Carl Palme (Germany)

Carl Palme

Sonic and visual artist Carl Palme (b. 1977) researches on the cultural
impact of the digital turn. Carl did his masters in media studies about
the DVD as key to a new understanding of digital film and culture. Lives
and works in Berlin.

title: The Player Is The Instrument: etude pour lecteur DVD
year: 2009
duration: 5 min. and 9 sec.
URL for download:

10 years ago the rapid hacking of DVD Video, a brandnew format at that
time, indicated the arrival of a new digital era.
This work is trying to perform another hack with DVD Video.

It all began during the debugging of a sophisticated DVD game. I
discovered overwhelming features of set top DVD Players. Certain
programming of the disc resulted in a unique audible output. I do not
speak about the ordinary electric output, measurable through jacks and
plugs. I discovered the DVD player as a solo instrument that creates
sonic waves.

Characteristically the act of playing the instrument is split in two
parts. The programming of the disc (diachronic) and the possible
interaction using the remote control while having the disc in the DVD
player (syncronic). The specifications and condition of the machine
itself i.e. the box, the drive and the electronic parts of the DVD
player define the sonic peculiarity of the single machine as an instrument.

Very similar to a punch card organ that can not play without a card, the
DVD player will not work without its disc. Knowing that it comes from a
film projecting machine the sound of the DVD player will typically
remind listeners of the 35mm film projector sound. On the one hand the
latter probably is a culturally deeply embedded sound that comes to our
minds quickly in case a soundtrack to the film is missing. On the other
hand and despite all differences concerning analogue versus digital, the
playing technique still is based on rotation, which explains sonic
similarities. Anyway the sonic monotony an the smoothly irregular rhythm
let us drift away imagining… interrupted by someone pushing the open
button on the remote control, which results in a big bang, a reboot of
the system.

All sounds appearing in the work are created by one single set top DVD
player. Everything was recorded in two mono channels using a cymbal and
a voice microphone. The DVD machine was placed on a wooden stand as a
natural amplifier. The final piece is a mix of three life recordings of
the DVD player performing with one disc – a DVD Video game including
advanced scripting. The only human interaction is pushing the open button.

”Etude pour lecteur DVD” is a first approach to understanding DVD
players as instruments. The work does not exhaust the range of sounds a
DVD player can create.