Wasted Sheet Music: Dot Matrix Printers as Music

I loved my dot-matrix-printer! My parents hated it. It´s piercing, scratching noises, and complex rhythms sounded as exotic as any Lex Baxter record and would wreck the nerves of those who could not hear it´s amazing capabilities.

This must be one of the reasons why the demise of this one-time futuristic, clunky piece of office-machinery is only lamented by very few people.

I had to smile when I recently (two years ago) was entertained by a lonely Epson dm-printer in the business center of a 5-Star Hotel in Bangkok. These things refuse to die!

Once seen as a quantum leap from the typ-machine, today these huge boxes look like dinosaurs who simply were too slow and bulky to adapt to laser-printers and ink-jets.

The fact that they are practically free because they areconsidered as junk today makes it easier for Australian artist Sue Harding, who creates amazing concertos for up to four Dot-Matrix printers.

The concept is just brilliant! The harsh and complex sounds of the machines are so far away from the overly sound-designed products of today.

Harding conducts the printers by creating patterns, forms and senselss code on four amiga computers. Experimenting with different shades of gray she learnes how to "control" the pitch, tempo and interaction of the singing needles.

The source material, or "painting" is only secondary. The music that is created is an analog waste-product of a digital picture.

It would be interesting to find out how the sound would be affected, if the print-outs would be scanned and "re-played". Would we hear the equivalent of "tape-hiss"? Will the printers be sloppy or would we hear signs of spontaneous interpretations? How will a concert for four Epson printers differ from a selection of Panasonics?

I hope that Sue Harding will find enough old printers to answer all these questions.

Dot Matrix Music (Sue Harding)

Ukrainian artist Younnat has a less purist approach to the matrix printer. He uses it´s rhythms and mechanical twitches as a background for his ambient compositions.

Younnat: Dot Matrix Printer Etude

The real surprise is -of course- the way in which people present their old printers in small Youtube clips.
Another day, another strange obsession...

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