Plastic Sound

I’ve been looking more closely at ways that plastic as a material and object manifest and encrypt light and sound information. I began researching into cassette tape reels and its materiality. It is made up of a single polyester layer with a magnetic coating. The magnetic material used is usually chromium dioxide. Photographic plastic film on the other hand is made the same way only that it is thicker as it has 8 layers of UV colour films that has light – sensitive silver halide crystals. Both of them are vulnerable to intense light and heat, resulting in the sticky-shed syndrome, where the binders in between the layers of plastic film starts to deteriorate, resulting in the loss of information. Vinyl records are very different in terms of its data storage capacity; the way that the data is stored on the vinyl depends on the microgrooves it has engraved onto the surface. I was researching more into this and found this amazing way of playing a record without an actual turntable.

I decided to try to emulate this and this is the result that I’ve got so far, not as smooth as the example (most probably because I didn’t turn the disc steadily enough).

Vinyls work as an analogue device that has its surface carved with microgrooves that turn and bend according to sound waves. While researching, I found this awesome micro photograph online of the vinyl grooves and I am in awe of its beauty (quite literally I was gaping at the computer screen), it looks like Mars, an uninhabited vast landscape.


This gave me an idea of mimicking sound onto plastic surfaces by manipulating those grooves; might even lead to a micro architecture proposal (wishful thinking). I am hoping that I could manufacture my own vinyl record just to test the idea of data engraving within the surface of the plastic. I think the films are a bit harder to manipulate but I am still going to test some ideas with it as my cassettes finally arrived in the mail! I had an initial idea of recording our design tutorial sessions and meshing the audio together. Not sure what the outcome might be but could be interesting.


As for the portfolio examples, I am began looking into vinyl record art covers and thinking about how I could create chapters for the exploration based on Tuesday’s feedback. Here are some potential ways of doing it:



I like the idea of the case files as well and how that could be represented in a contemporary way. I definitely would want to include some of the material test that I did into the portfolio for a more tangible feel in the study, rather than just flat printed photographs.

Well then, this is what I’ve gathered so far, the search continues! Till my next post…

2 thoughts on “Plastic Sound

  1. This is really exciting – we love the idea of micro architectures and its great that you already have a working device that you can evaluate for success or failure in the record player alternative. There is something very suggestive and ‘post technology’ about this, as though you are an archaeologist creating a device to play found vinyl records years later!
    Now that you have this method it could be deployed to read surface relief data to varying scales. You mention the possibility for micro architecture but you could also scale the whole thing up. Could you listen the the surface of a building? A whole city? Or could you operate at both extremes? Investigate more into how data is embedded into objects so that on Tuesday, you could start making a model that does that and then your device could read it. The motion of spinning to be read is important – so either the device or the object would have to spin – but this relationship when you scale things up or down could be further explored too.
    Perhaps the next thread of this enquiry is to experiment with creating surfaces that can be played aurally. Are you still continuing with the cassette tape tests?
    Regarding the portfolio format, the record sleeve is a nice idea to manipulate and these examples are great. We can’t wait to see your version – it could be a musical take on the case file – sort of halfway between collectors album and archaeologist trying to understand lost technology – keep going and maybe bring a draft of your version for this type of portfolio on Tuesday. Great work!

  2. Yes that is what I am going for with the vinyl tests, digging up obsolete objects and trying to make something new. I will be testing the cassette tapes by taping over multiple narratives just to see how it would play back. Not sure where the cassette tests might lead to but I am going to give it a go.

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