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Negative music

Punching holes through memories

As I was cleaning up my studio space, I went through a box of negatives. They seemed so antiquated yet so intimate. I looked for a way to give them a second life.

As much as I love living in a digital world, I have to admit that negatives are fascinating objects.

They are tiny windows into our past, us minus the light.

They are like comic strips when they tell a story in a few wordless images.

Playing with the material

Although obsolete, they still carry history and meaning, and throwing them away feels like such a loss.

I spent some time journaling and playing with different ideas. They all involved interacting with the negatives. I thought of glasses, black boxes, mini projectors, etc. Each idea was bringing a new one, like a chain reaction, driven by meaning.

I played with the sprocket holes, the small perforations that run along the edges of the film to transport it. The movement reminded me of this DIY music box I had in my studio.

I started punching holes in the negatives (melodic lines, chords) before running them through the music box. It worked.

Building the base

This object had to be inviting and as self-explanatory as possible. I built a wooden base that also holds the negatives, at an angle.

The music

Each slide plays a short, diatonic miniature. Since it can be flipped both ways (length and width), the negative actually offers four variations.