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You Sound Like a Broken Record

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September 24, 2014 by Richard Elliott

Paul Nataraj, a doctoral student at the University of Sussex, gave a fascinating paper on his research during the Musical Materialities conference. During his talk, Paul handed round some of the etched vinyl records he has produced as part of his project and also played a video showing him at work on one of the records. Paul’s talk was entitled ‘You Sound Like a Broken Record: An Interrogation of the Ontological Resonances of Music Ownership in Analogue and Digital Consumptive Practices’. he has kindly provided a link to the video used in his talk and provided a text to accompany it below.

‘You Sound Like a Broken Record’ by Paul Nataraj

This project is multidisciplinary as I’m attempting to bring together elements of cultural studies, sound art and music composition. In the first two areas of the research I have collected interviews with a varied range of people who are willing to give away a record that they feel has a great significance in their lives. Subsequently I create a palimpsest by inscribing this story back onto the surface of the record, the process of which is shown in this video piece. This act of vandalism is a way of manifesting the hidden material and sonic potentialities of the format, and instantiates the tensions inherent in our personal relationships with music, that change over time and through the adoption of new technologies. The work is grounded in the relationship music listeners have with objects of listening, specifically vinyl in this case, and how this relationship changes over the life cycle of ownership.

The work also interrogates what creative and communicative potentials are lost in discarding the physical format, and in what ways could this format be re-appropriated through the prism of the personal in this new digital environment? I wanted to try and find the one significant story that is entombed in the grooves, and shrouded in the sleeve of the record, and explore how this could provide some insights into the way popular music inscribes itself into the very fabric of our lives and provides a point of departure from the banality of the post industrial and simultaneously produces knotty relationships with the authentic visioning of our present and past selves.

I also wanted to explore the materiality of the records themselves, as sound carriers, sound producers and potential sites for artistic and musical interventions that could create new ways of approaching a critical understanding of this object, and our everyday use of it.


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