Reading WNUR Music Director Notes With Voyant
Digital archiving is transmutation. Scanning record covers and collecting metadata on seemingly endless spreadsheets transcend the acts themselves as each record suddenly changes state. From cardboard and polyvinyl chloride and ink to 1s and 0s and bytes, the move from physical to digital in the physical sense is not much different from the flow of information from record grooves to speakers and sound. In a sense, records themselves are archives of a sound moment, a transmutation from sound to physical grooves, and the unraveling and further transmutation of that information are what this project aims to display.
Of the various transmutations happening in the WNUR Underground Project, perhaps none is as unique to this collection, or as useful in uncovering the way the collection was created than the music director notes. The music director notes change from marker ink to binary code displayed as text in a spreadsheet application, and thus transmute from what many would consider "writing" to "text". Existing in the marker form, the notes are physically attached to the record covers they adorn, and barring forced removal or degradation, will never leave those covers. Text, however, is malleable, is editable, is easily manipulated and most importantly is not really text at all. This is an important distinction and approaches a unique aspect of the digital where all information is at it's most basic level, identical to the computer. Thus, the computer can easily and quickly accomplish tasks which may seem tasks complex or tedious to the discerning human mind. By utilizing the computer as a liberating actor on information, we can more creatively reorient that information for the human brain to ponder and bring back to humanistic terms.
As related to text the web-based application, Voyant, developed by Stéfan Sinclair and Geoffery Rockwell, is an extremely useful tool for visualizing and disorienting text in creative ways for the human researcher. By extracting and trimming the textual data of the music director notes across the Underground Archive Project, and using Voyant's tools for visualization we can better analyze the information a director note contains and the criteria used for adding a record to the WNUR Rock record collection. What follows are the analyses and visualizations made possible through Voyant. Though I will offer an interpretation, I encourage you to first explore the tools and make your own observations prior to reading what I have observed. Click on any of the embedded Voyant panels to access the full analysis.
By Brock Stuessi