Physical cut-ups: Making Frankenstein vinyl records and books
March 25, 2008 3:29 AM   Subscribe

I want to physically cut-up vinyl records and books into pieces, which I will then glue back together in various, alternate combinations. What are the best methods of doing this?

Artist Christian Marclay did a similar thing with records (anyone know any sources of info on this?), so that when he glued them back together the frankenstein records could still be played. This would mean that the cutting technique did not destroy any of the vinyl's structure, it also meant that each record had to be cut very precisely, otherwise the fragments from several different records could not be glued back together.

I also wish to do a similar thing with old books, so that you get a kind of frankenstein, mish-mash of different book combinations. It would eventually be like doing a Burroughesque cut-up on physical forms.

Any ideas on technique would be greatly appreciated. How would I go about doing this? Have you seen similar things done by other artists?

posted by 0bvious to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have read that his stuff did produce significant noise when played over the cutting and reassembly. But anyway, Mr. Cocoa, who cuts all sorts of materials for work, chimes in with: water jet cutting. You'd probably have to send the material out to be cut, since the cutters are very expensive.
posted by cocoagirl at 4:22 AM on March 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For vinyl, you could build a wooden jig -- a block of wood with a circular cutout in the center that is exactly the diameter of the vinyl you're cutting. (EXACTLY. This is important because you don't want the vinyl to move at all.) It should also be of sufficient depth to accept the number of records you're planning on combining.

Stack the records in the jig, and run the whole thing through a bandsaw (thinnest blade you can get). Whatever the cuts you make, all the vinyl will have the exact same cuts, making it easy to recombine the pieces.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:16 AM on March 25, 2008

Interesting link about the water jet cutting cocoagirl - I never realised water could do that and it sounds like a promising technique for Obvious to use. In terms of the idea of cutting up records and then getting the mashed up pieces to play seamlessly I think you would have quite a job on your hands - if you look at some of the specifications for the variousdimensions of a gramaphone record you will find that they include quite a lot of "approximate" values. In real life the chances of being able to seque a portion of record B into record A (allowing for a perfect cut and splice) are going to be disrupted by variables such as the number of inter-track spaces on each record and the overall side length of each original. My guess is that your best outcome would still produce something that made quite a lot of noise on the cut.

Of course you could always make a Frankenstein record that would sound like two or more physical records cut up and glued together according to an ideal formula. For example you might:
1. Scan picture of each of the records you want to use as samples.
2. Create a visual composite with a tool such as Photoshop - this will have the look of your idealised record.
3. For each rotation of the record calculate the circumference of the groove at that point, look at your composite diagram and then work out which points of the original samples would be played. A 3 minute song at 45rpm gives you 135 rotations to work out for example.
4. Splice your samples together digitally and record the whole thing onto vinyl.
posted by rongorongo at 5:36 AM on March 25, 2008

FWIW, groove spacing on records is highly variable. You won't get pop-free playback no matter how precise your cutting. I like the stacked & bandsawn idea.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:20 AM on March 25, 2008

Best answer: easier than a cutout that holds the outside edge, use a piece of allthread thru the center hole. stack the records and cut, and except for blade wiggle they will all be pretty much identical.

as far as books, find a printer with a bindery (printer meaning a factory-style place with presses and stacks of paper on skids) and ask to have them cut on their guillotine cutter. nice clean cuts of stacks of paper up to 10" thick or so. scary fast and clean.
posted by KenManiac at 7:11 AM on March 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas so far. It's sounding as complicated as I'd feared, but I'm still up for the challenge. How about glues and so forth? Any ideas what would be a good adhesive (I know most super-glues are ridiculously strong these days, but any particular glue type better than another for such thin surfaces?)....
posted by 0bvious at 8:48 AM on March 25, 2008

I'd advise against using a water jet simply because of the cost and the fact that I don't believe it will work properly. I use one occasionally and the student shop charges $100 an hour, any commercial operation may charge more. Also, records are probably too brittle to withstand the cutting, once the jet hits the record, it will probably crack it.

I'm with the "jig and a bandsaw" crowd.
posted by crashlanding at 8:59 AM on March 25, 2008

Best answer: I'd recommend a scroll saw rather than the band saw - I think that would allow finer control over the cuts and reduce the chances of shattering the records.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:10 AM on March 25, 2008

Best answer: good cal on scroll saw, blaney. you could stack 3 or so records and tape them together, then cut randomish jigsaw puzzle style cuts thru them, then arrange 3 frankenstein records from the resulting mess.

as far as glue, i would glue them all to another record, or something else thin and easy to make round. you lose the flip side, true, but it will stay together.

as far as frankenstein songs, find an old reel to reel tape deck and cut and splice the songs on tape. arrange pegs in a spiral to simulate the shortening of the clips as you get closer to the center of the record. i can see going thru a few styli doing it the real way.
posted by KenManiac at 10:35 AM on March 25, 2008

Best answer: What seanmpuckett said. The spacing between the grooves is adjusted by way of the pitch of the cutter head, and this is different on every record due to the pitch being changed relative to the length of the side. In fact, the pitch is different between the tracks from the song itself, so the length of each song is going to introduce discontinuities. You aren't going to get pop free reassemblies even if you juxtapose two sides of the same record.
posted by rhizome at 2:01 PM on March 25, 2008

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