It’s not in any way digital – we’re in paper and needle territory – but clever design transforms packaging and notecard into playable music device. Create Transducer Music, anyone?

Designer Kelli Anderson concocted a novel approach to the wedding invitation for her friends Karen and Mike: turn the paper invite into a playable sound device. The couple even made and recorded their own song for the occasion. (The story of the individuals is worth mentioning – Karen advocates for the rights of makers and coders and Mike is a Grammy-nominated engineer.)

The device itself plays music without electricity or circuits. You may recall the FlexiDisc, the inexpensive records (normally made of vinyl, not paper), as seen in magazines, books, and comics. Here, a sewing needle is the entire playback mechanism, amplified by the paper and the kinetic energy of a person using their hand to rotate the disc. Working with her partner and music podcaster Daniel, Kelli turned to the power of geometry. (And I never miss an opportunity to work geometry into this site.)

A major breakthrough came when we realized that the ideal sound was produced when the tented page created a perfect right triangle with the flexidisc. The needle needed to be perfectly perpendicular to the flexidisc. (@Pythagorean theorem: at long last, you are an ally!) We also discovered that the “tent” needed two loosely-swinging bends to allow the record needle to travel as freely as possible. By creating two parallel folds, we essentially made the angle at the peak of the tent variable as needed. At the beginning of the track, the ideal angle of this peak is about 15 degrees. By the end of the track, the arm needed to stretch further towards the center of the flexi, with an ideal peak angle of about 35 degrees.

If you do want to play the results on a proper turntable, you can drop the same flexidisc on your (electrically-powered) record player for better sound.

The sewing needle at work. This and the movement of your hand is all that makes the player function. Photo by the designer, Kelli Anderson.

Details on Kelli’s (beautiful) blog:
A Paper Record Player

And listen to the song the couple wrote for everybody

Aside from being a chance to nerd out about sound, I’m going to take this as yet another example of inventive packaging for musical objects. I’ can also imagine it as the way we’ll listen to music should environmental catastrophe mean that we don’t have access to electricity on Earth any more. File this away for your next post-oil-crisis sci-fi short story, a la the (excellent) book on that theme, The Windup Girl.

Thanks to Howard Shin for this great tip – and Howard, Kelli, Daniel, Karen, Mike, and Pythagoras, I owe any one of you a drink if I see you.

As for music, the Pythagorean Theorem and Trigonometry are always your ally.

Previously: Reclaim the Album’s Soul: Tips for Handmade CD Artwork

Last Days of Compact Disco: Album Lovers Hand-Make Musical Objects

  • That is brilliant!

  • so, so cool!

  • great, surely not easy to have a regularly sound but fun !

  • where can i make my own for press kits? that is fabulous!

  • DJ Hombre

    What a gorgeous card!  Sending cards with sewing needles may cause a few problems with security scans in the post though?

    Just in time for recordstoreday in the UK too (this Saturday in case you're interested).

  • Charlie Lesoine

    These guys must be pretty rich. How much does it cost to get a couple hundred 45s pressed?

  • Wow. An amazing piece of work… got to be the coolest wedding invite ever.

    Also, just finished The Windup Girl. Loved it. Such a fresh take on dystopian sci-fi.

  • SKent

    Truly excellent. Flexipop FTW!

  • ahat

    Nice stuff – not the first though:

  • jhhl

    For more flexi oddities , visit:
     The Internet Museum of Flexi/Cardboard/Oddity records:

    F'instance, a look at a similar concept:
    &nbsp ;

    (disclosure: I coded and maintain this site – we always welcome new submissions!)

  • mrG

    when I was a kid I built a record player out of LEGO where the corner of a block would rest in the groove and play the platter spinning by an elastic belt-drive turned by a crank.  Of course, don't tell my older brother, as it was, well, let's just say our 45 collection didn't ENTIRELY belong to the 8 year old.

  • Aaron

    Why do people keep mentioning flexies? As far as I can tell this has nothing to do with flexidiscs and is just another self contained record player/sleeve? There's nothing new about any of this.. only new possible news would be a new manufacturer of flexi's, but such a thing does not exist.

  • Juno

    "Why do people keep mentioning flexies?"
    We are in a world where we can get whatever we want. Consequently we only want things we can't get. Having spent so many years lusting after the high end, we now lust after the low end. 😀
    Never mind, enjoy the ride. I too am amused by the 'major breakthrough', which is odd seeing as these CardTalks have been available for many years, used by Christian Missionaries – the folded page idea is like inventing wheels on a car.

  • most amazing invention ever. 🙂

  • Aaron

    Dont get me wrong though, I adore the effort these guys put in their wedding announcement.. very nice packaging regardless if it was as original (or not) as the post makes it out to be.

  • Peter Kirn

    I believe it's still possible to get a FlexiDisc, whether or not it's under that name, produced today. In this case, the design is more or less the same, but with paper in place of plastic, right?

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