How to Look at Vinyl
© Copyright 2018 Annelisse Da Silva-Bacalhau, Ryerson University
Think about it… how has the way you listen to music changed since you were a kid? The way we have gained access to music has changed dramatically throughout history as technology has revolutionized itself time after time. From the radio, MP3s, cassettes, CDs to just a quick download off of a device, music can be heard anywhere at anytime. Due to quick advances in the music stream, the vinyl record seems to go unnoticed due to its lack of mobility. Nevertheless, it is impossible to get rid of a piece of history, which is why the vinyl record has stuck around.
A Brief History in the Making of Vinyl Records
A vinyl record, also known originally as a “Phonograph record” or now as a LP, is a flat disc with spiral grooves or waves which stores sound that can be used for music reproduction through the use of a record player. To sum it up, vinyl records can be defined as an “analog sound storage medium.” Primarily, the disc was made from shellac, but later transitioned into polyvinyl chloride, which is a plastic polymer. It went through a tough past of being unendurable as inventors as Thomas Edison first invented the discs with wax paper. It was not until 1948 when Columbia Records introduced vinyl records in a more durable condition where they finally became part of mainstream culture. The vinyl we know today is made with “acetate” (a master disc) that is coated with lacquer, along with cellulose nitrate then become mass produced. (Tarantola) The grooves are formed by a record-cutting machine which has a needle that is guided mechanically through an audio input. Vinyl records usually have a 12 or 10-inch diameter, with a speed of 33 1⁄3 rpm.
Looking at Vinyl Records
Vinyl records have a way of making any sound or song seem warm, pleasing, and rich, bringing you comfort as you listen. It is a whole experience that isn’t gained from popping headphones into your ear. As the record player stylus drops on vinyl, the static right before any song starts playing makes it sound raw and enticing. It takes you away from reality, where the only thing you’re in tune with is the music. The frequencies of record players make it possible to hear every note and range. It enables individuals to listen to a whole album in full, rather than jumping from song to song, which is what the artists intended for. As you watch the vinyl spin, it brings depth to the experience, as the sounds are being produced visually. Once the vinyl stops spinning, then you know it is time to carefully flip it over to the other side, making sure you do not get a single scratch on it. Watching the vinyl spin so effortlessly, you begin to question how the music is being released from its thin surface. For some reason listening to a vinyl record puts you in a state of calmness, making any ounce of the world melt away. It has a way of making you appreciate music so much more.
When people think of vinyl, the first thing that comes to mind is a big black round disc. However, unusual and creative records have become the new collectors item where limited edition copies are made, making it quite difficult to get your hands on one. You can get vinyl records in almost any colour or colour combination one can think of. Some vinyl records can even glow in the dark, or have artwork plastered on top of it. With all of this in mind, it makes the listening experience incomparable to the downloaded songs on your phone.
Da Silva-Bacalhau, Annelisse. Untitled photograph (Drake’s “Take Care” Vinyl Record). 13 February 2018. Private collection.
Da Silva-Bacalhau, Annelisse. Untitled photograph (Basement’s “Promise Everything” Vinyl Record). 13 February 2018. Private collection.
Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. Routledge, 2000.
“LP record.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Last ed. 5 Feb. 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LP_record
Tarantola, Andrew. “How Records Are Made.” Gizmodo, 3 Decemeber 2013. https://gizmodo.com/5987010/how-records-are-made