In the swift whirl of time music is a constant, reminding us of what we were and of that toward which we aspire. Art thou troubled? Music will not only calm, it will ennoble thee.
—Ralph Ellison, Living With Music
I have been acquainting myself with my small vinyl collection of Jean-Luc Ponty this week. Of the four albums of his that I own, I had previously only listened to one of them, and that was many years ago. His name had entered my radar sometime in my early twenties, in the fledgling phase of what would become a lasting affair with the music of Frank Zappa, and so, each time I spotted a Jean-Luc Ponty album I would diligently add it to my collection, assuming that one day I would fully appreciate his music without the psychological support of Frank Zappa’s presence.
If music has ennobled me, and I believe it has, it has nevertheless failed to equip me with the vocabulary to write about music. I have wanted for days to write you a poem about John McLaughlin’s Lotus Feet performed here with Jean-Luc Ponty and Zakir Hussain, but my desire to share the music and video has overwhelmed my patience. I will keep working on the poem, but in the meantime I would like simply to direct your gaze toward the radiance of John McLaughlin’s smile. If there is one thing I truly aspire to, it is to learn how to smile like that, again. Also, the music is painfully sublime:)
I’ve been immersing myself in the process of restoring order and playability to my extensive vinyl LP collection this month, while building an inexpensive stereo system to play them back on. Some of the records haven’t survived the 3 or 4 years of storage they were subjected to. They were all packed properly on their edges in boxes and kept off the ground so they wouldn’t get damp. Nevertheless, I’ve discovered a few that have developed milky swirls under the surface of the vinyl – presumably mould. A few have also grown bumps, which I believe is called vinyl cancer. In all my years of collecting vinyl – since my mid-teens – I haven’t encountered mould or cancer in my collection, so this has come as a bit of a shock to the system, and caused some regret for neglecting it for so long. Another thing I’ve noticed is that many of the record covers have come unglued along the bottom edge. Overall though I think most of it can be restored to life, and I’ve discovered some real treasures in the process.
One of those treasures is a collection of 130 LPs from the Australian World Record Club catalogue (of about 2000) that my Aunt Betty Harvey left me when she passed away a few years ago. They are in exceptional condition for the most part, and half the fun of sorting through these records has been in simply admiring the labels, cover art and reading the erudite descriptions that adorn the backs of the covers.
One of the covers that I’m rather taken with belongs to the Rossini box set, Il Barbiere Di Siviglia. Included is a “line-by-line libretto [linking] each phrase of the original text with an English singing version”. Not included is the name of the designer responsible for the cover! I haven’t been able to locate this art reproduced anywhere on the internet, so I’m no wiser. One of the designers who worked at the World Record Club studio in Melbourne has published ‘Its Another World Record — Album Cover Art’, celebrating their cover art designs of the late fifties and sixties. I have placed it on my list of books to acquire and read. I may find the answer there. In the meantime, I hope I’m not breaking any copyright rules by posting the image here for your enjoyment.
Now I’m going to listen to it! I listened to Liszt last night and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It seems an engaging visual and erudite description is all it took for me to discover the joys of classical and opera. I still like my folk and country rock though.
Your experimental poem in images, the light stripped back to its core, inspired me to compose some music so to speak.
I began by importing each of your images into Audacity as Raw Data, one image per track.
Light Stripped Back – The Audio
I then exported the composite out to .raw format (without adding any effects or adjustments), and experimented with various Byte per Pixel constructions and RGB arrangements until I had a couple of pleasing results in .bmp format. Then I went back to Audacity and did basically the same thing over and over except I rotated the images into different orientations before importing them to see what would happen.
I was surprised to learn that a single image can be listened to 36 000 different ways: rotated 0.01° right, 0.02° right, 0.03°… through 360°. For a three image recording that would be 36 000³, or 46 656 x 10⁹ ways to listen. Needless to say I didn’t muck around with all those fine details but went straight to the extremes with my experimentation: 45°, 90°, 135° etc. The resulting sound files were actually quite pleasant to listen to. A bit like a helicopter passing through a muffler.
After much fiddling and occasional visits to the hex editor to reconstruct bitmap headers or push pixels across the colour map, I had a series of three images to respond to you with. But then I thought, what if I put those three back into Audacity and export them back out again? So I did. And now I have four images to respond with!
Thanks for the materials and inspiration, Mark. I hope you find the results not only as aesthetically pleasing as I have, but also that the process reflects a kind of thematically responsive philosophy – On the light stripped back to its core.
On the light stripped back to its core