Monday, 13 February 2012

To My Valentine


Oh go through the walls, if you must.

"Oh go through the walls, if you must, walk on the ledges
Of roofs, of oceans; cover yourself with light;  
Use menace, use prayer 
My sleepers will flee toward another America."

(Jean Genet), though he wrote in french, and I'm endlessly suspicious of what, exactly, happens in a translated poem. But that's a debate for another day.  Actually the poem from which these words are lifted was not in the least to my taste.
But these words seemed... luminous? the first time I ever read them, I was in the little yellow house, on an island somewhere in the middle of the Baltic sea, and Harry had just come back from a weekend in Stockholm.
He'd bought some records.
Oh yes. Records. not downloads to an ipod, kids, back in the day, music was analogue and glorious.
Album sleeves were art.
Records were big rigid discs of mostly black vinyl. On the surface was a texture, which on closer examination, with a microscope, perhaps, would resolve into one, just one.. line. A groove. A wavy, wiggly groove. A groove that wrapped and spiralled hundreds, nay, thousands of times on the circular black disc, from the edge toward the centre.
What witchcraft is this? the tiny groove, the texture, is a code.
We set the disc spinning, at a precise 33 and a third revolutions per minute.
And we unlock the code with a needle. It seems so unlikely. But a needle, or more likely, the needle's descendant, the point of a sapphire crystal, set in an arm which transforms its movements into modulations in a tiny electrical current, which we feed into an amplifier, and thence to coils of copper, glued to cones of paper, over a heavy magnet. As the needle of sapphire vibrates in the groove on the revolving disc, so those vibrations are induced in the paper cone, as the coil is attracted and released by the magnet's field, as it is fed with varying energy.

Without thinking at all about the strangeness of the mode of coding, we played the record, Patti Smith, Wave.
I read Genet's words.
Listened to Patti's.