What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

Once upon a time, when the Earth rotated at 33 1/3, or 45, or 78, messages were regularly hidden in the inner circles of record albums. Little phrases — bits of wordplay, shoutouts, cryptic mantras — were scratched into the masters of vinyl releases, in between where the last track on a given side ended and where the adhered paper label’s outer edge began. (It’s still the case now, perhaps even more common as a matter of percentages, but that’s out of a far smaller amount of vinyl being produced each year.) These messages on the vinyl had an intimacy, a peculiarity, that made them something apart from commentary. Liner notes, in contrast, sought to lend meaning to a record album — sometimes full essays, like the ones on the back of jazz covers, and sometimes just tiny-type references to session players and equipment. Not quite packaging, not quite lyric, the inner-groove messages were only there if you looked for them. In the pre-Internet days, it might take weeks, or a chance encounter with a super fan, to decode what they meant. This message, a wonderfully terrible joke about the Energizer Bunny, appears on the internal circuitry of a synthesizer module. The other side of the module is where the patch cables go in and out. This side is the works, the soldered PCB board where information is encoded, and the information is about how sound and signal are processed. The bunny joke is the only part of this side of the device that’s human-readable.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.

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