The method enables us to engrave wave forms on a surface of diverse materials such as paper, wood, acrylic, and leather without prior acoustic information (i.e. digital audio data). The results could be played with standard record players. We present the method with its technical specification and explain our initial trials with examples. The work examines the role of musical reproduction in the age of personal fabrication.
We've uploaded some of our initial trials to the Thingiverse as well as the Vimeo.
Cutting a record with a Laser cutter:
Cutting a record with a Paper cutter:
Special thanks to Yuki Kimpara, Iori Iwashima, Satoe Doi, and Daichi Ando for their help with this project.
Here's a video that gives a whole process of the method as a form of performance.
Step 1: Background
In 1923, László Moholy-Nagy, master at the bauhaus, proposed to produce a record without prior acoustic information. It is not clear whether he succeeded or not to achieve the anticipated results, however, the coming practitioners followed his notion with a knife to form different rhythmic patterns on the surface of record (Thomas Brinkmann, Klick, 2000), or with a second hole to rotate the record off center to induce variations in pitch and speed (Non, Pegan Muzak, 1978). You could read more stories at Philip Samartzis's Surface Noize. In this instructables, we propose an alternative method, which legitimately follows the notion with a help of vector graphics software and current cutting machines.
Analog records have its origin in 1858, the invention of Phonoautograph by Leon Scott. At the moment the device only could transform the vibration of sound into graphical forms, however, after over a century, researchers renewed the history of earliest audio recording by decoding the sound from its graphical forms (more information at Archaeologist of Sound by Ron Cowen). In 1878, Frank Lambert made the talking clock, the first machine, which could play back the inscribed sound into lead with its own mechanism. After few months, Thomas Edison made the Phonograph, which record and reproduce (mainly) voices with a vertically vibrated stylus and a tin foil on a cylinder. In 1887, Emile Berliner proposed the Gramophone to record sounds on a disc. The Gramophone used a flat disk rotated on a horizontal plate as a recording surface. In its recording, a vibration of air according to time (i.e. sound) is converted into a horizontal vibration of stylus to etch a groove into the rotated surface. In play back, the procedure works in a reverse order. The stylus moves along the groove and the vibration is mechanically / electronically amplified to produce a monophonic sound (Figure). The mechanism also allowed multiple duplications with casting technique.
After the Gramophone, the basic mechanism of record continued for a century with several inventions and experiments. For example, the change of diameters and rotational speeds, the appearance of 45/45 stereophonic recording in 1950's, and a laser turntable in 1980's. Diverse materials were tested for the disc include not only standard shellac and vinyl but also other experimental stuff such as rice cake in 1920's, chocolate, or ice. In the late 1960's to 1970's, Dubplate was come from a reggae music scene. It uses an acetate disc, a recordable fragile disc originally invented for testing purpose with cutting machine. They used the disc to produce an original version (i.e. mixing) for their sound system. The culture of making a unique record has been continued since then such as a building of hand made cutting machine on a CD, or 3D Printed Record.