I had filed away my memory of Record Without a Cover in a brain-slot adjacent to Gary Dahl’s pet rock and The Nothing Book, the wordless bestseller from 1974. But then I read an interview between Marclay and musician/scholar David Toop,1 published in a book I recommend: Arcana III: Musicians on Music (Hips Road, 2008). It’s part of the Arcana series, edited by John Zorn, which is now up to its eighth (VIIIth?) volume.
Side A of Record Without a Cover features what sounds like several record players playing at the same time—just surface noise first, gradually increasing, then a slow crescendo of chaotic music and sounds. The B side has no grooves, just words written in a spiral, including the etched admonition to not store the record in a protective package. The goal is precisely to let it get scuffed and dirty so that the sound changes over time. Marclay writes:
Record Without a Cover changes as it gets damaged and these changes become part of the composition. The needle might skip or loop, or the surface might get so damaged that you can’t really listen to it or you’ll just hear fragments. . . .
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The magnificent eight
The Story of the Grateful Dead, a 14-LP, 8-album collection of Grateful Dead recordings with booklet and deluxe packaging, from Vinyl Me, Please (VMP-A006, 2020), is intended as a curated sampling of the high points in the Dead’s extensive catalog. The first seven albums were cut from analog tape, while Without a Net comes from the original digital master. The sound is breathtaking.
T+A Solitaire P headphones and HA 200 DACheadphone amplifier
What I categorize as mainstream, dealer-based, fancy-pants stream-ers and big-speakers audio is actually only the gold-plated tip of a gigantic asteroid-like monolith that extends (underground) from New York to Hong Kong, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica. This immense audio-social mass is mostly invisible to the Madison Avenue mainstream, but simple Google searches expose millions of proletarian audio-gear constructers (DIY’ers) working in shops, basements, and garages, scratch-building everything from turntables to tonearms to phono cartridges, to capacitors and vacuum tubes, to amplifiers, headphones, ribbon and electrostatic speakers.
MAKE MORE NOISE!
The title of this set—4 CDs and a book—comes from British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst’s call to arms for women to fight for their rights: “You have to make more noise than anybody else,” said Pankhurst, who died in 1928.
EDITOR’S PICK - RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Landscape into music
It says something about the power of music that some individuals fading into dementia can still recognize the music they knew earlier in their lives. Not to denigrate new music, or music one hasn’t heard before, but our mental jukeboxes award top chart numbers to music that we have lived with over time. Those DJs making their playlists in our brain are the toughest of critics. They don’t care what anyone else might think, “Close to You” is staying in the rotation. Music and memory are linked.
Some great new reissues
For jazz fans, a new batch of releases in Blue Note’s Tone Poet series—vinyl reissues remastered with care and cut from the original analog tapes—is the reason for celebration.
PS Audio Stellar M1200
MONOBLOCK POWER AMPLIFIER
Marantz Model 30
KEF LS50 Meta LOUDSPEAKER