The Form of the Phonograph Record

The next Dum Ditty Dum publication combines two texts. The first is “The Form of the Phonograph Record,” a 1934 essay by Theodor Adorno which discusses how the recently introduced vinyl format encases and encodes the music it presents. Adorno suggests that the inscription of music onto vinyl makes music into a kind of writing. The second text is a set of brief discussions of records whose covers depict spirals, or whose lyrics or titles describe spirals. Both texts work with the idea of a spiral as a symbol of musical values (like the spiral staircase on this one Love comp that evokes psychedelic tropes) and processes (as with Karlheinz Stockhausen’s spiral decision making in composition), and/or as a symbol of how vinyl records function.

The short length of these record “reviews” will lend themselves to episodic publishing here, on the Dum Ditty Dum site, the very place you’re reading now. The goal is to address the convergence of certain ideas related to spirals and recorded music. At this point we have limited ourselves to 19 examples of spiral records across a range of genres/periods, but that could change. We explicitly eschew “organic” spirals (shells, golden ratios, expanding consciousness) to focus on industrial examples. This is a place for testing content along these lines. We want to add new posts each week until there’s enough words and enough connections to print an edition.