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Variations for Wreckords by NOMAGICMAN is the culmination of three years of work and experimentation within the Electronic Music department at Bard College. The music is built from the deconstruction and reconstruction of vinyl records, juxtaposed to create a new piece of music unique from the original material. My experimentation with vinyl manipulation started as a class project and quickly became a passion. Since that class, this form of work has turned into my primary academic focus and has allowed me to intertwine an interest in visual art into my senior project.
This specific manipulation process was initially inspired by the work of visual artist and composer Christian Marclay, who popularly debuted this technique in the 1980s. I was drawn in by the physicality of the process as different from the often lifeless and detached experience of working with a DAW. I started out using saws and scissors to make cuts in the vinyl; this method proved to be very unwieldy and unpredictable. While this led to some very interesting and sporadic grooves, the process wasted a lot of vinyl and thus was not sustainable in the long term. Since then I streamlined the process. Instead of making rough cuts I took a much more methodical approach. I started by measuring the vinyl, then tracing a line in Sharpie to denote cuts. From there, I made an initial cut in the vinyl before heating up my box cutter and making my final cuts. While I started out using tape to bind the various pieces of vinyl together, I came to use a hot glue gun that, while messy, gave me desirable results. I found the troubleshooting highly effective and was able to develop a precise method by the end of the project.
I debuted the process in the fall of 2019 at my moderation concert. The concert reflected where I was musically at the time. The themes were hip hop, ambient, free jazz and soul and Avant Garde composers like John Cage and Christian Marclay. The recording and DJing of Wreckords in accompaniment with other sampling within the DAW was the amalgamation all these influences and created an interesting mix of digital and analog sounds.
Although, I enjoyed where I was sonically at my moderation performance when I decided to make an album for my senior project, I knew I wanted the sounds to be completely recorded from Wreckords. While I dabbled with midi performance and sample triggering leading up to the week before the album was due I decided to follow my initial intuition and have the entire composition be sourced from layered recordings, with minimal mixing and effects to accentuate what is interesting about the raw and unpredictable sounds.
Variations for Wreckords is a 40-minute LP consisting of four tracks. The tracks are titled Variation 1-4 as each song is an exploration into a unique sonic world, overwhelmed by countless sources of music being cut and pasted into a new unrecognizable composition. I started making Wreckords from old 45s I had lying around my house; but after conversations with my advisor, Sarah Hennies, I decided it would be interesting to curate my Wreckords with the music of the people who inspired me such as Pierre Henry, Max Neuhaus, and Harry Partch. Additionally, I decided to try to make Wreckordscompletely out of percussion to act as accompaniment and to add to another layer to the natural grooves and loops formed by the cracks in the vinyl. These ideas formed the cornerstone of the experimentation I did with sample layering and lead to unique combinations such as the juxtaposition of the creaking from Variations for a Door and a Sighand Adina Howard acapellas.
This album is a culmination of three years of work and experimentation within the world of vinyl. Additionally, the process of working through my senior project sonically pushed what I thought my practice was and where my place was in the music making world. While my day-to-day musical practice is situated in somewhat popular music, my roots in music appreciation stem from Free Jazz and the Avant Garde. Making Variations for Wreckords took me on a journey that reoriented what I found valuable in music and art and allowed me to re-explore all the different musical forms I loved. Despite the album not being a conventionally easy listening experience, I have found much value in the sonic world that I have created, and I hope it can provide listeners with the same cathartic experience it has for me.
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Kaminoff, Peter Akoni, "Variations for Wreckords" (2021). Senior Projects Spring 2021. 348.
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