Of all Maker projects, musical innovations are some of my favorites. I’ve come to expect the unfathomable in areas like computing, biohacking, or astronomy, but music strikes me as a medium in which there are a more or less finite number of ways to do things. The Scratchette is here to prove me wrong:
French musician Alexis Malbert, known as TAPERTRONIC, has been hacking music since the late 90s, experimenting with different mediums such as vinyl, CD, tape, and other electronics, and he’s been showing off his inventiveness at live shows in art galleries and venues all over Europe.
Cassette tapes proved themselves worthy of his full attention. Malbert says on his website, “It was during a one-year stay in Germany, spending whole nights in the workshop to rewinded tapes that the idea of Scratchette was appeared [sic] (this cassette can be scratched on a modified player). A sudden excitement occurred, it was absolutely necessary to develop the concept!” After the inspiration hit, he grabbed his Dremel, deconstructed the tapes, and made something new.
Since then, Malbert has developed the Scratchette into a cassette tape system of modular circuit bending. This isn’t just an experiment in sonic output, but also in the systems that produce it. Usually circuit bending is done within a cohesive system, whereas Malbert has developed a modular mix and match setup for producing various effects. The first video above is like some weird alter-dimensional 80s spin off of a Bop-It commercial, but with music that’s actually fun. (The singer is saying “I change the cassette,” in French, by the way.) The tone of the scratch also strikes my ears a bit differently than the scratch of a vinyl — the demos below remind me of a feisty droid.
“Today,” says Malbert, “the analogic reached an agreement with the digital, stepping across the border of the old debate that opposed these. It is essential, even vital, to multiply the tools needed to creation if we want to attract curiosity. The tape has good days ahead, but in another form!”