The raw material to make vinyl records comes in vinyl pellets, lentil-sized bits of petroleum product (PVC – polyvinyl chloride) that are in an easily transportable form before they get melted and stamped with grooves of sound. This project documents the deployment of these tiny units of potential through an inordinate number of photographs (13284 in total, in two equal series of 6642).
To start, pellets were loaded on a scale until their weight reached 180 grams, which is the weight of audiophile vinyl (as opposed to 120 grams which is the standard weight of records). Then, over the course of the last seven years, one by one the pellets were either sold, gifted, or placed in a public space. Each transaction was photographed and paired with a photograph of the pellets arranged in the form of a 12″ record which is correspondingly diminished by one pellet each time. This particular 180 g batch of vinyl added up to 6642 pellets, and the very final one was released on April 5th, 2019. In other words, the record has finally been released (6284 were placed, 301 gifted, 51 sold, 6 sent via mail). For seven years, it was simply in the process of being released.
A record release, like a book launch, usually marks a project’s culmination, this reverses the process, the release is the project. As Seth Kim-Cohen put it, in discussing Record Release in his book Against Ambience (Bloomsbury 2016), “this ‘record’ is a record of social exchange, of site, of time, and of the exploded, diagrammatic construct of its potential for signification.” I would add that it is also a pairing of micro gestures with micro plastics; an examination of the manufacturing process and vinyl fetishism; a staging of sited strategies and furtive mobility tactics; a monument to the tiny and barely perceptible; a study in slow and inefficient action; a merging of depletion with completion; a rendering of sound as conceptual object into image as serial document.
The first version of Record Release in 1995 (see link above) simply poured the pellets on a floor in one instance, or in the other, placed them in a kind of makeshift gravel-like entrance way so that they would spread into the gallery by the footsteps of the visitors. Seventeen years later, this second Record Release becomes a more patient exercise, more imperceptible, yet obviously larger (or at least longer) in scope.
APRIL 5, 2019 (release completed)
[…] As with Yeh’s Bad Ideas, The String and the Mirror also includes multiple instantiations of Christof Migone’s Record Release (2013). Each consists of circular piles of PVC pellets on the floor. The subtitles of the three works supply information about what these pellets are and how they might be used. The first subtitle is “(12″ black)”; the second, “(10″ transparent)”; and the third, “(7″ white).” The pellets are the raw materials for the production of a 12-, 10-, and 7-inch vinyl record. In this version of the work, Migone initiates a process of imaginative assembly. Viewing the piles of pellets, the spectator mentally constructs the three records referenced in the subtitles. Simultaneously, or perhaps, alternately, the spectator deconstructs the experience of handling and playing vinyl records, reatomizing the fecund platters into the raw, inert materials set upon the gallery floor.
An earlier version of Record Release, dated 2012, involves Migone distributing the number of pellets required to make a 12-inch vinyl record. Intermittently, over the course of many months, he personally hands one pellet to a friend or an acquaintance, photographs the pellet in the palm of the recipient’s hand, and supplies the recipient with a card certifying ownership of a portion of Record Release and bearing the number of the pellet. Migone is now making an iteration of Record Release, subtitles (7-inch), which makes the previous versions feel like studies for the final, complete work. In this version, Migone will occupy a particular site for a few days. He suggests sites including, “a museum, a city block, a road, a record plant, a printing press, a refinery, a prison, an archive, a science lab, a hospital, a TV station, an airport.”77 At the site, during the allotted time period, he will distribute the number of pellets required to make a 7-inch record, handing each one, personally, to a visitor, a passerby, a resident, an employee. He will videotape each exchange. The audio from this video will then be assembled into an audio work to be pressed on a limited-edition run of 7-inch records. Migone imagines working at sites that contain two distinct types of space: public and off-limits, or above and below ground, for example. The audio from each type of space would be presented on alternate sides of the record.
The previous versions of Record Release comfortably accommodate non- cochlear precepts. They reference sound without producing it. They function discursively, asking the spectator to produce a narrative or a history that connects the material of the work (the pellets) to a familiar object of cultural conveyance. The 2012 version enacts a social interaction between Migone and pellet recipients. It also implies a subtle critique of market conventions such as collecting and the numbered edition. Yet, these versions stop short of closing the circuits they initiate. The new version of the work provides a return path for the project’s charge. Conception and reception are linked in ways that complicate each along the chain of dissemination. The work now generates and distributes productive forces through its nodes. By activating the record as a platform for the reproduction of recorded sound, Migone revives the most vital aspect of the project. The record itself is both the work’s substrate and the location of its semantics. To sublimate the record, as in the previous versions, is to muzzle the work. By putting the record back in play, Migone reattaches the material to what’s being done with it. As a result, what’s being done with it begins to do something itself. The pellets are no longer inert matter, merely suggestive of that active experience of listening to a record. Where, once, they simply signaled “record,” they now become the record’s signal. At the same time, the “record” is now a record of social exchange, of site, of time, and of the exploded, diagrammatic construct of its potential for signification. As Migone writes of the project, “the act of disseminating the record produces the record.”(78) This version of Record Release productively engages the nested senses of distribution that ride the literal and figurative surfaces of the vinyl record.
[…] And . . . then there’s Christof Migone, the rare artist working with or in sound, who actively engages an aesthetics of intensity. For a couple of reasons, I will focus on his CD, Quieting.(11) I want to take the opportunity to engage Salomé Voegelin’s reading of Quieting in her book, Listening to Noise and Silence. Since both Salomé and Christof are here, this will be a great opportunity to engage in a kind of applied, collective theorizing focused on a single work.
Quieting consists of thirty-six tracks ranging in duration from sixteen seconds to three minutes and twelve seconds. Seventeen of the tracks are digital silence—no audio has been recorded or encoded. Of the remaining nineteen tracks, most consist of very quiet environmental recordings that read for all intents and purposes as silence. But three of the tracks have more identifiable content:
— Track eighteen is the temporal and thematic centerpiece of Quieting. The track is twenty-eight seconds long. At twelve seconds, a cannon is fired. This particular cannon is fired every day at noon in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
— Track twenty-two is sixteen seconds long. It uses audio from the video recording of Burden’s iconic Shoot. Importantly, the audio Migone uses does not include the gunshot of Burden’s title.
— Track thirty-six, the final track, is twenty-eight seconds long and is silent for all but the last six of those seconds.
The final six seconds consist of  audio taken from First Contact, a film recounting the story of Australian gold diggers entering the interior of New Guinea in the 1930s, using guns to subdue the aboriginal population.
I recount these stats, as if taken from the back of a baseball card, for a reason. The total duration of significant audio on this forty-two-minute CD amounts to thirty-eight seconds. Those thirty-eight seconds all refer, in one way or another, to ballistics. Yet Salomé Voegelin focuses on the thirty-three tracks of silence and near-silence. She writes that Quieting “composes silence.” She is interested in the “zipzipzip of the CD-player,” “faint hushes, bubbles, voices and crackles,” that may be part of the CD’s audio, or may just be sounds in her own listening environment. She compares the firing of the cannon to the “Zen master readying you to fight.”12
The fight is the phenomenological focus of listening to the work as a sensory-motor production. The canon [sic] brackets the silence and reveals the intention of the work: to make you listen, to quieten yourself and hear your own process and location of engagement.(13)
The equation here of Zen with phenomenological modes of listening is not an uncommon move in sound art and its discourse. Voegelin seems to want to rescue a kind of primal subjectivity from the clinical methods of phenomenology. But Quieting expressly evades such a phenomenological- subjective reading. In the instances of the three tracks mentioned above, the listening experience is expressly directed back to the sources of the audio—not just the guns, but the guns’ contexts in the histories of art and colonialism. In hewing fundamentally to her subjectivist phenomenology, Voegelin never acknowledges the ballistic thread running through Quieting. Instead she focuses on her own sonic-somatic experience of listening:
I am bound to the sonic materiality produced in my own listening imagination.(14)
I hear myself in this quiet soundscape, I am the centre of its weightless sounds.(15)
[It] becomes material through my fleshly encounter: hooked inside my body its silence tugs on the surface of my skin to hear it as a whisper all over my body.(16)
Voegelin’s experience seems to be self-generated and to exist independently of Quieting’s content and means of presentation. At times she claims to have produced or coproduced the work, its effects, meanings, and intentions, in her act of listening: My contingent signifying practice of listening to Migone’s composition.(17) Migone composes his silence that enables mine.(18) This is a claim that runs throughout Voegelin’s book: what we might call “authorship-via-listening.” And I’m certainly post-Death-Of-The-Author enough to be on board with a bit of listener empowerment. But I also think that listening has an obligation to work with what it’s listening to and to attend to its particularities. Otherwise, what need have we of specific works? Indeed, throughout her book, Voegelin derives the same listening experience from a varied set of sonic works, as if listening is what’s important and not listening-to.
To the extent that Migone’s Quieting is “about” anything, it is about gunshots. It is about cannon shots used to defend cities, rifle shots used to pierce flesh and subdue native peoples for economic gain. The silences that weave in and out of these shots on the CD are not Zen-inspired invitations to contemplation or phenomenological objects intended as focal points of heightened perception. These silences are the pressurized befores, in-betweens, and afters of colonialism, of oppression, of conflict, of power, as signified by the cannon shot at the heart of the CD. The 17 silent and quiet tracks before the cannon shot are set-ups, each track persistently pushing forward to the next. Why not one long track of silence? Because these moments tick by with the persistence of a second hand: tick-tick-tick; with the persistence of a ticking bomb: tick-tick-tick. These silences are the methodical set-up before the punch line. They are the ruse that allows the con. They are the complacency that precedes the moment of violation. The 18 tracks of silence after the cannon shot are the ticking emptiness of conscience in the aftermath of trauma. Both the firer and the fired-upon ask questions that cannot be answered: and . . . and . . . and . . ., why . . . why . . . why? The silences after the cannon shot are the never-to-be-answered questions. Tick-tick-tick. The quieting of the work’s title is not a Zen quieting of the mind, but the oppressor’s quieting of the oppressed. It is also the oppressed’s  quieting of herself in a vain effort to go unnoticed, to evade the gaze and grasp of the oppressor. The quieting of the title is the sound of the victim erasing himself in the shadow of mounting threat, an erasure is undertaken because, as horrible as it may be, it is still preferable to what the oppressor, the colonizer, the man with the gun, has in mind. Tick-tick-tick.
And . . . in 2000, the same year he released Quieting, Migone published an essay, tellingly titled “Ricochets.” The essay presents a series of befores and afters of modern enterprise and its calamitous endgames:
Past the vessel/shipwrecks, train/derailments, automobile/car crashes, electricity/electrocutions at the end of the corridor we find ethnography/ . . . . Perhaps an elliptical silence is the only possible response on the other side of that slash. Perhaps silence is the ultimate catastrophe. We can’t be silent anymore. “Silence is complicity.”19
The intensity of Quieting is produced by the pressurized persistence of its silences. But this pressure is motivated, inflated, so to speak, by the peak moment of the cannon shot. Without the cannon shot the silences do not produce intensity. Likewise, the silences charge the sonic content: charge them like a current and like a judge. The silences are neither innocent nor bystanders. They are complicit. The tracks of identified audio resist simple decoding. Both include what is apparently language, but neither is easily parsed. These tracks are pressurized by the differential values of the information Migone provides in the liner notes and the frustratingly recalcitrant audio. We are told these tracks contain crucial information regarding peak events. Yet we are unable to extract either the information or the peak.
Overall, the persistence of the silences, track after track: sixteen seconds, nineteen seconds, thirty-two seconds, one minute sixteen, one minute twenty-two . . . the persistence of these silences mounting up in anticipation of the cannon blast generates an intensity of anticipation. The persistence of the silences in the wake of the blast generates a different kind of intensity. The listener is compelled to confront the implications of the aftermath of the blast. The silences after the cannon shot are the silences of history, the silences of moral certitude in which all questions and doubts and explanations dissipate into muteness. These silences are inhabited by the firer and the fired-upon, by the onlooker, and by those of us who come afterward, mercifully unwounded by the blast itself. As Migone writes in “Ricochet,” Silence without agency. Silence as the sound fear makes when at the end of the barrel, the suspension of time after the shot, “the monstrous atrophy of the voice, the incredible mutism.”20 Quieting is a work of persistence and resistance. By surrounding the cannon blast, the audible imprint of power, with more than forty minutes of “silence without agency,” Migone requires the listener to contend with both conscience and consciousness, with both self and other, with the undismemberable entity that we and they form in the crucible of history. The voicelessness of Quieting is the voicelessness of the victim. But it is also the voicelessness of these questions and silence as the only answer we have a right to expect.