Making music into an object – the central genius of recording – could be a wonderful thing. But the CD was always somewhat utilitarian as a distribution mechanism, with its easily-splintered plastic jewel case and inserted artwork that paled next to the grand visions of the LP.
Moldover is the latest artist to experiment with ways of re-imagining the musical object. Already a fan of custom sonic circuitry, he made his CD into a circuit board. Some of it is just aesthetic, like the printed lettering. But there is also integrated noise-making circuitry for a very simple optical Theremin (well, at least, a light sensor-driven oscillator), plus a headphone jack. There’s actually quite a lot of function you can get out of that when plugging into a computer.
The album itself is comprised jazzy bleepy jams (in varying proportions). You do pay for this deluxe, handmade circuit goodness. The US$25 “Pocket Edition” seems to be the sweet spot, with a pocketable version of the circuit board. It still has a built-in speaker, turning the jewel case into self-sufficient sonic hardware instead of a throwaway. The $50 version comes with the full custom-printed circuit board for the track listing, but you can’t pocket it, which means you have exactly $25 and one custom Theremin less in your pocket.
Check out the music and purchases at Moldover’s site:
The joy of being on YouTube is you get strange comments like this:
Who let you out? of your mom’s basement? Go back to building lego trainsets to transport your cocoa from the kitchen to your computer desk.
Hey – that’s a great idea, come to think of it.
Justifying the musical object can sometimes get ridiculous, but so long as there are genuinely creative ideas that fit the music, I think music may have a more interesting future in the post-industry world than it did before.
Updated – previous applications of this idea: I’m typing quickly before I head to lunch, and I commit the major sin of not mentioning our friend Tristan Perich’s infamous 2005 release 1-bit Music. Whereas Moldover is turning the packaging into an instrument and inserting a traditional CD, Tristan made the entire jewel box the playback mechanism – the album is embedded in the circuitry, and you listen to it directly.
An electronic circuit is assembled inside a CD case with a headphone jack on the side. The device plays back 40 minutes of low-fi 1-bit electronic music—the lowest possible digital representation of audio.
We talk a lot about novelty, but my hope is people rip off both Moldover’s and Tristan’s idea here – and invent their own twist on this concept. I’d love to have a shelf full of circuit CDs, instead of dead, silent plastic!