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The Art of Vinyl: Rethinking the LP

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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: