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The Art of Vinyl: Rethinking the LP

WNYC's Soterios Johnson talks to Arts Writer Carolina Miranda about how some artists—and one Brooklyn arts blogger—are incorporating vinyl into their work.

Thursday, November 18, 2010 - 12:00 AM

WNYC
Christian Marclay's carpet of vinyl LPs at PS1 in Queens, titled '2,822 Records.' (Carolina A. Miranda)

Vinyl has long been popular with music fans, who hail it for its retro caché and distinctive sound. But the form has also been popular with visual artists, who are using records in myriad ways.  Earlier this spring, artist Christian Marclay carpeted the entire floor of a gallery at PS1 in Queens with vintage LPs. Last year, at the New Museum, a young Colombian artist crafted an echo-ing record player out of three turntables that played a single melancholic bolero. And, just this fall, the Nasher Museum at Duke University devoted an entire exhibit to the ways in which the LP is used in art. Now Brooklyn blogger Paddy Johnson, of the contemporary art blog Art Fag City is turning the concept on its head: She's producing her own record devoted to the sounds of art. (Literally, it's called The Sound of Art.)

For her project, Johnson did an open call for sounds recorded in New York City art spaces, museum and galleries—and several dozen artists responded with recordings of carpenters hammering 10,000 nails, video game music and the disembodied, automated voice of a computer program speaking very sloooowly. (Full disclosure: I submitted audio of my beating heart, recorded during Christan Boltanski's show at the Park Avenue Armory.) Johnson then submitted the recordings to a group of DJs, who created mixes based on the sounds. One side of her LP is devoted to sound mixes from art spaces in Manhattan; the other, to mixes from Brooklyn. Johnson tells me that the Brooklyn side sounds a little more D.I.Y. (Which leads me to the question: If an ironic mustache had a sound, what would it be?)

Paddy Johnson 'The Sound of Art.'This week, Johnson is releasing a limited edition LP of these mixes, and she's celebrating that release with a concert on Thursday night at the Santos Party House, in which a line-up of local bands will incorporate these audio tidbits into their performances. (You can pick up the LP here, and tickets to the concert here.) For art nerds such as myself, the LP and the show will be a rare opportunity to enjoy the odd auditory experiences the world of art can provide.

But the burning question remains: What exactly does art sound like? Johnson, who spent weeks listening to original files and mixes and various combinations thereof, says that if she had to choose a single word, it'd be: "Mutable." Which makes me wonder if Rolling Stone should consider that as a category when doing its reviews.

Check out some of the tracks on The Sound of Art—or leave us a comment about what you think art sounds like.

100 carpenters banging in 10,000 nails:

Our arts writer Carolina Miranda's heart beat, recorded during Christan Boltanski's show at the Park Avenue Armory:

A choir of women singing a Jewish prayer:

Hosted by:

Soterios Johnson

Produced by:

Abbie Fentress Swanson

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Comments [1]

By the way, this is all kinds of amazing if you play all three sounds at once.

Nov. 18 2010 02:36 PM

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About Gallerina

Carolina A. Miranda is a regular contributor to WNYC and blogs about the arts for the station as "Gallerina." In addition to that, she contributes articles on culture, travel and the arts to a variety of national and regional media, including Time, ArtNews, Travel + Leisure and Budget Travel and Florida Travel + Life. She has reported on the burgeoning industry of skatepark design, architectural pedagogy in Southern California, the presence of street art in museums and Lima's burgeoning food scene, among many other subjects. In 2008, she was named one of eight fellows in the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program for her arts and architecture blog C-Monster.net, which has received mentions in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In January of 2010, the Times named her one of nine people to follow on Twitter. Got a tip? E-mail her at c [@] c-monster [dot] net

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