While Mac blog TUAW calls on Apple to kill optical drives (does Apple need that kind of encouragement?), the shiny digital compact disc and the album in general still have their devotees. Sure, album sales are down. Sure, digital downloads are in. But look beyond business or practicality for a moment at these exotic hand-constructed musical objects, and what you see is sheer love. A hand-constructed CD or vinyl album is a gesture of making music for someone, not for the ether.
I raised the issue early last month, and readers responded with lots of examples of handmade records, which I round up here. (And yes, practical, it’s not – a number of you complained that hand-construction is a lot of work. It’s clearly best kept to small runs, but then, I think that’s part of the point.)
Also, last month at NYC’s wonderful Culturefix, a handful of us got together and constructed some handmade discs. It’s definitely something you could do at an album swap meet with other artists and DJs in an afternoon or evening, and it makes the swap feel more meaningful. Pics at top; I hope we do more of these.
If this is the way the CD goes out, I think it’ll go out with style. And whatever the trends in the larger world, who’s to deny you your tangible album, really?
(About the end of the CD – I can tell you that demos, album reviews, music bought at shows, and the like are still very much tangible. Until flash memory is cheaper than CDs, I expect that’ll remain the case.)
First off, a vinyl album – but the process of hand-making these vinyl jackets is already lovely. moni writes:
We hand sprayed album covers for Ruoho Ruotsi’s Hmmm … album (De’fchild Productions release 003) Different colors were used to make each one a little bit different. Hard work, but rewarding. These came out nicely!
The electro-pop band Miaoux Miaoux did a custom run of 100 hand-knitted CDs to benefit Cancer Research and Maggie’s, available for a donation. They also included full-color artwork:
My favorite of the round-up is the work of Atlanta-based artist magicicada, who makes handmade boxes full of “surprises” – exquisite photography and unspecified collections of nine songs, packaged in a box made of mud. He also performs music live. (Thanks for the tip, tender vittles!) More images on his site:
Hey, they’re flat, they’re round, they’re absurdly cheap, they store a good hour of lossless audio, and you can actually hand them to someone. There’s something to be said for that. Now I hope someone takes on the idea of using generative algorithms to make one-of-a-kind album covers en masse.