28 July 2012:
An Artist Book, With Sound, Invites Readers to Look and Listen Along
State of the Arts
- The word “record” has multiple meanings: As a noun, it’s a written document of facts, relationships or agreements, kept for important legal or sentimental reasons. A record is also an organized collection of sounds — say, the Beatles’ first LP or the latest Radiohead CD. As a verb, record is the act of making one of these things. The word is so versatile that it doesn’t have a good synonym.
Rebecca Mack may or may not have thought through these semantics when she chose the word Records as the title of her new “concept piece,” but its subtitle describes the work plainly: Book and a Special Recording. And there’s no doubt that Mack, a 35-year-old Burlington DJ (Mothertrucker), sound and visual artist, preschool teacher, and mother of 5-year-old twins, paid close attention to every detail of her unusual book — an undertaking that she says took her 10 years to complete.Records is an 8-inch-square, 24-page book on heavy, coated paper, with a 7-inch 45- rpm record tucked inside a sleeve at the end.
Records’ colorful pages are filled with photographs — most taken by Mack — and a snippets of text, handwritten or typed by the author. While there are references to Mack’s own life — such as pictures of her children — her book intentionally lacks a narrative. Each “reader” can have a unique experience depending on how he or she responds to the images — including photos of rooftops in Sicily, the innards of a piano, a pair of bare feet. Many of the pages contain multiple images with no apparent connections. As she does in DJ mode, Mack samples and stitches, evoking myriad reactions to their combinations.
And then there is the soundtrack.
Why the 45 format? “It was my explicit choice to put it on 7-inch vinyl — it’s still the preferred format for a lot of people,” Mack declares. Easy for her to say, being a DJ. Mack, who used to work at Pure Pop Records, says there is a clientele for new vinyl, not just vintage. Potential listeners who have put away their turntables may find looking through these pages engaging enough.
Mack intends, however, for the reader to experience visual and auditory stimuli together, remaining on each spread as long as she instructs — a soft “ding” on the soundtrack signals it’s time to turn the page.
The sounds, taken primarily from her field recordings, are diverse. Mack singing from her own composition, Requiem. A choir in Madurai, India. One of Mack’s twins singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Samples from DJ Mothertrucker. These form an aural tapestry with the nonmusical sounds: a creaking door, squawking seagulls, the repetitive crackle of a needle in the final grooves of an LP. Mack’s musical influences could not be broader: from hip-hop to 12th-century abbess/composer Hildegard of Bingen.
How does she hope people will experience the book? “It’s 10 and a half minutes of reflective time,” Mack suggests. “It’s going to be different for each person — and that’s exactly right.” The interval before each “ding” varies; in this way, Mack forces lookers/listeners to slow down, or perhaps to move along before they’re ready to turn the page. Through the simple act of controlling time, she plays with a theme of evanescence.
Like most handcrafted books, Records is a labor of love that is scarcely compensated by its $20 price. Though Mack is happy to sell copies to individuals, “I want to get it into libraries and artists’ books collections,” she says. She already has some fans at the University of Vermont. “It’s one of the most interesting and engaging pieces of art I’ve seen in a while, and we were inspired to think about programming that would feature Becca and her work,” says Selene Colburn, assistant to the dean of libraries for external relations at UVM. “We were really blown away.”
Mack aims to hold listening parties, to which she’ll bring her turntable and up to six sets of headphones for attendees. “It’s very reminiscent of being a kid, when there were records and books to go with them,” Colburn notes.
Mack herself compares her Records project to the current craze for scrapbooking, another example of the “completely human drive to preserve your experience,” she says. “I have outlined my next 10-year project,” Mack adds, revealing only this: “It will involve sound, turntables and orchestral arrangements.”
“Records: Book and a Special Recording by Rebecca Mack.” Self-published, 24 pages. $20. Mack will release “Records” with a listening party on Friday, June 22, 7 p.m. at Pure Pop in Burlington. recordsbookwithsound.wordpress.com
Tonight at Pure Pop Records in Burlington, Vermont, we will celebrate the release of RECORDS, my new artist’s book with read-along-record soundtrack.
This project, begun in 2002, represents both my dearest wish come true and my gift to the world. Though it was conceived whole, in exactly this format, it has undergone a decade’s worth of changes in content. I knew I needed to make a collaged book of my own visual samples of the world (photographs) with a companion soundtrack of collagedfield recordings and samples. To print the full-color books and press 45rpm, 7″ records was a prohibitively expensive project. Yet it was the only acceptable manifestation for me, as I needed to make an explicit reference to the read-along-record story books of my childhood. That I am both a visual and a sound artist, making recordings of the world around me, required this ambi-sensual format. But it took many years to save enough money to allow the project to take this shape.
I owe a great thank-you to the Fools Gold Artists’ Fund, who provided a significant portion of the funding. Without them, I’d still be saving for a few more years! I feel enormously supported by this wonderful community of artists, farmers, and other hard-working revolutionaries in Burlington’s Old North End neighborhood. I am lucky to live, and raise my family, here.
June 4, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE
Contact Rebecca Mack: firstname.lastname@example.org
RECORDS book with sound
(Remember those Read-Along Records from when we were kids?)
RECORDS is a 24-page, full color artist’s book filled with photographs, handwritten discographies and lists, found type, liner notes, and album covers, accompanied by a double-sided 7″ vinyl soundtrack record, exploring the themes of love and impermanence. The soundtrack is composed in the spirit of the Hip Hop mixtape, using traditional sampling methods and archivist field recordings to create a textural and rhythmic listening experience. The first printing and pressing produced a 200-item run of the book and record,which will be released from Flying Hen Studio at 7 pm on June 22, 2012 at Pure Pop Records in Burlington, VT.
Record-keeping is an essentially human practice that relates directly to the awareness of our unalterable impermanence. We preserve information because it is important; we archive it so it can live beyond us. I use my photography and sound recording practices to have an active relationship with the unavoidable facts of death, change, and impermanence in my daily life. Inspired by crumbling walls, children’s voices, and natural light, I find beauty and impermanence in the same places.
You will see urban landscapes, moving hands, found type, and vintage vinyl ephemera. You will hear the streets of Palermo and Madras, the calls of Canada geese, turntablist scratches, and music boxes. The project is the distillation of 10 years of captured images and sounds. As an artist working across the senses, the format of the read-along record has always appealed to me. It was born along with Hip Hop culture, in the late 1970’s and 80’s, so it has nostalgic resonance with my generation.
My musical background includes study in music history, theory, composition and performance at Fordham University and University of Vermont. In 2000, I took a second job to earn the funds to purchase two DJ turntables, a mixer, recording equipment, and to begin collecting vinyl records. I began recording and editing mixtapes, playing dance parties, and playing a weekly radio show on Free Radio Burlington. Concurrently, I began to see my work in photography and mixed media as complimentary practices: photographs became visual “samples”; collages became “mixtapes”. Thus, I borrowed the form of the Read-Along-Record to make explicit these connections. As I began to study Buddhism and work in the field of Hospice, both modes of recording and organizing information became significant to me in their relationship to impermanence; our records outlive us.
Rebecca Mack, a.k.a. DJ Mothertrucker, is a visual and sound artist living and working in the Old North End of Burlington, Vermont. Working in photography, collage, sound and fiber arts, and mixed media illustration, Rebecca has been ‘making new things from old things’ at Flying Hen Studio since 2004. This is her first publication.
For more information, visit:
or contact Rebecca at:
RECORDS Release Party
June 22, 2012. 7pm.
Pure Pop Records
Six people at a time can listen to/read the book. RECORDS will be available for purchase at Pure Pop Records henceforth.
July 14 (Saturday), 11 AM to 1 PM.
Fletcher Free Library
RECORDS will be performed and available for sale at the Library during the event.
RECORDS will be released from Flying Hen Studio at 7 pm on June 22, 2012 at Pure Pop Records in Burlington, Vermont.
I am so happy to finally be holding it in my hands! My dream is real.
RECORDS is in the final stages of post-production. I’m finishing the discography; then it can go to print! Today I visited the printer to get a feel for the paper stock choices. The soundtrack has already been sent to press in Detroit. Meanwhile, I’m researching the library science of artist’s books and special collections. It is my dear hope and clear goal to have this audio-visual artist’s book included in public collections of such things. There is a decreasing volume of minutia between me and these goals! Thanks for your support and attention.