Switzerland

Death To Vinyl: Pressing Ashes Of The Departed Into Records, Other Keepsakes

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust? Not always. Human remains can also be manufactured into diamonds, drugs and fertilizers. Or, in some very special cases, vinyl discs.

Urn your place in your loved ones' lives (dblackadder)
Urn your place in your loved ones' lives (dblackadder)
Thomas Wyss

ZURICH - Tupac Shakur ended up as a joint. The long-circulated rumor was recently confirmed by two members of his former band Outlawz, EDI Mean and Young Noble. In 1996, the two musicians actually mixed the ashes of the assassinated hip-hop star with marijuana and smoked it just like Tupac had asked in his song Black Jesus: "Last Wishes, niggas, smoke my ashes."

Of course, Tupac's last wish is hardly common. Still, it isn't as unusual as one may think. The number of people choosing an alternative to the peaceful coffin or urn of ashes is increasing every year. If fate has already gambled away half of your battle, the reasoning goes, you should at least be able to organize your departure entirely on your own terms.

In Switzerland, natural burials are very popular, due in part to the "ash freedom" laws: anyone who chooses to be cremated may also decide where the ashes are cast. Scattered under a favorite tree? Along a favorite trail? In the river, on whose banks you stole your first kiss? Basically everything is permitted.

Such "gone with the wind" burials are undoubtedly very poetic and moving moments of farewell. And yet there's a catch: once the ashes are gone, all is gone. The memory of an individual is reduced to a thought, without a fixed place of remembrance or a tangible symbol in which the remains can be preserved.

Nature lovers can work around this problem elegantly by asking that their ashes be turned into fertilizer for a newly planted young tree. As the tree grows, it absorbs the ground cover in its roots, its branches and foliage soon flourishing into a natural grave.

Diamonds and drinks

The pan-European company Algordanza (meaning "memory" in Romansh), founded in 2004, offers a relic particularly well-suited for widows: it converts the ashes of dead loved ones into faux diamonds. The synthetic stones are manufactured in a laboratory in Neuchatel; depending on how much boron has been deposited in the body, the diamonds have a weaker or stronger blue shimmer. The process from order to delivery usually takes two to four months, and the price depends on the carat weight of the gemstone --between 4,800 and 10,000 Swiss francs ($5,300 to $11,085).

An eternal end as a tree or a piece of jewelry? Dandy's and rock "n" rollers laugh at the idea. Their perpetuation should of course be staged according to the way they lived their lives: unconventional, loud, hedonistic. Actor James Doohan (Scotty in the TV series "Star Trek") and LSD guru Timothy Leary had particularly cool send-offs. They both had their ashes attached to a rocket and sent into space. The price tag? Around $10,000.

Another original --but far more sustainable-- offer comes from the British company And Vinyly, who rewrote the well known RIP (Rest in Peace) to RIV – Rest in Vinyl. Specifically: the ashes of the deceased are processed into a working vinyl record. The simplest version costs $3,100, but that will get you 30 vinyl copies (enough for friends and relatives) onto which music or a recorded message can be pressed. One particularly spooky option: opt against a song or message and leave only the eerie crackling of ash to be heard on the blank disc.

Of course, it can all get much more extravagant. For $786, you can get a custom tune composed; and for a bit more cash, you can circulate your records in shops around the world. Or choose the ultimate option, which will run you $5,500: James Hague, a painter at the National Portrait Gallery, will use residual ash and acrylics to paint your face in gorgeous pastel colors onto the album covers.

Unlike Algordanza, whose diamond offer is strictly limited to human ashes, And Vinyly will also process your pet's ashes onto a record.

Those for who want to take Tupac's joint solution to the next level, should head on over to Thailand. There, a new drug concoction called "Tai Hong," in which cooked leaves of the Kratom tree are mixed with freshly cremated ashes, is quickly gaining popularity. Supposedly, not only does the drink have an exquisite flavor, but it also elicits a heightened state of consciousness --usually not for too long, but just enough time to share an unforgettable farewell.

Read the original article in German

Photo - dblackadder

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Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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