City Research Online

Experimental turntablism - live performances with second hand technology: Analysis and methodological considerations

Weissenbrunner, K. (2017). Experimental turntablism - live performances with second hand technology: Analysis and methodological considerations. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, Universtiy of London)


In experimental turntablism, sound artists and musicians encounter not only the pre-recorded sound of the vinyl records, as is common in DJ culture and hip hop turntablism, but also accentuate the materiality of the records and turntables themselves. The thesis shows that the record player is itself the key concept within which each experimental turntablist unfolds an intricate dialogue between mediation and materiality. Through these media-specific practices, these sound artists raise to the surface the fact that our listening habits tend to dissolve the reproduction medium from our awareness. This thesis explores experimental turntablism in live performance and presents an innovative methodology that establishes the ideas and tools for a potentially generalisable approach to performance analysis for concerts using live electronics. The analytical framework, disclosing the medial and sensual significance of experimental turntablism performances in a digital era, broadens the perspective on sound with theories of performativity, materiality, mediality and instrumentality in electronic music. The thesis methodology includes performance analysis, artist interviews, video and audio recordings and interactive graphical transcriptions based on the current music analysis software EAnalysis.

Three case studies examine three distinct artistic approaches: the specific focus of each experimental turntablist varies from playing techniques, to sculptural objects, to mechanical operations. Joke Lanz’s direct and embodied playing negotiates a sound production between signal and noise, musicalises samples, and leads to spontaneous acts with site-specific aspects. Vinyl -terror & -horror destruct playback devices and vinyl records to re-structure samples in chance processes; the duo accompany their sculptural objects with movie soundtracks and ‘unfinished compositions’ from their own records to engender cinematic soundscapes and imaginary scenes. Graham Dunning’s turntable construction sequences patterned discs, which trigger auxiliary instruments through the turntable’s rotary motor operations. These mechanical movements embody rhythmic loop structures with temporal inconsistencies, creating a mechanical techno.

Having been considered redundant following the introduction of digital media, the vinyl record has recently witnessed a revival. As a post-digital tendency, contemporary musicians using live electronics seek to recover tactile and physical actions in performance. This thesis shows the ways in which the turntable allows artists to develop personal instruments from ready-made products and to emphasise specific sensual-bodily aspects.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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