John Cage‘s concept of music inverted the traditional ideas of composition, performance, and what can be considered an instrument. In the same spirit, Japanese musician and composer Yoshihide Otomo’s Emsemble series experiments with turntables, deriving music from them without ever placing a record on the plate.
Allowing the needles to bounce against different parts of the turntable, Otomo creates patterns that yield a solid rhythm. His piece Hyper Writer consists of one turntable, four needles, and a metal plate. When the plate starts to spin, the needles move in different ways, creating a composition of hissing and clicking sounds.
In 2008, Otomo collaborated with Yasutomo Aoyama on Without Records, an installation composed of over 100 portable turntables of various types, many of them vintage. The record players were modified in various ways, with an extra string on the needle or an obstacle on the plate—causing different ways for the devices to move rhythmically. Individually, each makes minimal sound, but in unison the 100 plus record players are a layered orchestra, resonating within the space.
Otomo has been active in the worlds of noise and avant-garde music since the 90s. To hear more of his work, check out his MySpace page.