Paul DeMarinis


Paul DeMarinis has been working as a multimedia electronic artist since 1971 and has created numerous performance works, sound and computer installations and interactive electronic inventions. He has taught computer, video and audio art at Mills College, Wesleyan University, San Francisco State University and the New York State College of Ceramics, and has been a video game designer for Atari Inc. and Scholastic Software. He has performed internationally. His interactive computer audio and graphics systems have been installed at the Shaffy Theatre in Amsterdam, The Wadsworth Atheneum and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. He has been commissioned to create permanent computer audio art works for The Exploratorium, The Ontario Science Centre and The Boston Children's Museum and has been the recipient of major awards including three NEA Fellowships for the Visual Arts, two New York State Council grants, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in New Genres, as well as a NEA Interarts project grant and a NEA Composers Fellowship. Much of his recent work involves speech processed and synthesized by computers, available on the Lovely Music Ltd. compact disc "Music as a Second Language", and the interactive installation "Alien Voices." A recent series of installation works, "The Edison Effect", uses optics and computers to make new sounds by scanning ancient phonograph records with lasers. He is currently artist-in-residence at Xerox PARC.


The Edison Effect

The opposition between hearing and staring finds its strange union with the diamond stylus, a diamond above all that writes out sound as well as reflects light."

Duncan Smith, The Age of Oil

A series of interactive sculptures that play ancient phonograph records with laser beams. The reflections of light from the walls of the groove carry the audio information to photoelectric devices where it is translated first into an electrical signal, then into sound by a loudspeaker. The resultant sounds range from recognizable to distorted, something like a distant shortwave radio or a haunting bit of a melody just barely remembered. The arrangment of optics, motors and light allow random access to the grooves of the records, permitting distortion, dis-arrangement and de-composition of the musical material.

Each Edison Effect player is a meditation on some aspect of the relations among music, memory and the passage of time. Our sense of time, memory, and belonging have all been changed by the exact repetition implicit in mechanical recording. The needle in the groove, no less than the needle in the vein, is one symbolic emblem on our quixotic quest for the perfect moment of fulfillment. Re-played here, without needles, the record becomes what it really is: a holographic object, a simultaneous smorgasbord to be consumed in the order and taste we see fit. The raw and raucous noises of the record surface commingle with the sounds inscribed in the groove, creating a havoc of misinterpreted intentions and benign accidents.

The phonograph and the photograph have a coeval history of influence and development. The Edison Effect players demonstrate the photographic nature of acoustic recordings. These pinhole ( or needlepoint ? ) pictures of sounds long vanished project the shadows of sounds. Holograms, gamma rays, goldfish and cunieform serve to emphasize the parallel narrative of the mechanization of image and sonic inscription.

"Al & Mary Do the Waltz" (1989) A turn-of-the-century Edison wax cylinder of Strauss' "Blue Danube Waltz" is turned on a paint roller rotated by a motor and rubber band. A laser beam is focused on the groove of the cylinder and its reflections are translated into sound. The laser beam passes through a bowl of goldfish who occasionally interrupt the beam to produce uncomposed musical pauses.

"Ich auch Berlin(er)" (1990)

A tribute to the Berlin(er) brothers, Emil, Irving, and John Fitzgerald. A gelatin dichromate hologram of a 78 rpm record of the "Beer Barrel Polka" is rotated on a transparent turntable and played by a green laser. Once I realized that only light reflections were needed to make the recorded grooves audible, it became apparent that a hologram (the memory of light reflecting from a surface) would suffice to play music. Here, sans needle, sans groove, the band plays on.

"Fragments from Jericho" (1991)

An authentic recreation of what is probably the world's most ancient audio recording. A clay cylinder inscribed (by intention or accident?) with voices from the past. By gently turning a large black knob, you can direct the laser beam across the surface of the turning clay vessel to eavesdrop on vibrations from another age.

"Un-raveled Melody" (1993)

Mechanical recording exerted its effects upon music composition by coercing preexisting rondo forms into ever tighter spirals. A hologram of Ravel's ""Bolero" cycles forever, as the laser beam weaves its path along the dance floor.

Rhondo in Blew a la Cold Turkey" (1993)

A 78 of "Rhapsody in Blue" is erratically scanned by a laser beam emitting from a hypodermic syringe. We may contemplate the addictive act of record listening as Oscar Levant plays himself playing Gershwin in another tired remake of "An American [Junkie] in Paris"

Rhondo in Blew a la Cold Turkey

(The Edison Effect 1993)

view with Edison portrait on balcony

(The Edison Effect 1993)

general view of installation

(The Edison Effect 1993)

Fragments from Jericho

(The Edison Effect 1993)

Murder by Television detail

(The Edison Effect 1993)

Al & Mary do the Waltz detail

(The Edison Effect 1993)

Fireflies Alight on the Abacus of Al-Farabi