Christian Marclay b. 1955
Record Player: Christian Marclay (2000)
Director: Luc Peter
Year: 2000
Time: 42 mins
Christian Marclay
Elliott Sharp & DJ Soulslinger
Lee Ranaldo &: Thurston Moore
DJ Olive &: Erik M

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. -- Eye of Sound