Random Play LP with a 3" CD and sound reactive installation series.

click on LP image below for an illustrated tour of the making of the Skate LP and installation

220g 'Skate' LP with a 3"CD titled 'Rink' using source
material collected from the LP and installation: Joint release between
and Staalplaat in a deluxe gatefold as pictured.

'Award of Distinction' at Prix Ars Electronica 2004

Order your signed copy from the audiOh! Kiosk here today

Back to the audiOh Directory


'Skate' LP



'Gramophone Lathe' 2001

I modified a mechanical acoustic gramophone to pump sound from a pair of car speakers
back via the sound funnel and hence back into the analogue stylus.
By re-resonating the stylus I turned it into a cutting lathe of the most basic form.
It is low fidelity and has no tracking facility so can not cut spirals just scars of textural sound.
The disc on the lathe photograph is the blank acetate used to cut the master LP.


Diagram of short scars of sound cut centrically onto the disc using the Gramophone Lathe

The original concept for my 'Skate' LP was to make a record that usurped the deterministic spiral (and the 'anti-skate' mechanism) as a way of playing and listening to sound on vinyl. To do this I developed the 'Fragmented' cutting technique, a method of cutting a concentric collage of individual short 'sound scars' onto the disc. When played, the stylus navigates it's own random path across this intermittent terrain of physical/sonic diversions. The type of record player, its speed and the user will all affect the result and thus each and every playback of the LP will elicit a different composition.

After much research it proved unfeasible to experiment in a professional cutting room to develop this process. I decided then to build my own lathe by converting and inverting the acoustic sound reproduction mechanism of an HMV wind up 78rpm gramophone. Using a car stereo system I positioned a pair of speakers so that they played 'backwards' into the sound funnel and thus ultimately back into the stylus. The stylus then acted as a vibrating cutting head when enough volume was applied. A 14" blank acetate was placed on the turntable and rotated at varying speeds using the gramophone's sprung mechanism. By very quickly and placing the stylus/cutting head onto the disc I built up the final collage sound by sound. I used the collected works of Pierre Schaeffer (a pioneer of vinyl manipulation) for the source sound. Only a proportion of each sound scar was influenced by those specific vibrations as this rudimentary cutting process was one of loss and accumulation.

The LP is intended to be the starting point for 'real time' explorations by the user. It works very well as a repetitive device if you place an obstruction (like a 7") in the path of the tone-arm as it locks the stylus into a loop. Another method is to play the record by just using your hand to rotate it slowly instead of at 33 or 45. This produces a much more subtle and controlled result. My personal favourite is to use the Tri-Phonic or Twin to play several sequences simultaneously! As the LP travels at a fixed speed all the arms play at the same tempo and thus 'polymix' perfectly. Experiment with it.


'Rink' CD
[Staalplaat][STmCD 023]

Play extract from: 'Rink': [with Real Audio]

'Rink' is a composition using sounds taken from the 'Skate' LP combined with live room recordings taken from the 'Skate' Installation at Triskel Arts, in Cork, Ireland, August 2001. The 2nd version was at Vooruit Arts in Gent, Belgium, September 2002.

The Installation and CD started with a single copy of the LP. Firstly I recorded 60 different rhythmic and textural sound events by playing the LP on my Tri-Phonic Turntable in different ways. 30 silent tracks of varying lengths were then added to create the master CD. A copy of this CD is then loaded into 3 random play CD players and broadcast together into the room. The 3 sets of speakers are positioned along the gallery to mix a spatial and architectural context into this continuous re-composition. Finally, next to each set of speakers is a light source which flickers, fades and glows according to the associated sound level. Occasionally the gallery is left in silence and total darkness as all the CD's hit a silent track and the lights die.

It is an immersive scenario exploring the impact that sound and reactive lights can have on the experience of the space they are installed in. 'Rink' was composed in spring 2002 by the invitation of Staalplaat. The CD has 99 track marks. Have fun!


Prix ARS Electronica 2004

1st prize
Golden Nica
Thomas Köner
'Banlieue du Vide'

joint 2nd prize
Awards of Distinction
Janek Schaefer : 'Skate'
'Westernization Completed'

Honorary Mentions  
Paul Panhuysen/Het Apollohuis : 'A magic square of 5 to look at...........'
Alary Olivier Chlorgeschlecht/Kloster Alex/Malfatti Johannes : 'Chlorgeschlecht Unyoga'
Alvin Curran, Domenico Sciajno; Associazione Rossbin : 'OUR UR'
Leafcutter John : 'Leafcutter John - The ... '
Anne Laplantine : 'Anne: Hamburg'
Christian Fennesz : 'Venice'
Horacio Vaggione : 'University of Paris VIII 24 Variations'
Tom Hamilton : 'USA London Fix'
Felix Kubin : 'Matki Wandalki'
Furudate Ken, Ishida Daisuke, Jo Kazuhiro, Noguchi Mizuki : 'The sine wave orchestra'
Zeena Parkins, Ikue Mori : 'Phantom Orchard'

Picture below of the Skate performance to an audience of 1000+
Bruknerhaus, Linz, 5th Sept 2004

Back to the audiOh Directory


Skate touring installation series



Inaugral installation at Triskel Arts in Cork, Ireland 2001.
3 x random play CD's of Skate audio with sound reactive light and video.


The second installation was in the attic at Voorit Arts, Gent, Belgium 2002.
3 x random play CD's of Skate audio with sound reactive light and record player for the blind.


The third version was held as part of the Recycle! festival at the Kulturhauset, in Stockholm, April 2003.
2 x random play CD's of Skate audio [installed in chairs] with sound reactive lights in a massive working lift.

If you are interested in programming the project as part of it's ongoing tour I'd be very happy to discuss it with you.

Skate Reviews

Vital List, (The Netherlands) [Frans de Ward]
Art with a big 'A'.

Fallt, (Northern Ireland) [Christopher Murphey]
That Schaefer's place is assured in the pantheon of turntablists is unquestioned. His experiments with vinyl and the record player itself not only challenge our perceptions of the possibilities of vinyl and its various uses, but have earned him a place in The Guinness Book of Records (under 'The World’s Most Versatile Record Player' for his three-armed Tri-Phonic turntable).

His latest, deluxe release 'Skate/Rink' only serves to further underline his creativity and his unwillingness to be forced to comply with the unrelenting spiral that is the record groove. 'Skate' is a number of things: sonic artefact; work of art - a delicious slab of 220g, heavy-duty vinyl; and, as if this wasn't enough, a means for generating an infinite set of musical possibilities. Created using a modified lathe which - unable to cut spirals – cuts only very short scars of textural sound, 'Skate' is the result of a 'fragmented' cutting technique Schaefer developed to cut a concentric collage of individual short 'sound scars' onto the master. 'Rink', an accompanying 3" CD, features a composition by Schaefer uitilising source material collected from the LP and 'Skate' installation (for those unfortunate enough not to own a turntable).

Think of Oval's early experiments with scratched and damaged CDs and imagine you had their original CDs to experiment with and explore. 'Skate' skips and bounces along, the needle finding its own, random, place in an open-ended composition. Torn fragments of melody are wrenched from the vinyl's surface, which holds the needle momentarily before the groove trails off and the needle jumps, forced to negotiate a new trajectory. The result is a sound generator of simple, yet extraordinary, complexity. An audio equivalent to the infinite ocean of Jorge Luis Borges' 'Book of Sand'. Or, put more prosaically, great value for money.

Absurd, (Greece)
janek schaefer's 'skate/rink' lp/mcd was something more than an overwhelming surprise! created for a project that was asked by staalplaat, was pretty curious to hear it as is an artist whose couple of works IÕve heard so far I liked. what do we get? a one sided lp, really carved as if you get lock grooves, or so where you can play w/ your stylus to (anti)skate on the lp, a kind of an artistic etch as other lps have though this time you should play the etching my friends to get those lovely little scratching sounds! the mcd that accompanies it is janek's interpretations of the lp & how it sounded creating various loops, noises, ambiances, etc. highly recommended for playing in shuffle mode. check it out today before it's too late, stands as one of the finest staalplaat releases for a long time, regarding its 'artistic' nature I mean, kinda staalplaat of the glorious days! besides some of you can see it as a really yummy 'art record' too.Ê A TOP TIP!!!!!

Aquarius Records,
So, we were playing this in the store, when a homeless guy, after bugging us incessantly for 'water' music, you know, like gamelan or Indian music (huh?), to combat the current water shortage and counteract the rampant petroleum consumption, asked if this Schaeffer record was broken: "Why does this sound like broken 78s? Is this on purpose?" "Is this to make money? The Beatles used music to make money, but I don't think this will make money." "Does this make people happy?" I'm sure it will make some AQ customers happy, as this is the sort of weird, high concept experimental stuff we dig so much. The first disc of this set is a one-sided lp entitled 'Skate' and refers to the skating of the needle across a record, not rollerskates. And appropriately enough, the record is cut wildly with brief bursts of static and grit, that will send your needle skating to middle of the record. Schaefer suggests this lp as a soundmaking tool, utilising your hands, or a 7" placed on top of the lp, to build clicking popping loops. It is accompanied by a 99 track, 20 minute three inch cd entitled 'Rink', designed for random play (of course), that incorporates a composition using sounds taken from the 'Skate' lp and live recordings from a skating rink installation in Ireland, extending the metaphor/pun even further. Glitchy and clicky and scratchy and staticky, perfectly pushing all those Jeck/Oval/Yoshihide buttons, that at least around here, can't be pushed often enough!

Blow Up, (Italy) [Nicola Catalano]
Talking roughly about a record-as-object or a record done with objects, the new work by British composer Janek Schaefer belongs in the first category. Actually more an art object (think of the record without cover of Marclay, some works by The Haters, Ios Smolders, RRRecords label, the vinyl version of "The Culling Is Coming" by 23 Skidoo) rather than a - so to speak - musical recording, "Skate/Rink" is published in LP format, where the one recorded side which is a collage of textures and rhythms taken from works by Pierre Schaeffer, has been realized ignoring the anti-skate mechanism, so that the turntable needle wanders aimlessly or gets stuck in the grooves by chance. It comes with a 3" CD of ninety-nine tracks sourced from the LP. What can we say more than the record itself will play differently on each turntable, depending upon the playback speed (a hand playback is possible and recommended too), the brand and weight of the needle, the type of arm and other technical details of your playing system, and that if you program your CD player in random mode you get more or less the same casual effect. The entire work of Schaefer is everything but a conceptual hoax and has a great weight, i.e. shown by his recent masterpiece "Black Immure", which we strongly recommend to listen to for results of an aesthetic nature and auditory satisfaction, lacking for evident reasons in this lastest work.

The Wire, (UK) [Julian Cowley]
The fashion for packaging CD reissues in minature replicas of the original album sleeves is inverted by Janek Schaefer's Skate/Rink which contains a 3"CD tcucked away incongruously in a 12" inner sleeve. The other half of the gatefold cover houses Skate, a vinyl disc that also plays games with expectations. Skate departs from the traditional spiral path steering the stylus from edge to centre. Schaefer built an ersatz lathe witha vibrating cutting head and scored the surface of the acetate with broken-up grooves that randomise the playing path on each passing. Skate is a kick in the teeth for all patented anti-skate mechanisms.
THe record as art object has beenhighly visible as well as audible in recent years, not least through Christian Marclay's vinyl constructionsand turntable collages. Back in the mid 1960's the damaged or modified record as artwork and compositional resource was tried and tested by fluxus artist Milan Knizak with his 'Broken Music' series. 'Music While You Work', realised by his Fluxus associate Arthur Kocke, between 1958 and 1964, had already interupted the groove with plastic drips designed to cause annoyance to listeners. Schaefer's Skate can easily be connected to such interventions, but the assumption today is that we have become attached to surface noise, through nostalgia for a medium facing obsolescence or through conscious or subliminal expansion of our listening horizons. In place of passive, irritated audience, Schaefer envisages participants in an ongoing soundwork. SKate is offered as a starting point for the users personal explorations. "Experiment with it," he exhorts, " Have Fun!"
The Rink 3" CD is a 20 minute composition combining sounds from the LP and room recordings from a 2001 Skate installation in Cork Ireland. It has 99 index points to enablethe CD specific variation of random play. The sound predictably mixes graininess and shadow in a musicof crackle hiss click whine, crippled rhythms, occasional lapses into silence or shifts from surface imediacy to suggestions of spatial depth. The disc is stamped with an image of vinyl hosting three tracking arms, a further hint that Rink is in part a prompt to have fun with your own Skate.


Geiger magazine, (Denmark) [Morten Bruhn]
Janek Schaefer mŒ betegnes som en af de helt store kometer indenfor den type musik, der bev¾ger sig rundt i gr¾nselandet mellem rendyrket st¿j, eksperimenterende electronica og avantgarde. Den london-baserede kunstner har Ð lige siden sit f¿rste kassettebŒnd, som ingen ringere end Brian Eno fik fingrene i og spredte ordet omkring Ð haft en speciel evne til at dukke op pŒ de rigtige steder pŒ det rigtige tidspunkt. SŒledes har han ogsŒ medvirket pŒ Žn af de efterhŒnden legendariske split-maxier pŒ FatCat Records, hvilket har bidraget til, at hans navn og musik er blevet ganske bredt kendt. Janek Schaefers musik har altid v¾ret en sk¾v blanding af manipulerede tape-loops, samplede field recordings og lyde fra hans tre-armede pladespiller. Schaefer har da ogsŒ Ð blandt andet ved at benytte sig af diverse radikale vinyl-masteringteknikker Ð v¾ret en af foregangsm¾ndene for det stadigt st¿rre fokus pŒ pladespilleren som selvst¾ndigt instrument, der er opstŒet over de seneste Œr. Med denne dobbeltudgivelse forts¾tter han i samme spor Ð eller rille, om man vil. Musikken pŒ 12Ó-skiven bestŒr af samplinger fra den elektroniske musikpioner Pierre Schaeffers v¾rker. Disse er Ð gennem en manuel masteringteknik Ð blevet lagt ned i pladens riller sŒledes, at de ligger hulter til bulter i forhold til hinanden. Som en f¿lge af denne utraditionelle fremgangsmŒde vil pladen lyde forskelligt fra gang til gang, fra pladespiller til pladespiller Ð oplevelsen afh¾nger nemlig i h¿j grad af, hvor meget pickup-tryk og antiskate, den enkelte lytters grammofon er forsynet med. Med andre ord sk¿jter pickuppen rundt fra rille til rille og skaber en knitrende elektronisk lydcollage der Ð undtagen nŒr pladen gŒr i hak Ð konstant ¾ndrer sig i uforudsigelige retninger. PŒ den medf¿lgende 3Ó-cd finder man sŒ 99 optagelser af vinylmaxien Ð ganske praktisk, eftersom det er hŒrd kost for Žns pickup at sk¿jte rundt i vildskab Ð der suppleres med en r¾kke lydbidder fra installationen Skate, som Schaefer pr¾senterede i Cork, Irland, i august sidste Œr. Nogle spor er rene st¿j-loops, mens andre bestŒr af stilhed Ð og meningen er, at man, ved at trykke pŒ random-knappen, pŒ digital vis kan opnŒ samme virkning som pŒ vinylskiven. Som musik betragtet er Skate/Rink en sv¾r st¿rrelse at have med at g¿re, da man egentlig kun opfanger de collageagtige fragmenter, der opstŒr ved afspilningen af de to medier. Det er selvf¿lgelig ogsŒ det, der er meningen Ð men omvendt samler den tilf¾ldige sk¿jten sig aldrig i helheder, man for alvor kan forholde sig til. Desuden har ideen om at lave et album, som er stykket sammen af smŒ lydbidder, der afspilles i en tilf¾ldig r¾kkef¿lge, v¾ret afpr¿vet f¿r Ð bl.a. af Gescom. Ikke desto mindre virker vinylmaxiens koncept langt mere gennemf¿rt end diverse tidligere cd-fors¿g, da pladen rent faktisk lyder vidt forskelligt fra grammofon til grammofon: En random-knap er og bliver jo en random-knap uanset hvilken maskine, den sidder pŒ. Derfor kan man kun tage hatten af for Schaefer, der trods alt endnu en gang har haft modet til at gennemf¿re en vovet idŽ og udfordre selve den mŒde, man lytter til musik pŒ.

XLR8R, (USA) [Susanna Bolle]
One look at the scarred surface of Skate and you know this is no ordinary LP. In an effort to confound phonographs everywhere, UK sound artist and turnablist Janek Schaefer has carved deep concentric gouges into the vinyl. With every play of the record, your stylus takes another torturous path, creating different patterns of hiss, pop and scratch. The record is most interesting when you forego normal playback and manually isolate patterns by varying speed or creating loops. On the companion 3-inch CD, Rink, Schaefer does just this, playing the record on his custom triphonic turntable, focusing on specific stuttering phrases, and mixing the sounds with ambient noise. Compelling, but not for the passive listener.