Waxing Poetic

Waxing Poetic

March 25, 2016 | Blog

Is it cotton candy? Bits of cloud? Kitten whispers? No, this is swarf. Swarf is the name for any kind of filing/chips created by carving or filing. In this case though, this swarf was made from cutting a record. Our buddy Tyler Bisson from Audio Geography came with us down to Austin for South by Southwest last week to live-cut vinyl records at Urban Outfitter's massive Space 24 Twenty

When budding musicians ducked into the modified dressing room to record, a miniscule blade cut the tiny grooves that the stylus will play through. Generally record grooves are created when a steel “master” mold presses molten vinyl into a perfect copy of the master. In this case, a special machine with a sharp, miniscule blade cuts trenches to match the soundwaves live as they’re recorded.  What’s left is the swarf that gets sucked up into the machine. If you were very careful, you could theoretically re-strand the swarf back into the grooves!

This is literally the positive side of the recorded music.

Every song, every sound, can be reduced to swarf in the end. Looking at this bunch of fluffy plastic, it’s impossible to tell what this recording once was. Was it country music? Was it a ukulele ballad? Was it a poem spoken aloud? When records are pressed, there’s still waste, too. Globs of vinyl squeezed out of the pressing plant, cut off into ribbons. Ashes to ashes, sound to sound.

And vinyl to vinyl, as it turns out. This swarf can be easily melted down and folded into more blanks, which can record all over again. Or, the strips of lost vinyl from the pressing plants can be molded into the curling petals of a vinyl flower, or twisted into jewelry.  Music can be recycled and resampled, remixed and reimagined, but it all eventually returns to its source. It always has a purpose to its listener.

That said, I still want a jar of this stuff on my desk. It’s so fluffy!!


Lilly Higgs
Lilly Higgs

The attraction is only natural.

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