton Comes Alive. Acoustically recorded dance band music is very scarce in modern transfers.

  7. Gloria says:

    Really? I kind of loved these on sight. I like the biological/geological themes he’s stuck to on several of these — a lovely way to express time and history.

    @4: “I like records.” Granted, but I’m not sure how that’d *necessarily* make you Not Want. I love books, but I appreciate many artpieces that use boosk as their medium.

  8. jeligula says:

    Not vinyl. It’s an old 78. Probably shellac.

  9. m in athens says:

    Well, spend much time around archives and you’ll start to feel the haphazardness of it all. Not that there aren’t tremendous efforts made to identify and preserve materials judged to be important, but more that something even surviving to this point is really kind of a crapshoot. Any physically readable medium has a distinct advantage in this regard. Sure it might get moldy or brittle or torn, but you’ll still be able to do something with it, and if it’s important enough, somebody will.

    The who decides question, well, that’s the big one, isn’t it? This is where I’ve got to put in my plug for supporting libraries and cultural heritage institutions, because that’s where people spend their whole professional lives trying to answer that in a responsible and thoughtful way. Needless to say, the more people out there who are able to take care of their own historical objects they feel are significant (photos, films, records, videos, tapes, hard drives, floppies) to give them a shot at longevity the better.

    There is also tons of digitization being done to improve access (these are the kind of projects I work on, though I’m going to be kind and leave my employer out of it) and make otherwise difficult to access, one of a kind materials usable (mostly for free) by any researcher anywhere. This also helps preserve the original by allowing it to be handled less often and spend more of its time in a lovely, secure, climate controlled, dark place where it will likely be around long after most of us have shuffled off.

    I don’t necessarily have the same degree of confidence about my pdfs and mp3s, though there are standards in place that make this increasingly likely, either through format migration or platform emulation. I’ve gone on a bit, but one thing that often gets overlooked (though not so much by the boingboing world, which is pretty savvy about this already) is that all this stuff doesn’t just magically show up on the internets– it’s time and money and commitment, and as the expectation that things be available online grows, the public support for the institutions that do the work often lags behind, because hey, you can just get all that stuff online, anyway.

    Oh, and a plug for Home Movie Day: http://homemovieday.com/

  10. TheGZeus says:

    The destruction of history is never beautiful.

    Records should be listened to by people who like them, not destroyed for hipster amusement.

    • Gloria says:

      Hm. Spoken like a reactionary. It reminds me of people who automatically defend buildings because they’re old, rather than because they have any historical merit (which, admittedly, is subjective).

      I strongly believe that preservation is important for whole cultural records, but I think a thoughtful, selective attitude is critical and practical in an age when we produce so much. Not to forget that what we decide is “worth” keeping is another record of value for posterity. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say that that a mindfully curated collection of records can provide as much value, if not as much variety, as a pack-rat mountain.

      Of course, we can certainly debate all day about who has the right to choose what stays and what goes, and whether we have the right to decide for future generations what they see of the past.

      Anyway, to decide that a record is worth preserving just because of its age is pretty much just as extreme and myopic as your stereotype (wildly out of left field, might I add) of the hipster disdain for the record, since it stems from the same obsession about age. It’s old, therefore it’s worth keeping; it’s old, therefore it needs to be thrown away.

      • freshacconci says:

        Wow, that’s a lot of words.

        I think the main issue that most are having is not that everything old must be preserved but that a) old shellac record are beautiful on their own; and b) this crappy design is hardly an improvement.

        Look, shellac records are not worth much. I have a few hundred that I bought for $25. All the valuable stuff was already picked up by the Robert Crumbs of the world in the 1960s. My main problem with this is that it just seems so pointless to transform something beautiful (and industrial design objects can be beautiful) and “craft” them up as if the original wasn’t enough.

        It seems like pointless busy-work and not very well executed. Sandbox World’s link at #16 is much better.

        • Gloria says:

          “Wow, that’s a lot of words.”

          Uh. Sorry?

          “a) old shellac record are beautiful on their own; and b) this crappy design is hardly an improvement.”

          Which is, granted, your prerogative. I’m presenting my perspective — I think the designs are quite nice and thoughtful.

          I don’t think an added-value design necessarily diminishes the original product either. And as I said, part of the reason why I’m more relaxed about this — because I enjoy a lot of industrial and vintage design as well — is because there are records to go around. The existence of these carved records doesn’t stop us from enjoying other many, many preserved shellac records.

          “My main problem with this is that it just seems so pointless to transform something beautiful (and industrial design objects can be beautiful) and ‘craft’ them up as if the original wasn’t enough.”

          Interesting. I don’t think that’s the comment.

          “It seems like pointless busy-work and not very well executed. Sandbox World’s link at #16 is much better.”

          Those clocks are quite pretty, but not especially thoughtful as to the medium. To me, they are more the “insufficient originals” you’re talking about — they’ve been made into another thing, another product for a wholly different purpose. I mean, I guess you can say they’re also a clever take on records, time, and history, but to say that by turning a record into a clock is too on-the-nose for me.

          The designs on the records here, to me, actually integrate the records themselves. I think they highlight the object, rather than diminish it.

          The designs look like geological strata of rock, worn away by time, or bones, or vines and old plants. They’re elaborate but remind me of something essential and basic to the world. (Isn’t music like that?)

          I also like how the designs, like @20, sort of look vaguely Victorian, not just like the labels, but because it also reminds me of a bygone era that was just becoming fascinated with the origins of life — fossils, etc.

          Anyway, that’s why I don’t feel that these are ugly or destructive.

        • TheGZeus says:

          Yes.
          Your points are valid as well.
          We both win!
          We both double our orphans!

      • TheGZeus says:

        Lovely that you opened with an epithet. Ad hominem attacks are a great way to show how weak your argument is, so thanks.

        You might love a record that I’d want to piss on, shit on, and burn. That’s the reason I won’t do it.

        There was a copy of the worst single from the worst album by ‘My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult’ at a record store (at the time, a number of their releases weren’t re-released, and I’m something of a stickler for complete sets), I’d been planning on buying it so I could destroy it for some cathartic release of the rage I felt from buying the album full-price when it was re-issued.
        A friend explained the above concept to me, and I put it back in the rack.

        Musical taste is opinion. I listen regularly to stuff people I know would have thrown in the garbage, and the reverse is true.
        I’d never destroy a Lady Gaga album (though I did punch a friend because she popped up on his last.fm station), but I never want to hear her music again.

        “Anyway, to decide that a record is worth preserving just because of its age is pretty much just as extreme and myopic as your stereotype (wildly out of left field, might I add) of the hipster disdain for the record, since it stems from the same obsession about age. It’s old, therefore it’s worth keeping; it’s old, therefore it needs to be thrown away.”

        …and a strawman argument! WHOO! You’re being really generous!
        I never said “it’s old, thus it’s important”.
        I said destroying history is never beautiful.
        It exists, it’s a _record_ of something that someone thought was important enough to preserve and reproduce.
        You don’t know what will be important some day.
        I’m sure that peasants and artisans on pottery wheels in Mesopotamia had no clue that the things they were selling to make a living (by providing storage for goods and foods) would be of value without use in the future.
        There are horseback riding spurs on display in museums.

        Entropy is unstoppable, but that doesn’t mean we should glorify it.

        • Gloria says:

          “Lovely that you opened with an epithet. Ad hominem attacks are a great way to show how weak your argument is, so thanks.”

          Not really. You’d be using that “attack” to describe my ability to construct an argument, rather than actually looking at my argument. What does an insult have to do with the validity of my argument, which should stand alone?

          “…and a strawman argument! WHOO! You’re being really generous! I never said ‘it’s old, thus it’s important.’ I said destroying history is never beautiful.”

          That’s my point: You’re equating an old artefact with history. It existed, but that doesn’t mean we have an obligation to preserve it. That was my leap anyway, and if you disagree, then I respectfully acknowledge that.

          “It exists, it’s a _record_ of something that someone thought was important enough to preserve and reproduce.”

          Yes. Or perhaps somebody sold a record.

          “You don’t know what will be important some day. I’m sure that peasants and artisans on pottery wheels in Mesopotamia had no clue that the things they were selling to make a living (by providing storage for goods and foods) would be of value without use in the future. There are horseback riding spurs on display in museums.”

          Ah, yes, because that’s the beauty of it. *We* decided *now* that those horseback riding spurs are important — they only survived time by accident. It’s all an interaction through time. I don’t see how repurposing the records above kills that; future generations will see what we did and take away meaning that comments on our period in history now. That’s also a historical record.

          This repurposed record, as it stands, while we lose the music itself (if it isn’t surviving in another form), is also historical. The future could look back and say, “Why did they think a record was a suitable material? What does that say about how this person perceived artistic integrity, the importance of physical objects/ideas, and how was this characteristic or not of the time period?” A historian could get a LOT from this record — just maybe not the music itself.

          So no, I don’t think we’re even necessarily destroying any history here. We may have lost a bit of a specific type of information, but there’s definitely history being *created.*

    • scifijazznik says:

      Tell that to Christian Marclay, who has been destroying records for the better part of 30 years, all for the better, I would argue.

      As someone who spent his formative years working in more record stores than most people under the age of 20 have ever even visited, I’m qualified to say there are plenty of records that would benefit from either the artistic treatment shown in this post or just being dynamited for amusement. While working at used buying counters, the copies of Frampton Comes Alive and Rumours I rejected would wrap around the world. And that’s only the F’s. And I didn’t include Dan Fogelberg.

      I get the vinyl nostalgia. I grew up with it and buying records is a huge part of my life. But what we have now IS better. What people bitch about — that vinyl “sounds warmer, dude” — is a bunch of clap-trap.

      So, listen to your records if you like. But honestly, that doesn’t make you any less of a “hipster” than those who would re-purpose of even destroy them.

      • TheGZeus says:

        “Tell that to Christian Marclay, who has been destroying records for the better part of 30 years”
        I will if I meet him, and I’ll probably email him later today. Thanks for mentioning him.

        “As someone who spent his formative years working in more record stores than most people under the age of 20 have ever even visited, I’m qualified…”
        You were around records, so you can decide what’s valuable to posterity? No personal offense intended, but I think people in music (especially resale) are the _least_ qualified. The environment lends itself to galvinasation of one’s already over-strong opinions on music. Being forced to deal with (mostly pop) music _all day_ in one way or another, you’re bound to get sick to death of stuff. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t have historical value.

        “While working at used buying counters, the copies of Frampton Comes Alive and Rumours I rejected would wrap around the world. And that’s only the F’s. And I didn’t include Dan Fogelberg.”
        How many of those were in pristine condition? I bet most were played-to-hell… because people loved those records. Over-played != bad/worthess.

        “I get the vinyl nostalgia.”
        Strawman argument. I’m against destroying CDs and Tapes, too. CDs, DVDs and other digital formats are less important. It’s just packaging. The data can be stored in other ways once it’s digital. Any digital format needs to be decoded. Analog records are playable as long as the grooves work.

        “I grew up with it and buying records is a huge part of my life. But what we have now IS better. What people bitch about — that vinyl “sounds warmer, dude” — is a bunch of clap-trap.”
        Is it possible to get sound from a new, high-grade LP that’s better than a CD? Yes. It takes a multi-thousand dollar player (or a very old one with a 100usd head). That gear’s _far_ overpriced, but there’s nothing between stuff slathered in snake-oil and crap any more…
        Is it 2000usd better? No. It’s probably 10% better. Totally not worth it. Sorry, that was a hair worth splitting.

        “So, listen to your records if you like. But honestly, that doesn’t make you any less of a “hipster” than those who would re-purpose of even destroy them.”
        I don’t listen to them much any more. I just… keep them safe.
        Buy LP. Look at fondly (the cover art is big. Nice to look at. I have LPs hanging on my wall… I have multiples of those albums). Put away. Download torrent of audio files. I bought a license to listen and you can’t copyright scratches that came later, so it’s not a new work.
        I spend about 3-5usd for an album that would cost 12-20usd new.
        win.

        • scifijazznik says:

          “I will if I meet him, and I’ll probably email him later today. Thanks for mentioning him.”

          Let me know how that works out. I actually did meet him at the retrospective at the Hammer Museum a few years ago. He’s a swell guy.

          “How many of those were in pristine condition? I bet most were played-to-hell… because people loved those records. Over-played != bad/worthess.”

          Actually, most of them that came in were in good to excellent condition. But it didn’t matter because we couldn’t give away the ones we already had.

          “You were around records, so you can decide what’s valuable to posterity? No personal offense intended, but I think people in music (especially resale) are the _least_ qualified. ”

          So you’ll dismiss the the expertise of the people who actually work with the stuff because…why exactly? And actually, the “environment” of buying used LPs or whatever wasn’t and I imagine still isn’t about what I think is cool, it’s about what would sell, ergo, value. Believe me, anything I wanted personally never made it to the rack.

          “Is it possible to get sound from a new, high-grade LP that’s better than a CD? Yes….”

          Actually, you’re wrong. What you’re hearing when you listen to LPs that give them their “warmth,” no matter how obnoxiously expensive the gear, are the imperfections that don’t exist with “perfect” digital copies. So, what matters is the perception. It just so happens that most people, myself included, prefer imperfect sound to perfect sound. I think if you need a $20,000 system to enjoy the music, you’re missing the point.

          “I don’t listen to them much any more. I just… keep them safe….”

          My point was you were calling those who destroy LPs or make art out of them or whatever “hipsters.” I’d argue more “hipsters” collect vinyl as prestige objects than destroy or repurpose them.

          • TheGZeus says:

            Read up on ‘aliasing’ and ‘harmonics’.
            Get up to 96khz, and digital wins hands down, but 44.1 is good to maybe 16k, and that’s well within the average human hearing range.

            I said ‘high-grade, new’. It will be more accurate to the source material overall, but the problem will be intermittent. CDs just contain less data. Yes, analog information is data, and can be represented in finite terms, with real scientific research leading up to it.

            I don’t think it’s a good idea to print LPs, really. I don’t think that as long as there’s an internet, nothing of value will ever again vanish, musically, and vinyl is a finite resource. Small batches will end up in the national archives in case of the apocalypse.

  11. ranomatic says:

    …carved by hand using a dremel…

    I would not count using Dremel as “carved by hand.” I understand this is meant to differentiate it from assembly-line carving (which would probably also use a person’s hand and a Dremel) or CNC machine work. Clearly I am well on my way to grumpy-old-man-dom.

  12. S2 says:

    I like records, too; but not all of them rate as priceless relics. Even though I change needles on my Victrola VV XI after every two sides and every record has been NittyGritty’d clean, I’ve got a bunch o’ disks that are just worthless — dupes, boring labels, too scuffed to play well, or just plain played out. For those records this seems like a fine ‘Viking funeral’ ::sigh:: if only I had the skill/talent to do this kind of work…

  13. rob1000 says:

    Sorry, but this is right up there with clipping the keys off vintage typewriters to make jewelry.

  14. Sandbox World says:

    At least Estonian designer Pavel Sidorenko gives his records a better look.
    http://sandboxworld.com/wall-clocks-made-from-vinyl-records/

  15. Anonymous says:

    Holy F*CK it looks like a fricken OREO

  16. Rich Keller says:

    My previous post got eaten by moths or something. I hope I’m not double posting.

    I saw a DIY show years ago where they suggested using old 78s to make shellac for wood. They were smashing them like they were breaking peanut brittle.

    There are some Carl Fenton recordings available on archive.org, but not this particular one. It happens to be the B side of “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise.” He’s a featured artist on Radio Dismuke on Loudcity.

    http://www.loudcity.com/stations/radio-dismuke/tune_in

    Kurt Nauck, ( http://www.78rpm.com/ ) had a copy of it in one of his recent auctions, so it’s not lost forever, just yet. All we need is for someone to digitize it, remove the excess noise and put it online.

  17. Bat Guano says:

    This is just goddamn sad. Pre-WWII shellac have a beauty all their own, mostly because even the most scratched and worn can be played. At least MP3s won’t have to endure the fate of being carved into an ugly sculpture.

  18. Bat Guano says:

    And that is a damn ugly design. Looks like the mourning shall Grandma’s kept since the Civil War. Common, granny! It’s the JAZZ AGE! Get with the times!

  19. Thorzdad says:

    I like these. I think his lacy carving style compliments the ornate, almost Victorian, style of the labels.

  20. Southie says:

    This is just a small part of what this artist creates, let him experiment. His other work is absolutely stunning. I can’t wrap my head around the mindset that would get upset about defacing old records that could potentially have ended up in the trash if the artist hadn’t decided to explore aesthetically. Lighten up!

  21. Anonymous says:

    But don’t these constitute “derivative works”? Ducks, runs away….

  22. Anonymous says:

    oh no! Not Truly By Carl Fenton’s Orchestra!!! Ive been seaching for that one for years!!! And now it’s gone forever! Alack!

  23. voguecoco says:

    this picture like ancient times’s coin

  24. ill lich says:

    I knew a NYC DJ who every couple years had to literally throw out several crates of records, popular standbys that were always in his crates just got destroyed by constant playing and back-cueing and scratching in clubs. Vinyl and shellac do not last forever if played often. My dad gave me a box of his old 78′s and they were nearly unplayable after years of storage in the attic with no sleeves– coated with dust, and destroyed by years of heavy Victrola needles (and besides, they were mostly very lame polkas anyway.) I work for a record company and we scrap pallets of vinyl every year, they are melted down to make more records.

    I love vinyl, and know that collectors provide a valuable service– a huge number of reissues are mastered from vinyl sources nowadays, since the original mastertapes have disappeared or (thanks to defective manufacturing processes at one of the major tape makers) have fallen apart over the years– even something as relatively recent as the early Bad Brains recordings had to be remastered from vinyl. In the case of acetates there are no master tapes– they were all cut direct to disc.

    But the bottom line is that there are still a lot of records that are either unplayable or not worth archiving (thrift stores across America are filled with Mitch Miller and Barbara Streisand LPs just waiting to be put to better use.) So I have no problem with an artist re-using a handful of old records, as long as he has the foresight to research and see if that disc isn’t the last known copy of something rare and sought after.

  25. BootsyBouncer says:

    The carving work is nice I suppose, but looking at these things makes me feel incredibly sad… I can’t get over it either. All I can think about is the lost information that was on those records and is now irretrievable. In each record’s case, some human beings made an expression and found a way to preserve it for other human beings to experience; this was the ‘life’ of the record. It was ‘alive’ in a way because it was carrying information. Now the records are dead.

    To paint a metaphor, it’s as if he went out and shot a rabbit, a squirrel and wallaby, brought them home and mounted them on little astroturf bases dressed up in little footballer costumes.

    If the his purpose was to make us meditate on the value of information and how rare and wonderful it is that an expressive species exists, then these carved records are ingenious. I don’t imagine that he was thinking about that, however.

  26. m in athens says:

    I’ve got nothing else to say about the aesthetics of this particular piece, but, I do have to point out that digital, at least right now, is nobody’s preservation method. The odds of being able to play an intact 78 in 200 years are way greater than the odds of being able to play an mp3. Sure, records scratch, but you can play a scratchy record way more easily than you can recover a corrupted or physically defective hard drive. The problems inherent in archiving and preserving digital artifacts are huge. This is why, though many institutions are still working (feverishly, even) on how to preserve digital cultural materials, analog is still the preservation standard for things that were not born digital. Don’t get me wrong– making cultural materials available online is what I do for a living, and I really like it and think it’s important work, but large scale persistence of materials that exist as digital originals is by no means a given.

  27. nixiebunny says:

    That’s shellac, not vinyl. Think 1930s. It’s a 78.

  28. urbanspaceman says:

    I’m a thrift-shopper, and I come across dozens of what I consider to be useless white-bead pop 78s (much of whose material can now be found on vinyl or CD reissues). I find dozens of mainstream LPs for which I wouldn’t give you even the 99 cents the thrift shop charges for them.

    But I still cannot abide “repurposing” records, whether it’s making salad bowls out of LPs or filigrees out of 78s. And unless you really know music, how can you be certain that you won’t accidentally end up ruining something truly rare, or truly special to someone however much it doesn’t match with your own musical tastes? (That Brunswick 10-incher in the illustration is about 85 years old).

    Make art out of art materials. Not old sound recordings.
    And on the subject of record trashing:

    In one of the most controversial chapters in its history, RCA Victor decided to demolish its Camden NJ warehouse in the early 1960s. This four-level archive held catalog and vault masters (mostly wax and metal discs) and matrix ledgers, among which were thousands of unique test pressings and lacquer discs of containing alternate takes and rehearsal recordings of its artists, dating back to the 1920s. A few days before the demolition took place, staff from the French Vogue label were allowed to rescue some jazz material, and a group of collectors from the USA and Europe were allowed to go through the doomed warehouse and salvage whatever they could carry out with them for their personal collections. The building was then demolished by explosives with most of the archive still inside and the rubble was then bulldozed into the Delaware River and a pier was built on top of it. The destruction of masters and discs came back to haunt RCA, notably in 1973 when the company decided to release all of Rachmaninoff’s recordings on LP to celebrate the centennial of the composer’s birth, and was forced to seek the help of record collectors to obtain materials.

    (From http://www.milesago.com/Industry/rca.htm)

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