Five of Miller’s Modified Vinyl pieces feature prominently in his art installation, “Transmuting the Prosaic” at the Brattleboro Art Center and Museum, March 14 – Oct.12, 2020. These are hung on the wall for viewing, and in front of each piece is a listening station with a turn-table and headphones (and of course instructions on how to use a turn-table). On each of these turn-tables is a copy of the record on the wall, or a performance of that record, or some variation on the record on the wall. Thus it becomes interactive with the museum goer.
Here is a virtual tour of “Transmuting the Prosaic“ – it includes audio, visual, text, interviews, film, etc.
There are five Modified Vinyl pieces in Transmuting the Prosaic:
1. “POP Record/evolving” (see below).
A record of record noise that evolves when played. The listening record is the same.
2. “Four Bars of a Bach Fugue”.
The treble and bass clef of Bach Fugue No.16 was hand-etched into raw vinyl with a screw-driver. The mathematical focus of Bach’s music is considerably altered when played on a turn-table. The listening record has a performance of this record followed by Miller playing the same four bars on the piano.
3. “Signals, Calls and Marches Lyrics.”
All the words from Mission of Burma’s EP of the same name, inked onto a 12″ record. The words on the record, listed in alphabetical order, are now on the record. The listening record has every word isolated in the same order, one after the other.
4. “TV Off”.
The Test Pattern when TV went off the air into the early 1970’s, inked on a record with call letters utilizing Millers’ initials. The listening record includes the National Anthem, a sine tone, and “snow”.
5. “Tone Arm”.
The same tone arm used at the listening stations for the installation is inked onto a 12″. No audio.
POP Record/evolving (7″ on RRRecords, playable at any speed).
Conceived in 1984, this is MIller’s first Modified Vinyl work. It was executed in 1985. The second Modified Vinyl work, etching four bars of a Bach Fugue on the b-side of this record with a screw-driver, was conceived of in 1985, but executed in 1994.
From the liner notes:
“One problem with vinyl records is that they start virgin and degenerate. Another problem, as John Cage complained, is that recorded performances are frozen, with no life to them.
It was Cage’s complaint that caused me to act. I made a recording of record surface noise, the sounds found before and after the recorded selections, and had this cut to acetate, which is notorious for wearing away quickly. (Although vinyl does not degenerate as rapidly as acetate, the process is essentially the same). The result is a record which constantly evolves and never gets any “worse.” The degeneration – old pops wearing away and new ones appearing as the acetate/vinyl breaks up – becomes regeneration, solving Cage’s problem with “static” recording as well. The original tape (cassette with Dolby B) was mastered to acetate at Fleetwood Studios in Revere, MA, by Bill Ferruzzi, December, 1985.
Side B features four bars of Bach’s Fugue XVI inscribed by hand into the vinyl (done January, 1998). I had planned this in 1985, but it was not executed on the original acetate until 1994. A recording of this appears as the final track on “Roger Miller’s Exquisite Corpse: UNFOLD (SST CD 307).”
The record was part of two gallery shows, both involving manipulation of vinyl. The NYC show was in 1988. Artists included Christian Marclay; The Beatles; Grandmaster Flash; Nam June Paik; LaMonte Young; Lou Reed; Yves Klein and others . The Toronto show was in 2008 and included Christian Marclay, Boyd Rice and others.
In 2018 it was being taught in a class at “Sound Studies and Sonic Arts (Master of Arts)” at Universitat der Kunste, Berlin.
POP Record/evolving was originally issued as Fun World Product 003, only one copy made.
The RRRecords disc 1994, 1,000 copies made, is now officially OOP.
POP Record/evolving was part of two Gallery Exhibitions focusing on vinyl:
1. Extended Play, curated by Christian Marclay at the Emily Harvey Gallery in NYC, 1988.
2. Needle and the Damage Done, curated by Dave Dyment, at the Harbourfront York Quay Centre, Toronto, 2005.