RECODER (2015)

RECODER is an autonomous electro-mechanical sonic mapping device developed by Oliver Wilshen in 2015. It aims to explore the blurred boundaries between digital and physical domains through a hybrid assemblage of technology. This prototype is a sister project of REMAP; reappropriating an automated plotting machine, originally used for computer-controlled ink to paper drawing, and providing it with the ability to encode and decode digital sonic information onto a magnetic analogue-tape surface. As these sounds are spatially mapped onto this surface, the machine simultaneously writes with a digital inscription, projecting graphic visualisations of the sonic data. These indicate the location and pitch of the sound, whilst tracing the path of the recording as the plotter‘s head moves.

RECODER from Signal to Noise on Vimeo.

Central to this project is an exploration of ‘machine memory’, an extension of our own memory capacity, preserved externally in the machines that surround us. With our innate ability to archive information being greatly enhanced through the use of technology, the storage and recollection of our memories are all operations now performed by machines. This idea is embodied in the device’s design, both through the system’s three distinct modes of functionality; its read, write and erase modes, as well as its anachronistic construction. In this entanglement of technologies, temporal definitions of ‘old’ and ‘new’ media are obscured, fused into one single coherent device.
Sequences of minimal electronic sounds are used to populate this system, which consist of computationally generated sine tones at varying frequencies. These are transferred to the tape surface via a physical connection, allowing the audience to observe this digital to analogue conversion in real-time. Cycles of sounds being written, read and erased are performed by the device, drawing the listeners’ attention towards their sonic characteristics. The digital, clean sound being encoded offers a notable contrast to the raw, low-fidelity analogue playback, with this sonic deterioration also provides a further analogy to the notion of memory and decay.