In the 1870s, Heinrich Beck founded what would eventually become Beck's Brewery. At about the same time, Thomas Edison was hard at work on creating the first phonograph. It's a safe bet neither man thought the two products would ever merge, but when the New Zealand branch of Beck's wanted to promote a new record label project, the company turned to design agency, Shine Limited to do exactly that. The designers concocted the Edison bottle, a simple glass beer bottle inscribed with music that can be played like a 19th-century phonograph cylinder.
Shine's design team came up with the idea after noticing the similarity in size and shape between a Beck's beer bottle and an old cylinder record. The group decided to carve the new Arch Hill Recordings label's first single, Here She Comes by Ghost Wave, right onto the glass and enlisted the help of Gyro Constructivists for the actual manufacturing.
After recreating the tune on a few flat prototypes, the team's next step was to build a device that could cut those same grooves onto a glass cylinder. To get the proper alignment, the group outfitted a lathe with an arm taken from a computer hard drive, which would cut with smoother, more accurate movements. The designers also had to adjust some of the outlying frequencies in Ghost Wave's song to avoid any serious distortion. Luckily, the new track already included some rough sounds of its own, which translated well onto the glass.
Making the bottle-shaped record was a challenge in itself, but the next task was to reverse-engineer a music player for it. Essentially, the team had to reconstruct a cylinder phonograph with modern electronics and materials, which carried the added benefits of a cleaner sound and easier controls.
The Edison bottle was publicly unveiled in May at the Semi-Permanent design conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Except for a few pops and crackles, which is typical even on old vinyl records, the final sound quality came out quite well – certainly much better than other homemade records we've seen recently. Unfortunately, this appears to be just a one-off product, so you won't be able to convert your recyclables into a music collection anytime soon.
Check out the videos below to hear the completed Edison bottle and watch how it was created.