Friday, September 22, 2006


artcamp mixtape session

Yesterday a couple of good pals and I (photos to follow) did a short 'un'presentation at the first ever artcamp, the 'un'conference part of the new forms festival here in vancouver. Everything went really well, considering the last minuteness of it all. We didn't get a chance to cover all the things we had on the list, which turned out to be just fine. Brian came through with some indepth coverage and commentary (as usual) and did a fine job sharing his interest digging around in the trash bin at Value Village. James dazzled the crowd not only with the fine selection of vintage decks he had on hand, but also a breadth of knowledge about the fineries of cassette culture unsurpassed in this time, and likely previous times as well.

For this topic I have found people are quite interested in sharing their own stories, and many of the participants were eager. One of the unique qualities of cassettes, were just how "in and of the world" they were. Unlike so many of the fancy gadgets seem to be today. I'm not really sure I describe that concept the best, but its a theme I intend to build upon. Its best to let the stories speak for themselves, which is partially why I have chosen this direction in my research

There were many a DJ's at artcamp, and not surprisingly many of these talented folks had their beginnings making music (or sound or whatever) on the early cassettes decks. One such lady (hi Marcy!) described her early 'mixtaping' experience which really struck me. First, for its creative brilliance, and also how clearly it expressed the usability of the cassette. It seems she was born to be a DJ, beginning from the young age of 9 Marcy loved recording, everything. Her own voice, interviews and sounds from her neighborhood as well as music either from the radio, or her folks records or wherever it was, in 'her world'. This audio was all lovingly captured and edited on the fly, usually while she was cruising around on her rollerskates,which I'm sure would have been a sight. Apparently she has several years of these recordings (still on tape) and which her mother later applied photos of her to each of the covers corresponding to the year it was produced. A detail made even more poignant by the fact that her family had had a fire awhile ago, and she thought all of them had been lost forever, but no, the cassettes survived. Each of us got a little glassy eyed by the end of this story.

I have much, much more to process. Artcamp was an excuse for me to draw a few more minds into this reserach area, and as I suspected, an equal number of new dimensions on cassette culture became apparenet. The session stirred up another rich batch of sources for me to follow and for that I am quite thrilled. (update: I should have handed out cards pointing people to the flickr group darn it!)

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Saturday, September 16, 2006


A tape I found at the thrift store today

A tape I found at the thrift store today
Originally uploaded by frippy.
On finding tapes. One thing you can say about this format is that it is alot tougher than most digital technologies. I cant really see digging through the bins at value village looking for obscure audio finds on CD or mp3 format. Tapes however still have some 'value' as an object itself, and there is small growing interest in finding special audio artefacts, such as that pictured here.

In fact there is a cool site dedicated to the activity. Tape Findings: Found Home recordings and other cassette deck oddities, posts one a week for you listening pleasure and has been doing it for the past 73 weeks!

This site is an archive of one of a kind cassette tape recordings and other odd sounds that I have discovered throughout my years searching thrift stores and garage sales. I hope you find them as fascinating as I do. Enjoy!


Compro CDs

Compro CDs
Originally uploaded by RobertFrancis.
I was thinking that the "death of the cassette tape" may be more of a myth and a westernized on at that, than I originally thought. sure there are plenty of new technologies available for the wealthy to consume, but what about poorer people and countries? I will need to find more published information on cassettes sales worldwide, even though I have seen a few pictures in flickr of different markets and shops from around the world of tapes being bought or sold.

This article (2002) from the optical disc industry (?) made the case that

...sales of licensed prerecorded cassettes have sharply declined over the past decade, according to the IFPI. In 1991, music cassette sales were 1.49 billion units, representing 52% of all sales worldwide. By 2000, these figures had fallen to 800.9 million and 23%. The biggest market for music cassettes is Asia, which represents 48% of all sales.

Thea BBC followed with a story (2005) proclaiming "Not long left for cassette tapes", citing

"Cassette albums have declined quite significantly since their peak in 1989 when they were selling 83 million units in the UK," Matt Phillips of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme.

"Last year we saw that there were about 900,000 units sold. It's clear to see that cassette sales are dwindling fast."

Monday, September 11, 2006


Gaiman Tape

Gaiman Tape
Originally uploaded by Pete Ashton.
Yay, flickr has got the "blog this" feature up and running for blogger (beta).

Not surprisingly, tapes cassettes were really good at capturing lots of audio around the time they were in existance, approximatley from the 70's to the 90's. This old tape popped up just as a reminder that some of the best content that is not music may still be lying in wait somewhere, in a back room, closet or attic.

This interview with esteemed comic creator neil gaiman, was reposted on a blog by Pete Ashton. He recounts the journey from tape to mp3.

The other day Andy G and I were going through our respective pre-CD music collections and he stumbled across the Gaiman tape. I told him the story and he asked if he could borrow it. Yes, I said, but you mustn't listen to it while I'm in the room. You should digitize it and stick it online, he said, and I scoffed, but only slightly. It lurked on the kitchen table for a while and one afternoon I snatched it up and popped it in the tape deck. My main concern was about myself coming over like a spoddy little teenager who doesn't know what the hell he's talking about but it didn't seem so bad. I guess I'm far enough away from that version of me now.

The content was valuable and prized enough to be digitized and uploaded for free and easy public consumption .

How many tape cassette treasures are still out there, lying in wait till they can be set free with a new digital rebirth?

This is an excellent example of exactly why digital formats win out over their physical counterparts, although would a 17 yr old audio file from that year been able to survive as easily?

Sunday, September 10, 2006 / mycassettes /

I am using the online bookmarking service to collect and annotate my data by setting up a unique account under the name "mycassettes". I have bookmarked all the images that have been added to the flickr group so far (tagging them "added") and will continue doing so. I have also discovered many other images realted to cassette culture by searching the tags and titles on flickr. Some I have requested to be added to the group, but for whatever reason they were not. In these cases I have "favorited " the photographs, and have included them in the set. (tagged "favorited ")

My favorites, are publicly available, but I also save other images that are not related to my research so I needed a way to pull these out and group them all with the "Added" image set. So far this is looking very promising as a means to quickly and comprehensively gather my data and add annotations or structure into sub classes, etc all by using tags. The added bonus is that because these are links from flickr images, the site also saves a thumbnail preview of the image i am referencing.

Sunday, September 03, 2006



Originally uploaded by toner.
Tapes could be 'gathered' which perhaps is what makes them worth collecting and saving in the first place. This shot from toner, is of a small collection gathered
From the 804NoiseFest Label Expo.

which is "a two day experimental, noise, avant-garde & multi-media event held each year in Richmond", Virginia. link

The pic is from just last year Oct 2005, so it is interesting that they are still using tapes in the distribution of music at all, although there seemed to be a mix of formats at this event.

It is worthy to note the variety of labelling methods used in just this small sample of tapes. Clearly not everyone took the time to 'mark up' their tapes in ways as sophisticated as this. Some factors that may have determined the lengths people would go to label their music; availability of time/materials, creative/artisitic tendency of the individual, balance between information and aesthetics.

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