There’s something oddly soothing about listening to music on vinyl. Regardless of what digital music lovers say, and irrespective of the fact that the same sound may be produced digitally, die-hard vinyl fans will tell you that nothing compares to the warm scratchiness of a needle on a record. I don’t have a horse in the race, but having grown up with a record player in my bedroom, I can’t help but slip into a brief reverie whenever I hear an old Satchmo record spinning on a turntable.
In an elegant twist on the digital/analog battle, German-born Bartholomäus Traubeck has created Years, a “record player that plays slices of wood,” using a process that translates the data from the tree’s year rings into music. This process is, however, completely digital. Instead of using a needle to pick up the sound from the record's grooves, Traubeck used a tiny camera to capture the image of the wood, and digitally transformed this data into piano tones. More than merely a clever contraption, however, Years is also an intriguing interaction between the physical and the temporal. As Traubeck notes,
“On regular vinyl, there is this groove that represents however long the track is. There’s a physical representation of the length of the audio track that’s imprinted on the record. The year rings are very similar because it takes a very long time to actually grow this structure because it depends on which record you put on of those I made. It’s usually 30 to 60 or 70 years in that amount of space. It was really interesting for me to have this visual representation of time and then translate it back into a song which it wouldn’t originally be.”
A little convoluted? Don’t worry. Play the video above, and enjoy the eerie melody.