Here at The Ann Arbor Chronicle, we traffic almost exclusively in the written word. One clear exception is made for center-column articles, where we do try to include some photographs. Still, it’s rare that we take advantage of the full multimedia capability of the Internet.
However, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve published two pieces that have included supplementary audio files. One was a write-up of a Ward 3 Ann Arbor city council candidate forum. The audio in that case served the purpose of grounding possible conversation about a she-said-he-said accusation in the actual facts of what-he-said.
The second one was a piece by regular columnist David Erik Nelson – about interviewing Noam Chomsky in the bar of the Campus Inn. The audio in that case served in part to provide a literal sense of what Chomsky “sounds like.” Just as a side note, I would argue that Nelson’s written treatment of the interview actually offers higher fidelity than the audio.
Today’s monthly milestone column also includes some audio. It was recorded from a roughly four-foot diameter “cooperative phonograph” fabricated out of stainless steel by local Ann Arbor inventor/artist Michael Flynn. Flynn had the phonograph on display last Saturday at Chelsea’s Sounds and Sights Festival.
Flynn was set up on Chelsea’s Main Street, just south of the iconic clock tower. He invited passers-by to use cards as “needles” to pick up the sounds from the ridges that he has cut into the edges of the metal disk.
I enjoyed watching as skeptical expressions from parents and kids dissolved into delight – as they discovered how the cards they were holding against the spinning platter were somehow generating music and words.
But an expression of delight won’t pay Flynn’s bills. The work of art took him over four years to develop – and he took on debt to make it possible. So Flynn is looking to sell the phonograph and to make more of them for sale – as a piece of public art or an interactive museum exhibit. That is how Flynn earns his livelihood.