Scratch that


Jeremy Bell has created a tape-scratching device called the ScrubBoard. A tape loop with a tape head-scrubber that you can manipulate with your hands, resulting in a sound akin to scratching a record. There’s other great features. There’s a foot controller to play, stop and reverse playback of the loop. There’s a ‘rocker’ to cut/fade and mix to the tapes other channels. There’s also a record head to do live looping and scratching!

Nice work Jeremy!

Practical effects

sound-revival_670James Boock

‘The objects use the analogue means of materials and mechanical movements to manipulate sound.
 Four objects create the effects of Tremolo, Reverb, Delay and Mouth Modulation.
Sound Revival aims to create a greater understanding of how sound effects are generated and gives visual identity to something unseen as a result of digital technology. Objectifying these effects brings intrigue back into the DJ performance and brings listeners and performer together.’

Twelve heads are better than one


The phonogene was a machine that affected qualities of tape-recorded sounds in sophisticated ways now used commonly in digital signal processing.

  • Chromatic: The chromatic phonogene was controlled through a one-octave keyboard. Multiple capstans of differing diameters vary the tape speed over a single stationary magnetic tape head. A tape loop was put into the machine, and when a key was played, it would act on an individual pinch roller / capstan arrangement and the tape played at the specified speed. The machine worked with short sounds only (Poullin 1999).
  • Sliding: The sliding phonogene (also called continuous variation phonogene) provided continuous variation of tape speed using a control rod (Poullin 1999). The range allowed the motor to arrive at almost a stop position, always through a continuous variation. It was basically a normal tape recorder but with the ability to control its speed, so it could modify any length of tape. One of the earliest examples of its use can by heard in Voile d’Orphee by Pierre Henry (1953), where a lengthy glissando is used to symbolise the removal of Orpheus’s veil as he enters hell.
  • Universal: A final version called the universal phonogene was completed in 1963. The device’s main ability was that it enabled the dissociation of pitch variation from time variation. This was the starting point for methods that would later become widely available using digital technology, for instance harmonising (transposing sound without modifying duration) and time stretching (modifying duration without pitch modification). This was obtained through a rotating magnetic head called the Springer temporal regulator, an ancestor of the rotating heads used in video machines.