Metaphors of Accumulation in Pieces for Tape, Vinyl and Digital Sound: Addressing the Sonic Experiences of Alvin Lucier, Christian Marclay and John Oswald

Prof. Rui Torres
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Recording technologies allowed music to be fixed in forms other than the musical score. During their developmental stages, these technologies--tape, vinyl, and digital sound--were often seen as a threat to the Western academic conception of Music, which maintained the symbolic codification represented by the score. Such recording technologies disrupt boundaries between composer, performer and score. In doing so, these methods have sparked a debate devoted to questioning the difference between original and replica, which is still central to the understanding of the relations between culture and technology. Reproduction furthermore leads to accumulation, copies, imitations, and parodies.

This paper addresses three musical pieces which were performed using recording technologies, in ways other than those determined by their original configuration. I will be looking at pieces for tape, vinyl records, and digital sound, in which the reference to the reproduction process expands into metaphors of accumulation, consumerism, and the consumption of technology. These works, which stand as metaphors of replication, turn sound into an accumulation of commodities, a reproduction of reproductions. The artists here discussed--Alvin Lucier, Christian Marclay and John Oswald--, offer an opportunity for us to comment on the accumulation effect brought about by recording technologies. They are representative of each of the recording technologies abovementioned--gramophone, tape, CD--, and they use the technological apparatus of recording in order to produce new sounds, beyond their claimed function, thus promoting a reflection about reproduction.

Keywords: Reproduction Technologies, Recombinant Arts, Speech Recording, Turntablism, Plunderphonics
Stream: Constructing Art Worlds, Analysing Artforms, Meaning and Representation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Metaphors of Accumulation in Pieces for Tape, Vinyl and Digital Sound

Prof. Rui Torres

Professor of Communication Sciences, CETIC - Centro de Estudos de Texto Informático e Ciberliteratura, Fernando Pessoa Univeristy

Rui Torres, b. 1973 in Porto, Portugal, holds a BA in Communication Sciences, a Masters and a Ph.D in Portuguese and Brazilian Literature, and teaches in the Department of Communication Sciences of Fernando Pessoa University. There he coordinates CETIC, a Center for Cyberliterature Studies, and the Masters Program in Communication Sciences. He is also coordinator and member of several International Research Projects in the areas of Experimental and Digital Poetry, and e-Learning. He is currently doing Post-Doctoral research under the supervision of Prof. Sérgio Bairon, of PUC-SP, Brazil, studying Portuguese and Brazilian experimental and digital poetry, as a Research Fellow of the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (MCTES, Portugal). His articles and poems are available at

Ref: A06P0331