Clown & Sunset Prism

It's mysterious. It's music. It's a music player. It's a headphone amp, for two.

The Clown & Sunset Prism is $40 and it comes loaded with 12 tracks from the Clown & Sunset label. You can't add any more or take any away. Clown & Sunset is the product of Nicolas Jaar who is also a musician, producer, and currently a student at Brown University. You can listen to and download the music here (some tracks are free and some are offered in Apple Lossless format) and pre-order the Prism here. Ships in April.

Objet d'art?

Clown & Sunset has an interesting take on pricing their music downloads that's worth sharing.

A note on pricing:

No two works of art are the same. Clown & Sunset Aesthetics (CSA) prices each piece to reflect the unique values and priorities imbued within it. This is not a hierarchy. Just because one Clown & Sunset release is more expensive, doesn’t mean it’s precious. And just because a song is free doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Some prices are sentimental; others are practical. Only you can decide what each one is worth… to you.

Here's what Mr. Jaar had to say about the Prism in a recent NY Times article:

“I really like the idea of giving people a strange piece of technology that they don’t know how to use,” he said. “If we’re going to make a new way to give music to people, it’s going to be imbued with the same type of poetry or the same type of concepts that a song would have.”

johnnya's picture

now this is something new, rather than a rehashing of a rehashing. too bad i don't care for the music, though i am thinking of 'taking a flyer', just to support this new gig.

nunh's picture

Although I find this interesting, I cannot see this as being successful whatsoever. Pricing is a barrier as well as one-off uselssness (item can be considered a keepsake but, ultimately will be discarded). In today's iPod/ download/ mobile app world - this is taking a step backwards in the name of novelty (guessing). If the tracks were transferable, I would thumbs up this idea myself. One can buy a functioning mp3 player that offers more pro-music lover options for less than the price of this cube. Now for the positive - I like the uniqueness - especially the headphone amp for two functionality.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

...can be measured by the fact that it exists.

Kinda like a work of art or a piece of music. Whether or not it's popular is another matter and I doubt that was the intent. As you point out, the Prism’s shortcomings make it less appealing for someone looking for something this thing is not.

Stephen Mejias's picture

To me, the Clown & Sunset Prism is a success.  It's a gorgeous idea brought to life.  It seems to me that it's about creating a memorable, shared experience.  And if hi-fi isn't about creating high-quality, memorable experiences, then we've all gone wrong somewhere.

I'm impressed by the quality of the music, the quality of the idea, and by the amount of success Nicolas Jaar and his friends have reached at such young ages. To me, what Nicolas Jaar is doing is far more important than what the major labels are doing.  He can write a song -- a good song -- this morning, post it on SoundCloud in the afternoon, share it on Facebook and through his label, and have it reach 100,000 listeners pretty much instantly.  That's impressive.  And what a quality experience.

dalethorn's picture

In 1995 I think it was, I bought a little plastic device which had a built-in speaker that played one and only one Britney Spears song, Baby One More Time(?)  This thing cost around $10 and was awful, but then again, unique. I liked it and could truly irritate people with the thing - not because of itself but because of what it contained, made worse by the tinniness. I think there were variants of this, throwaways with little earphones etc.  But when you consider that an Apple Shuffle is a tiny little clip-on player that has (or had) up to 4 gb storage, someone could issue such things with several hours of lossless music on it - symphonies, whatever. Add slightly better electronics than Apple's standard and mass produce - it could be done cheaply enough for audiophiles, if the content were appropriate in quantity and quality.

Clayton72's picture

New packaging for CD's has been innovated since CD's were first introduced in the plastic jewel case in order to reduce the impact of the music industry.  This seems to be going the other direction.  Perhaps I'm hypocritical for pointing this out since I love my picture vinyl and applaud The Shins releasing their new album on 1/4 inch reel-to-reel tape.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

And there's no "packaging" it's all package.

Martin Osborne's picture

Nice reminder from Clown and Sunset that despite the commodification of music, the true 'value' of music is in the actual experience of the music.

As for fascinating music playback devices, I have 4 first edition Buddha Machines - a cheap  plastic pocket transistor radio like player of low res' electronic and traditional Chinese acoustic instrumental loops composed by the group FM3.

The low res playback, tiny speaker, running down battery power and case resonance creating a kind of portable minimalist/systems music player. 

At the other end of the spectrum,  the musician Merzbow once issued a 'release' that was a second hand Mercedes car containing a modified CD player that could only play the disc of his music loaded in it.







Michael Lavorgna's picture

I also a v 1.0 (orange). Highly recommended - Buddha Machine

There's also the Throbbing Gristle version - Gristleism