Just like DJs, the new, plastic British five-pound note has a nocturnal alter ego as a needle for playing vinyl records, reassuring the Calvin Harrises and Snakehipses of the nation that dwindling resources will never obstruct their pursuit of their craft.
The discovery was made by a multimedia artist from Norfolk, England named Michael Ridge, who recently uploaded a YouTube video of a person dragging the new five-pound note across the surface of a 7” disc spinning on a Croxley record player. At first, all you hear is harsh static as the edge of the note attempts to find a groove on the vinyl surface. But when they finally align, the music rings out loud and clear: It’s the 1976 Abba banger “Money, Money, Money” — natch.
This phenomenon works because, in addition to being waterproof, fireproof, and hunger-proof, the new plastic note is also really sharp. This allows it to fit into one of the record’s tiny grooves, which is where sound information is recorded during the record-making process. Once it falls snugly within one of these grooves, the bank note vibrates as it touches the sides of the record, as illustrated below in a still from an explanatory video by Vinyl Eyezz:
What we don’t see in the video are the contact microphone and amplifier attached to the bank note, which are necessary for creating sound. The modulating vibrations from the bank note — that’s what creates the shifting sounds we hear as music — are passed on to the contact microphone, which uses magnets to turn those vibrations into an electric signal. Those signals are, in turn, eventually fed through to the amplifier, where the back-and-forth movement of the speaker’s cones through air creates the audio waves that reach our ears as, in this case, the hypnotic piano and thumping bass of classic Swedish pop.
Okay, so using a bank note to read vinyl isn’t exactly a no-brainer. Still, it’s not impossible, and Ridge has even figured out how to do the same thing using nachos, seagull skulls, and fish skeletons. Besides, Calvin Harris, clearly has a huge amount of time on his hands that could be put to better use brushing up on the physics of sound.