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"The Phonoptique" (machine to transcribe the scratch)


LED, photosensitive paper, pulley mechanism


- The name of this machine pays homage to Raoul Haussman's Optophone.

Still studying art, my goal was to link the visual arts to my passion for scratch music that I discovered in my Parisian suburban city, where I grew up. The idea of ​​the phonoptic comes by having a particular feeling when listening to scratch one evening when I had smoked. I wanted to reproduce this superb sensation. I knew it had to go through an analysis phase first. The best way in 2003-04 for me to get a first graphic result was by converting the gesture on the turntable to a graphic. To get a gesture close to reality it was necessary to build a machine with little means by exploiting the metal workshop and the photo lab of the School of Fine Arts in Nantes.


- In the metal workshop I built a mechanism which supports an LED on a spring and which maintains a pulley in a vertical position. A wire connects the pulley to my vinyl record and I only have to make gestures back and forth to move the LED up and down on a photosensitive paper which took place at the reading speed of a 33 rpm. So I was able to get a sinusoid.


I had not yet arrived at the desired visual sensation. On the other hand I understood that I could graphically obtain all the scratch figures individually which will allow pedagogical transmission of the knowledge of scratch to beginners. Not having a vocation as a teacher properly speaking, I wanted to direct this work towards language. I then undertook an analogy between the scratch and these graphic clippings and the Morse code which could make my scratch intelligible towards a binary conversion. Kind of like the beginning of computer coding.


- The Morse code was interesting already at the base by what there is a known language side but understandable only by insiders in particular used by the military and the radio but this is not the subject. It reminded me a little of that time when the impression of mistery and incomprehension appeared on the face of normal people, when we heard speaking in Verlan or with a suburban vocabulary that they did not yet know. Besides, before being understood by all French people today, these same people used to singe us with zyva zyva. This is why this coded language was so effective for us. This sometimes made our lives easier when faced with situations where we had to understand each other in public but only between ourselves.


Conceptually it was the purpose of this conversion from scratch to a language inspired by the beep beep of the Morse code. Obviously this was only allegory and romanticism.

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