Director: Luc Peter
Year: 2000
Time: 42 mins
Christian Marclay
Elliott Sharp & DJ Soulslinger
Lee Ranaldo & Thurston Moore
DJ Olive & Erik M
Eye of Sound: Although the history of musical pillage certainly starts way before the 20th century, the practice of plunderphonics (stealing snippets of pre-recorded sounds, often leaving its sources perfectly recognisable, in order to create something new and normally at odds with its original purposes) arose with the broadening of the aural spectrum brought about by the musique concrète revolution of the 1950s. The fact that it took so long after the invention of the first recording devices to take this decisive step is probably due to the resilience of modern ego-centered concepts of authorship and individuality that, although still prevalent in face of all the contradictory evidence, gradually started weakening after WWII. Inspired by the roads previously paved by concrète musicians and theorists, but also heavily influenced by the worlds of performance art, punk rock and no wave, Christian Marclay was probably the first musician to steal the plunder from the academic domain and to consistently work on the possibilities of disarranging previously ordered sonic artefacts. Long before being a d.j. meant anything more than someone putting one record after the other to make people dance (which is still what it means today), Marclay was exploring old vinyl collections, scratching vinyl in ways unthought of by Bambaataa, destroying needles against turntables and breaking up records in order to discover what lies beneath the groove. In this fairly conventional documentary, Luc Peter offers us a short portrait of Marclay's activities in more recent years, at a time when he's been elevated to avant-stardom by a society reasonably accustomed to the ideas of a musician using ready-made sources or of someone commanding people's respect behind the decks. Marclay briefly discusses his background, methods and artistic purposes, together with considerations on the turntable/record as an instrument or its place in improvisation and pop music. Luc Peter complements those statements with footage from four live performances. The first one, recorded at the IRCAM in Paris, presents us Marclay as he became known to the world: playing solo with his prepared records and turntables. The remaining performance feature Marclay's more recent challenges, i.e. improvising live with musicians from fairly different backgrounds: downtown NY heavy-weight Elliott Sharp and young noise-turntablist Soulslinger at the Tonic; Sonic Youth's guitar men Ranaldo and Moore at the legendary Victoriaville festival; and finally Olive (of the "illbient" collective We) and Erik M (one of the most interesting turntablists of the post- Marclay/Yoshihide/Tétreault generation) at the Centre Pompidou. Record Player hardly goes beyond the intrinsic interest of his subject, which is always a good way to measure one's merit in making a documentary: it is unfortunate, in particular, that no attention whatsoever is payed to Marclay's work as a visual artist (which, as he says, is as much a reflection on sound as his music), that the mighty turntablist's past works aren't even mentioned, and that Peter wasn't able to tap into the artist's known theoretical verve. Nevertheless, Record Player has its strong points: it's clean and sober, it offers us a rare opportunity to see Marclay playing solo and with a few top-notch musicians, and - perhaps even more important and certainly rarer - it gives us a chance to see the man haggling at a local sale for a stack of cheesy old records.


  1. muchas gracias for this marclay portrait!

    i've never seen this, although i've seen a lot by and with him. a few years ago i absolutely nuts about this artist, and am still so for his early home recordings and a few other projects. of what i heard by him in more recent years, most didn't pluck a string in me.


  2. Hi, Lucko!

    I absolutely agree with you. While Records and More Encores are unbeatable, the only album I really like from his later phase is his duo with Yoshihide. Of course I haven't heard even half of what Marclay has produced in the past 10 or 15 years, but what I've heard is nothing compared to his early records.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  3. senor eos,

    you already mentioned 3/4 of the cd's i actually own as physical artifacts from marclay. the only other one - and which i can highly recommend! - is the duo with günter müller, "live improvisation", it's absolutely terrific, in tone more radical than the other 3. but of course that's for my ears, you have another pair. ;)

    i've watched the movie, at least 1/3 of it - and it's nice to see marclay speak about his work. he has such a shy personality, very different from the blasting sound of music!


  4. Of course! How could have I forgotten his duo with Muller??? I believe I even shared it online in a past incarnation. Brilliant album indeed, so rich and fun. I happen to own a re-edition of his Record Without a Cover vinyl, but for these 2 ears I tend to see it more as an object than as music I can actually enjoy listening to. If my memory serves my right, I believe you shared it yourself some time ago.

    More Marclay as soon as this one leaves the front page.


  5. yep, i guess you did, indeed - but i have the feeling it's ages ago, much changed since then.

    i can't remember sharing "record without a cover", but my memory is quite bad, so that doesn't mean anything. i found that one and "footsteps" on the web, but i think i never found "record without a groove" (1987) - ripping it would quite hilarious, where to begin? how to handle the skipping needle? which volume? and last - when to stop?

    marclay discography:

  6. Nevermind me. My memory is so lousy that sometimes I can't even remember how to spell my own name - a sign of latent schizophrenia, the shrink would probably say.

    Record Without a Groove!?!? I must get my hands on that one! My guess is that it will probably only run for a few seconds, that the needle will slide from the edge to the centre. Or maybe it will float back and forth, making it an eternal listening experience. So, in the first case it would be a bad money/playtime ratio, but in the second one it would be (from that point of view) the best musical investment ever. But what am I talking about?? Music is not supposed to be judged this way. Must be a reminiscence from a previous magnate incarnation...

  7. how can i watch this ?!

  8. Hi, Kurios.
    Use the link, download the film, get yr popcorns, call yr friends and voilá.