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TAPEHEADS BY NICHOLAS LUCAS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Stephen Miles Sarasota, Florida May, 2010
ii To Mom and Dad Thank you for always encouraging my every whim: that first easel, tee-ball, cub scouts, karate and guitar lessons. At least a couple of those make sense. Also, for helping me proofread this over the phone, printing it, and saving me a ton of money. And finally, thanks for never asking: So what are you going to do with your life?
iii TABLE OF CONTENTS Introductory Note...............................................................................................................1 Chapter One: Sound Art and Finding a Context for TapeHeads.......................................3 Beginnings: Satie, The Futurists, Dada..................................................................4 The Tape Recorder...............................................................................................11 Cage and Fluxus...................................................................................................13 D.I.Y. Pop.............................................................................................................18 Minimalism..........................................................................................................19 Pop/ Art/ Sound....................................................................................................21 Chapter Two: Social Context...........................................................................................25 The Problem.........................................................................................................25 The Solution.........................................................................................................28 The Symbols of Revolution..................................................................................30 Pop Music.............................................................................................................32 Chapter Three: Machine Music........................................................................................34 Music Machines...................................................................................................34 888 Cranks............................................................................................................35 Walkie -Talkie.......................................................................................................38 Random Access Twenty -Ten...............................................................................40 8 Track Bicycle....................................................................................................43 Trax......................................................................................................................44 Cassette DJ Booth................................................................................................45 Vacation Drum.................................................................................................47 Tapewriter............................................................................................................49 Cassette Skeletons................................................................................................51 Installation............................................................................................................53 Chapter Four: Observations From The Event..................................................................55 The Constraint of Time........................................................................................55 Interactivity..........................................................................................................56 Getting Acquainted...............................................................................................57 Popularity Contest................................................................................................59 Conclusions..........................................................................................................59 Conclusion........................................................................................................................61 Bibliography.....................................................................................................................63
iv TAPEHEADS Nicholas Lucas New College of Florida, 2010 Abstract In this digital age, predictions have been made for a future where machines surpass the intelligence of man and integrate themselves with humankind. Regardless of whether or not these predic tions become reality, they still speak to the general trend of technology moving beyond the realm of tools that enrich our lives and into the territory of machines that enslave us. Furthermore, the majority of us do not understand these modern, digital machines as they are not transparent in their operation. TapeHeads realizes a microcosm of society where people are allowed to be creative by interacting with transparent, analog technologies through the construction of a sound art installation. This install ation is comprised of several machines built from cassette and eight -track players that are entirely interactive and invite participants to create and explore technology through the use of sound. Dr. Stephen Miles Division of Humanities
1 INTRODUCTORY NOTE During the course of my undergraduate studies, and particularly under the instruction of Professor Stephen Miles, I have performed and composed musical and interdisciplinary works whose success hinges upon interaction and communication between performers. Sonic Meditations Songbooks exist not only as pieces of music but also as sonic environments where performers coexist with the music and the audience. In the context of learning and performing these pieces and others like them, I was introduced to the idea of a musical community, a gathering of individuals who are working in harmony to bring an artwork to life through the communication between their bodies. It was while I was in the mind set of composing and performing such pieces that two factors came to influence me. First, I was trying to find ways to integrate my performances of popular music with my band Tyger Beat into more serious musical works. Second, I had become interested in the theories of invent or Raymond Kurzweil concerning the eventual bond of man and computerized machine. TapeHeads was born from my attempt to combine all of th ese factors into one work that would take the form of a musical environment involving a community, electronics, and pop ular song. This written portion of my thesis is meant to provide a context for and description of my sound installation TapeHeads In the first chapter I present the historical context of k within its confines. In the second chapter I present the social context of TapeHeads, describing the theories of Raymond Kurzweil and justifying my work using the ideas of Ivan Illich and E.F. Schumacher. Chapter three serves a description not only of th e various interactive
2 machines which make up my installation, but also of the installation itself. The fourth, and final, chapter was written after the event of my installation on March, 12 2010. In this chapter I present my observations concerning partici pant behavior at the event and ask: was TapeHeads successful as an event?
3 CHAPTER ONE: SOUND ART AND FINDING A CONTEXT FOR TAPEHEADS life of American ab stract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock. As we watched my father th ey prefer a representational depiction of the physical world. They want to see recognizable visual forms. Why then are these same people totally accepting of traditional western music, a form that is supposedly non representational? It has always been surp rising to me that while the visual arts were concerned with representing reality for the greater part if history, western music was operating within abstract harmonic and melodic confines. While the abstractionist visual artists of the 20th century were creating art that moved increasingly further away from any models of the empirical world, other artists and musicians began creating sound works that were distancing themselves from the abstr action of western music and in many cases closer to an organic and realistic exploration of naturally occurring sound. These artists succeeded in blurring the boundaries between art forms and challenging their audiences to try and come up with a label. (Is it music? Poetry? Art?) In this chapter I seek to corral these works into a loose this realm. The history presented here will, rather than explore all intersections of art and music over the last one hundred plus years, seek to divine the examples of art, music,
4 expression. Beginnings: Satie, the Futurists, Dada Kenneth Goldsmith, poet and founder/editor of the web site Ubuweb traces the at happened to be functioning in the realm of music. In his in depth work Erik Satie reveal to his tradition bound fellow men" (Myers 1968, 73). What Goldsmith deems most sought out a kind of background music that would not actively seek attention, and in fa ct environment. the focal point calls attention to the very nature of sound itself as a constant and often uncontrollable force that has the power to shape human perception of any given situation. This view further opens up the possibility of the exact opposite of what S atie proposed: taking sounds of the
5 While Satie suggests a re imagining of the purpose of music, the It alian Futurists suggest a shift in both form and structure. On March 11, 1913 the painter Luigi Russolo lthough sound itself was limited only by the physiology of the ear and contained an infinite number of gradations of tone, pattern, and quality, only a small part of that infinite field of sound was acceptable in his work (Kirby 1971, 34). (Russolo 1913, 10). Russolo describes six families of noise that exist in the empirical world: Puffing; 3. Whispers, Murmurs, Mumbling, Muttering, Gurgling; 4. Screeching, Cre aking, Rus l ing Humming, Crackling, Rubbing; 5. Noises obtained by beating on Metals, Woods, Skins, Stones, Pottery, etc.; 6. Voices of animals and people, Shouts, Screams, Shrieks, Wails, Hoots, Howls, The conclus industrialization created by the common man will one day be considered, or at least be on conq uered by futurist eyes will finally have some futurist ears. Thus, the motors and
6 machines of our industrial cities can one day be given pitches, so that every workshop will become an in toxicating orchestra of noises r to the limitations of Western music was a group of machines called the intonarumori, intonarumori wooden boxes with funnel shaped acoustical amplifiers, or megaphones projecting from gramophones, and their simplistic and slick appearance and operation lends them the feeling of consumer goods. The intonarumori were not operated by the layman, however, and were used in performances of scored pieces. The sound producing mechanisms of the each pr complex mechanisms; yet there is also something clean and safe about th em that clashes reflected in the workings of my own pieces, particularly 888 Cranks. My machines differ, however, in that the bulk of the processes and movements of my pieces are completely intonarumori are concerned primarily with sound and miss the rich visual opportunities hidden inside of their wooden boxes. A performance of intonarumori is visually less transparent than that of a symphony orchestra, wher e the mechanisms of the majority of instruments are on full display for the audience.
7 The marriage of sound, visuals, and mechanics is realized by Dada through a rich and wide assortment of means. Dada was not afraid to explore the gritty realities of the Western world and this fearlessness translates into a bizarre array of experimentations. In 1916 Hugo Ball was carried to the stage at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich in a had made myself a special costume for it. My legs were in a cylinder of shiny blue cardboard, which came up to my hips so that I looked like an obelisk. Over it I wore a huge coat collar cut out of cardboard, scarlet inside and gold outside. It was fastene d at the neck in such a way that I could give the impression of winglike movement by raising and lowering my elbows. I also wore a high, blue and white I could not walk inside the cylinder so I was carried onto the stage in t he dark and began slowly and solemnly: gadji beri bimba glandridi lauli lonni cadori gadjama bim beri glassala glandridi glassala tuffm i zimbrabim fantastic example of audio and visual elements coming together to create a complete work of art. Furthermore, the there is no clear meaning, the audience is force d to focus on the phonemic sounds. In 1949 that journalism has abused and corrupted...we must...give up the word...to keep for poetry hy 1990, 43). In 1926 Kurt Schwitters completed another Dada foray into sound and music. His Ursonate form.
8 "The Sonata consists of four movements, of an overture and a final e, and seventhly, of a cadenza in the fourth movement. The first movement is a rondo with four main themes, designated as such in the text of the Sonata. You yourself will certainly feel the rhythm, slack or strong, high or low, taut or loose. To explain i n detail the variations and compositions of the themes would be tiresome in the end and detrimental to the pleasure of reading and listening, and after all I'm not a professor" (Dachy 1990, 112). voco Ursonate combine visuals with sound in live performance, but it provides accompanying visuals in its original packaging, which in itself is the classic Dada co mment on commodification; Dachy nine page pamphlet set by the celebrated 112). Dada art features machinery as an agent o f movement and as a representational Nude Descending a Staircase (1912) depicted an abstract nude moving diagonally across the canvas. The sharp, angular lines and rigid movement of the work suggests a mo dern mechanism. Duchamp later Roue de Bicyclette (1913) and the famous Fountain (1917). Roue de Bicyclette was fashioned by securing a rotating bicycle interest in motion and machinery. Fountain was simply a urinal turned 90 degrees and issue of Dada magazine The Blind Man made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful sign ificance disappeared under the new title and point of view
9 Painter Francis Picabia demonstrates a more literal connection to machinery in his work. Much of his paintings display mechanisms both real and imagined. In Stieglitz of a camera and a gear shift lever (Kuenzli 2006, 78). This strongly linear work borders on the esthetics of commercial illu stration, subbing the cold and mechanical for the warm and machine in the 20th century. Picabia further explored this relationship in paintings like Voil la Femme (19 15) and Machine Tournez Vite (c.1916 1918) that use the relationships between the moving parts of a machine as allegories for the interpersonal and sexual relationships between human beings. Multi media artist Man Ray frequently used machinery in his wor k as well. His painting on glass with cog wheels, Danger/Dancer The work...comments on the frustration and risks that arise...between man and machine in Portmanteau (1920) fuses a woman with a coat real, relates to the general interest of the New York Dadas in the rel ationships between Das Schne Mdchen (1920) depicts several depersonalized symbols of feminity (a body, a hairstyle, a shrouded face) with symbols of technological modernit y ( the light bulb, the pocket watch, the tire, BMW) the timepiece and motifs of cars points to a comment on the effect of Fordism (or
10 Taylorism), the rationalization of the workplace, in Germany...Hch describes the mass only speaks to the confusion of the place of women in 20th century society, but also to uncertainty about the place of man kind in a mechanical society. Das Schne Mdchen seems to suggest that the influx of machines somehow makes all of us less human. Dada often uses machinery as an example of the times; flaunting technology as art not only to expand the definition of art i tself but as a testament to the beauty of the (1909) F.T. Victory of Samothrace work flaunts machinery as well but often the technology I present is ten years old or more. We live, now, in the age of computers and the mechanics of once familiar machines have been largely left behind. My sound pieces, like the paintings of Picabia, s eek to romanticize machines that unlike computers, represent a decidedly masculine and overbearing power physical world, which is lost in the sleek and ephemeral structures of digital technology. While computers argu ably offer more opportunities for mastery of our planet, nowhere can opportunities for mastery be seen presented in a more boastful and vulgar way resources forced i nto unnatural yet perversely graceful assemblages that require the brute force of man to be manipulated. Thus, visually TapeHeads draws from the decidedly ugly displays of mechanics first explored by the Dada artists.
11 The Tape Recorder While the art of the Futurists and Dada emphasized the prominence and possible dominance of technology and the machine in 20th Century life, they would never use the machine in art in the ways of the movements that came after. A monumental technological development occurr ed in the middle of the 20th Century that permanently altered the way that Western culture hears, understands, and creates sound: the tape recorder. The tape recorder came into use in Germany during World War II. The technology had spread throughout the w orld after the end of the war. It took around five years for tape the playback capability of tape that was so important to its function within art; recording and pl ayback had been around in some form for almost 100 years. In 1865, Leon Scott de e to harness sound into a tangible and thus visible form. It took another ten years for the discovery that the reverse process could replay the sound. The importance of tape comes from its ability to be easily manipulated because of its visible and tangib le qualities. Pierre Schaeffer used tape as the medium of his musique concrte pieces after musique concrte can be described as sound collage. Scha effer was from its physical source. Tape is the perfect medium for this exploration as it transfers the sound from its original source to a new carrier, the new sound producer becomes the tape recorder. In this vein he used the train as his sound source for his 1948 work Etude Aux
12 Chemins de Fer, in which it is difficult for the listener to discern the origins of the audio. In the tradition of Russolo, Schaeffer uses t he mechanics of the modern world to create century. Representationalism is also an obvious undercurrent here, with the sounds of everyday life being neatly appropriated i nto art. on the tape; it is no longer the sound source, yet it is also not the tape itself. (Schaeffer 1966, 79). This assertion takes sound to a new a nd even more musique concrte it cannot be confused with literal sounds of a train but rather to confront the nature of abstract sound by removing all of its ties to the empirical world. Musique concrte has the bold task of forcing its audience to acknowledge sound as sound alone, predating devices that would have a similar effect such as synthesizers and recorded popula r song; a unique occurrence in a world where most music was heard live and accompanied by visuals of performers. The advent of magnetic tape allowed composers to have domain over sounds that could not have been included so flexibly in their work previous to its introduction. In 1953 John Cage completed after almost a full year of work. is regarded as the first tape collage in the United States and the composer makes full use of the abilities of tape to capture the sounds of huma n environments; Cage utilizes six categories of sounds: city sounds, country sounds, electronic sounds, manually produced sounds, wind produced sounds and "small" sounds, which need to be amplified.
13 Collage #1 (Blue Suede) is ano ther notable tape Blue Suede Shoes as performed by Elvis sped up and slowed down to a garbled and humanoid babblin g. The electronic element of the piece is transparent, coming through as bursts of static and the sounds of whirring tape. had not previously been explored in electro album Plunderphonics would explore the use of pop music to a greater extent. TapeHeads draws from the cut up techniques of these early tape experiments. Much of the work in TapeHeads features tape collage in a n interactive form. Drum contains a drum with strips of pre recorded cassette tape adhered to the drumhead. The performer is directed to guide a tape head across the tape strips, thus creating their own tape collage. Cage and Fluxus No figure in 20th century music has cast as large or notorious a shadow as John Cage; and while he did much to influence contemporary music as a whole, many of his so here I am going to discuss his work which most relates to Tapeheads. In 1939 Cage composed the first piece to use electronics in performance: Imaginary Landscapes No. 1. The piece is composed for traditional instruments, with traditional notation. However, there is also a part for turntables of variable speeds playing pre recorded discs. In the score Cage directs that the piece be performed in a radio studio
14 and broadcast Imaginary Landscape No.1: realization and performance, Cage moved well beyond issues of harmonic or temporal structure, reformu lating the fundamental relationship between a musical creation and its century composers separating sounds from their sources; Cage takes this separation one step further through the use of the radio which, especially when broadcast live, draws attention to the reality of the instruments existing in a space altogether different from the the sound emitting from the radio. Adding further to the disorientation of the performative aspects of Imaginary Landscape No. 1 is its use of electronic devices transmitted through radio. An audience may have recognized the sounds of the instruments, but would have been confused at the droning electronic tones coming from the turntables. esque in its use of modern technology. The 1930s saw radio becoming a widespread commodity a tool used to pipe entertainment into the private resid ence. With Imaginary Landscapes No. 1 Cage is making the private experience of radio grossly public by broadcasting a public performance of music, which is by societal standards a visual as well as auditory experience, on a primarily private system which during the mid 20th century would have been lo fidelity. Cage is highlighting, like Dada artists often would, both the beauty and monstrosity of modern its abilit y to make potentially rich experiences more cold and distant in their sensory
15 (1952), his three movement piece for any instrument where t he performer does not play and the sounds of the environment three seconds. is the ultimate in presentationalism in music, and in less than five minutes it has the capabil ign Particularly interesting is the link between and visual art. In the 1940s and 1950s many contemporary musicians were influenced by the New York School of painter s and vice Guston, and Brown to Jackson Pollock and Alexander Calder there are clear pa rallels white and all black canvases auditory pairing draws attention to the movement of visual art away from realistic depictions and, especially with Cage, the musical movement to embrace the sounds of the empirical w orld; it also sets the stage for a more literal combination of visual and auditory elements in later sound art. innovations; working to redefine the boundaries of music with art that never fell squarely
16 works, yet most Fluxus works were linked through a use of performance, which is not to say that all Fluxus pieces were performative in nature. Among t he Fluxus artists, of particular interest is Nam June Paik. Paik approached Fluxus from the vantage point of a musician: he discovered the serial works of Arnold Schoenberg as a high school student in the late 1940s and later matriculated from Tokyo Univer sity with a senior thesis on Schoenberg (Hanhardt 1999, 20). In the mid 1950s Paik sical attack traditional music than to employ the cold unfeeling machine of the tape recorder? Paik eventually integrated performance into his work as well. In Erinnerung an das 20. Jahrhundert: Marilyn Monroe (1962) Paik used music and performance to respond to the rformance Paik played and then systematically smashed the recordings. This piece is especially interesting Paik seems to accept the saturation of celebrity in cultu re by acknowledging the popular and public materials that deal with a normally insignificant (big picture) and private matter and popular culture, culminating in a n impotent acceptance of both. Egomachine (1974) is a portable typewriter in an open case with a she et of paper loaded and several
17 Fountain (1917). Majestic (197 5) is an early television/ radio with a small screen in the center. Later, Paik would become notable for his large installation consisting of dozens of television sets displaying video art. Random Access. In the show: odd strips of prerecorded audiotape to the wall and invited visitors to run a handheld playback head wired to speakers along the strips at whatever speed or direction they desired... Paik exposed the guts of a tape player to his viewers, offering a hands o n feeling (quite literally) for how audio technology worked and what it was capable of. While even the most advanced reel to reel player of the day presumed the listener would want to hear a piece of music from beginning to end, Random Access showed that a linear medium Another section of the installation featured vinyl records spaced intermittently on vertical, rotating metal rods driven by a motor. The viewer was invited to hold a record stylus to any section of the rotating records. Random Access offers the viewer the chance to explore the media in a new way, one not dictated by the intended function of the machine, but rather by personal choice. It also offers the audie transparent display of the technology as well as his haphazard placing of the records and tape, which does its best not to direct the viewer and listener to any particular sequence or direction of movement. Audience/ viewer participation and interaction is central to many Fluxus performances, giving a new sense of democracy and equality to pieces made by a group of Cut Pi ece (1964) in which the artist offers the audience a pair of scissors and invites them to cut from her clothing. Because only one person can cut at a time, the piece allows for members
18 of the audience to enter the spotlight individually and thus assume the role of performer themselves. Another Fluxus figure, George Brecht, further explored the confines of performance and the notion of musical virtuosity. His Comb Music (1959 1962) has simple, inclusive directions: comb is held by its spine in one hand, either free or resting on an object. The thumb or a finger on the other hand is held with its tip against the end prong of a comb, with the edge of the nail overlapping the end of a prong. The finger is slowly and uni formly moved so that the prong is inevitably released, and the nail h as ever used a comb, a common object. D.I.Y. Pop The ideas of Fluxus eventually crept into popular music, flourishing in the punk underneath the oft discredited surf ace. Punk is the result of the opening up of modes of communication and the availability at more affordable prices of recording technology. Much like Fluxus, technical ability of performers within the movement was of little importance, the emphasis was ins tead placed on the self expression of people who previously could not find a place within the world of pop music. ethos. He started at art school studying minimalist painti ng and later joined the band Roxy Music as a keyboardist, despite the fact that he had little musical training. As a solo artist
19 extols the virtues of the technology of the recording studio and discusses his compositional process which involves an improvisational approach, building up his pieces track after track. Eno is also aware of the differences between the recorded medium and the medium of live performance, assertin g that the recorded medium calls for a different kind of artist: difference in kind between the kind of composition I do and the kind a classical composer does. T do it 130). Eno echos Fluxus in his belief that technical skill is unnecessary and instead concept and desi re to allow an audience to partake freely in an easily understood environment, giving them the creative tools and liberties to not only experience art, but become artists themselves in the process. Minimalism minimalist composers as purveyors of sound art because of their immersion in the art world and their use of technology and limited materials. Minimalism in music is characterized by a slow and steady transformation and much repetition. Of particular interest are Steve to reel tape. (1965) and Come Out (1966) use tape loops to highlight the musical qualities of the voice; Reich starts two identical loops in unison and gradually allows them to shift out of phase with each other and then
20 back again. The effect is similar to watching the turn signals of two cars blink in traffic: right as you notice that they are blinking together they dri ft apart, then as you start to think that there is no pattern to the chaos, they synch up again. Reich describes Come Out as a refinement of the earlier work in the sense that the phase shifting process has been improved. Come Out begins with a recording of Daniel Hamm, 19 year old victim of and sets the Come Out is composed of a single loop recorded on both channels. First the loop is in unison with itself. As it begins to go out of phase, a slowly increasing reverberation is heard. This gradually passes into a canon or ro und for two voices, then four voices and especially exciting about these pieces is the limited role of the composer. Reich simply sets the work into motion. The music is entirely performed by machines replicating th e human voice and then catapulting it into abstraction. These early tape pieces help to blur the line between musical performance and art object in that there is a severely diminished role of the human hand in their execution. Pendulum Music (1968 ), another phase piece, furthers the concept of the mechanical performer. In the piece two or more microphones are suspended at equal distances over a speaker into which they are plugged in. The piece is set into motion by performers who pull back and rele ase the suspended microphones, propelling them into an arc of motion over their corresponding speakers and creating a feedback phase. Then, 2002, 32). The hands off rhetoric of the score is reminiscent of
21 able to anticipate the sound as soon as they understand the process involved in its production; the vi sual and sound elements share importance in the experience. This is I am Sitting in a Room uses a similar technique to Reich in order to create abst with his reading of a text into a tape recorder. The recording is then played back and re recorded. This process continues until the recording becomes totally abstracted and unintelligible component sets a process into motion, but anything in the performance after that is produced by machine s. La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela succeeded in creating an interactive minimalist piece in their series of Dream House installations, which consist of two sine wave generators placed within the large space of a house. There are subtle changes in the t imbres and overtones as one moves around the space, thus creating a personalized experience. La Monte Young often uses drones in his work to reinforce his belief that in terested in the concept of stasis; the idea that music did not have to go somewhere and did modern sound art installation, where works are experienced over time by individuals rather than in a fixed amount of time by a single group. Pop/ Art/ Sound
22 works that manage to blend previously disparate elements while continuing the traditions of minimalism and Fl uxus. There is an interest in popular music and materials, performance, installation, noise, and also returns to traditionalism. musician, and while performance is often an int egral part of her work, much of her work focuses on musical sound. Duets on Ice is performed by Anderson while wearing ice skates with the blades frozen into a block of ice, playing violin along with a recording. The piece ends when the ice is fully thawed reaching number two on British pop charts in an interesting case of art transcending the popular. Yet, it is also a n example of the inseparability between pop and art in the performance; case in point: the tape bow violin. Created in 1977, the tape bow violin consists of a violin with t he strings removed and a tape head installed on its body. The violin is played when Anderson glides a bow fitted with magnetic tape over the head. The tape bow violin provides and interesting clash of technology with tradition, something that seems to have been coming since the birth of the Futurist movement. It seems that if Russolo had the technology to create something similar, a machine that allowed for any sound possible to be played on an instrument in the traditional sense, he would have done it. Co and minimalist elements. Branca started his creative life in the theater and pop music. His
23 most relevant work to sound art was made in the late 1970s and early 1980s: churning, i classical music, yet like Russolo he devised machines and instruments capable of moving beyond the limitations of traditional western instruments. Most of all, howe ver, his interest in using popular instruments such as the electric guitar and the drum set in repetitious ways ties his work to pop music and minimalist traditions. Plunderphonics continues the traditions of musique concrte in th song, and he uses this material chopped and spliced in interesting and accessible ways to comment on the absurdity of popular culture as a whole. Accessibility is important to Oswa ld, as is technology which gives consumers power of their media. In his essay, It and materials in order to create their own original art. In the same essay, Oswald makes a convincing case for the use of popular music in art: sic (as is all folk music by definition) essentially, if not legally, existing bombarded by it. In its most insidious state, filtered to an incessant bass line, it seeps through apartment walls and out of the heads of Walkpeople. Although people in general are making noise more than ever before, fewer people are making more of the total noise...Difficult to ignore, pointlessly redundant to imitate: how does one not Perhaps they could exploit the flaws in the technology and present their work in a popular medium, with popular materials?
24 Christian Marclay is a New York artist who rose to prominence in the late 1970s and which he plays damaged or altered records, several at a time and in succession, lik e a sort hit it, you can do all these things, and it will never stop play ing. The CD players are too purchased second hand and valued for their flaws. His decision to use the material came as vinyl records began to be replaced by tapes and CDs; t hus, there is an element of recycling Marclay and Tone 1997, 346). The visuals of Marcl simply playing records. machines to create sound that had never been presented in a performance setting within the bounds of tr aditional music, almost a hundred years later Marclay is creating music with taken a path slowly away from traditional Western composition and into the terrain of com re appropriating the discarded elements of the last century of sound within our culture. With Marclay and artists of his ilk, culture is being constantly reinterpreted throu gh sound, cycling again and again through the machine.
25 CHAPTER TWO: SOCIAL CONTEXT In his book The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology inventor Ray Kurzweil claims that within the next century human beings will bond with computers after machines have surpassed human intelligence, which Kurzweil estimates will happen sometime around 2029. It sounds far fetched, but the general idea of it is horrifying: that intelligence could become the primary form of power, and the consumer tools which man has created to serve him could become a part of him and possibly enslave him. Societal shifts as of late have definitely trended in this direction; th e advent of devices like smart phones make the whole of human knowledge accessible almost everywhere on earth, rendering discovery and knowledge literally a couple of swift finger movements away. While on the whole this increased access to knowledge seems positive, it only serves the workings of which the vast majority of consumers do not understand. In this chapter I will explore the problem of technology in society through th e Tools for Conviviality Small is Beautiful also published in 1973. More specifically I will be outlining how the solutions Illich and Schumac her offer in their texts can be realized through art. The Problem reaching and he has the kind of hopefulness and technology will save us
26 is not that we shoul d freeze our dead bodies in the hope that one day the technology to thaw and subsequently re animate them will possibly exist. Rather, he pins all of his hope in the the universe is synthesized into digital information. Kurzweil explains: brains. We will gain power over our fates. Our mortality will be in our own hands. We wi ll be able to live as long as we want...We will fully understand human thinking...the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will be trillions of trillions of times more lik e rhetoric is a bit extreme, but it taps into something in the current American psyche: the belief that technology will save us, that it will fix all of our problems. And what does the layman have to do in order to achieve this utopian existence? Nothing. Tools for Conviviality reacts against exactly this kind of lazy thinking. Illich takes issue with the unwavering faith in machines: discarded. The hypothesis was that machines can replace slaves. The evidence shows that, used for this purpose, machines enslave men. Neither a dictatorial proletariat nor a leisure mass can escape the lich 1973, 10). how to operate the TV or telephone, but their workings ar e hidden from him" (Illich 1973, 63). One cannot grow without understanding.
27 With respect to the fact that my project is one of a sonic nature it would be useful to examine how the problem of faith in technology and decreased consumer understanding manife sts in recording and audio technology. Historically, analog recording technology has inherently separated professional and amateur devices. This division can be seen in the size of audio jacks. While there is no real difference in sound quality between var yings sizes of audio jacks, amateur devices feature 1/8 inch jacks while pro devices have 1/4 inch jacks. This small difference renders needless incompatibility between devices, and projects a message to the consumer: these devices are NOT under any circum stances to be used creatively. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, artists like Christian Marclay began to use these reception devices as units of production and outlets for creativity. Present technology has blurred this line between amateur and pro consid erably, yet in the process they have exerted a strong level of control over the creative use of their tools. Most recording is now done using computers and while there remains a separation between pro quality recording software and amateur software, the ga p is shrinking. Apple computers come bundled with the software GarageBand which allows users to create compositions using loops and with minimal to no knowledge of music theory. When tools like this become accessible to everyone a society is created where skills are not learned, but are taken for granted through the ease of mechanical operation. The software allows the creation of compositions within the narrow framework of western music by amateurs who learn nothing from this process except how to become a pawn in the reinforcement of laptop. The problem therein is that traditional folk instruments require some degree of knowledge to be acquired before operation. This kno wledge is of both a cerebral and tactile
28 nature. Furthermore, folk instruments like the guitar, banjo, and fiddle are transparent machine s one can see, feel, and hear how they operate; a minimal amount is hidden from human perception. The Solution An en tire society which has been programmed as units of reception for its own machinery is nearly impossible to change because it is not necessarily the machinery that is at the root of the problem. Instead, the blame lies with a culture obsessed with linear technological progress, progress with no end in sight. It is the never ending forward march toward oblivion which ne cessitates technologies that improve the quality of life negligibly. Devices like the cell phone, while making communication easier, also include useless virtual commodities like games and cameras. Before cell phones there were not many people pining to ma ke a telephone call from an airplane; and if there were the amount was far below the number of people who make use of the technology for trivial reasons now, simply because it is available. In his 1973 book Small is Beautiful, economist E.F. Schumacher sug g to Schumacher, along with Illich, imagines a society of people getting their hands dirty that is, actively involved in the production of that which they consume. Illi ch thinking of technology. The need for
29 himself in action to his society through the use of tools that he a ctively masters, or by which allow their operator to be creative and active in production. My project creates an environment to harbor a microcosm of such a society in which people are working together as well as independently to create using convivial tools. I have taken the components of our progress driven society (consumer electronics) and exploited them in order to transform them into tools of expression. Not o ne of my machines is capable of creating the exact same experience for the performer or listener each time it is used. My instructions are minimal because the reality of my machines is that they are tools to be operated in an open ended way by each perform er. They cannot help but be agents of creative output. Take, for instance, the Tapewriter This tool provides a framework for sound production by attaching a tape head and magnetic tape to a familiar object: the typewriter. However, by re imagining the de vice as a tool of creative sonic production it opens up the opportunity for a performer to explore all possibilities not only in terms of audio output, but all possibilities and configurations of the typewriter itself. Thus a machine with a very specific p urpose has become a creative device, bringing the performer closer to his (her) own creativity, the creative possibilities of analog consumer technology that lie beneath their collective surface, and also closer to understanding the machines and mechanics of society.
30 The Symbols of Revolution From the views I have expressed concerning consumer electronics and the idea of progress thus far, one might ask: why use consumer electronics to compose a project that, by its very nature, questions the need for consumer electronics? First, I offer these specific course of 20th century product development in the realm of audio technology. Second, the tape recorder and mag netic tape, specifically the cassette, have historically offered the means to expand creative possibilities in ways that are subversive to dominant culture. As a technology the cassette tape is not only transparent, but also user friendly. Visually the ca ssette (and cassette player) offer the listener a nearly complete view of all mechanisms involved in playback. Design wise, cassette players often feature transparent doors that grant full view of the metal tape head shifting into place, making contact wit h shows the amount of tape left to spool through the assembly through a tiny window in the cassette itself. Often, the cassette is completely transparent, showin g its simplistic spool system. If the laymen were to disassemble a cassette cartridge they could easily reassemble the cassette with perfect results. The cassette is completely portable as well, easily fitting into the front pocket of any pair of jeans. Th is full transportability gives the cassette an advantage in portable media: automobiles and portable stereos. The audio quality of a cassette is perfectly adequate for home replay; while not as good as a vinyl record, it is analog which separates it from the series of ones and zeroes that compose the data of later media playback devices. Every sound on the cassette is real meaning that its sonorous material has not been digitally processed.
31 Cassette culture also deals with human physical processes. Rec ording mix tapes requires a level of attention in fashioning customizable play lists that is not needed in digital media such as the CDR and Mp3 player. The producer of the mix tape must be fully engaged with the material as one records the tape. For each individual track one must depress three buttons: play, record, and stop. One must pay specific attention to the length of the cassette being recorded onto and plan accordingly. After the tape is complete one must snap two plastic tabs off of the cassette i n order to render it un recordable. Thus, the music listener becomes a creator and is involved in production in a remarkably tactile way. Magnetic tape is also historically subversive. In the previous chapter I discussed its effect upon music composition in the latter half of the 20th century. Tape allowed musicians such as Schaeffer and Cage and even writers, most notably William S. Burroughs, to view time in a new way. Tape allowed for the splicing and rearranging of actual sounds, giving artists a new w ay of working with an entire dimension of the artwork. Furthermore, this exploration brought time into the physical realm, the splicing of tape is an entirely tactile and physical experience which requires careful attention on the part of the creator. Th e cassette tape itself has been subversive as well. In 1982, spurred by the ideas of Small is Beautiful Calvin Johnson began a small label in Olympia, Washington. K Records began as a cassette only label: make sense as a format; up to this point, LPs dominated the music consumer landscape. The walkman and ghettoblaster were just emerging, as cassette technology made giant advances in audio fidelity. Building on these ideas, K began as a cassette only label (K Records web site).
32 Johnson believed that the cassette, being less expensive to produce than vinyl, made much more sense for a local music scene. In this way the cassette offered a less expensive alternative and more practical alternative for artists outside of the mainstream, a creative outle t for the underground. Cassette s are still a cheap alternative media smaller record labels such as Roofless Records in Miami release tapes regularly. Pop Music The sonic material for my project, however manipulated and unintelligible some of it may be, is popular song. Taken at face value it would seem that by using this material my project is furthering the current power structure which urges progress in consumer products and media. On the contrary, popular song is used to create a bridge between popular culture and societal norms and the pseudo utopian creative production based society imagined by Illich and realized through art. Popular music is widely k nown and easily recognizable, and its familiarity can be comforting and inviting in a conceptual art installation that asks the viewer to become the performer. Pop music could be viewed as a modern folk music, a music which has the power to unite. Popular song is not Folk in the traditional sense; yet it is played constantly over radio broadcasts and Internet file sharing. It reaches around the world and is recreated by those who walk the street humming its melodies or recreate its performance in karaoke ba rs to the applause of those who John Oswald asserts: in a public d bombarded by it. In its most insidious state, filtered to an incessant bassline, it seeps
33 Th e state of electronics today is invariably tied to the economics of progress. The proponents of this progress, Ray Kurzweil being a prominent one, argue that this forward stampede will lead to a utopian society where machines and man are inextricably linke d. But what are the costs of this ceaseless march forward? For one, the loss of our tactile link where this production is not a mindless and needless grasping for innov ation. My project attempts to realize the world as Illich and Schumacher would like to see it: a society that offers convivial tools to its members, allowing them to create, innovate, and produce in ways that are not detrimental to their fellow man or the physical world.
34 CHAPTER THREE: MACHINE MUSIC Thus far I have discussed the historical and social context of TapeHeads In this chapter I will describe the physical specifics of the project. TapeHeads was conceived as a grouping of machines always to be presented together in the form of an installation. This Tools For Conviviality were meant to be acted upon by participants who would use these tools to create works of sound and music. Furthermore, Tools For Conviviality provided the impetus for me to begin viewing my installation as the environment that would host a microcosm of society when par ticipants acted upon the work as a group. A note: Throughout this chapter I will use the term participant to refer to those interacting with the machines. I view interacting not only as acting upon the machines but also as viewing and listening to others interact with the machines. Thus, participant becomes a fully encompassing term as it is possible for someone to be both a passive and active participant. Music Machines The bulk of my thesis installation is comprised of eight free standing works. All of the works involve magnetic tape either in the form of eight track tape or cassette tape. These formats were important because of their availability in secondhand shops and their intended purpose of being used for home and portable playback. All of the works are fully
35 interactive in that the participant is intended to physically act upon the work in order to create or manipulate sound. Here I will describe their components a nd operation, as well as provide scores for each, which are intended to be displayed with the piece in order to give a framework for their operation and instructions for their reception by each participant. 888 Cranks This piece has three components: t wo eight track players and an eight millimeter of the eight track players has had its cover removed to reveal the mechanical and electrical workings. One eight track player (fig.1) is encased in wood. Its outer housing was removed and all of the players components were secured to its base. The other player (fig.2) is a plastic, portable unit. Its back cover was removed to reveal all of the inner workings. The eight mil limeter projector is a Kodak M65 from the late 1960s. track player 1
36 Figure 2 track player 2 Both of the eight track players are fitted with wall mounting capabilities and in the installation of this wo rk they are mounted on the wall vertically. Each of the players has an The interac tive part of the piece is made possible by cranks that have been attached to the drive e handle from a 1950s Ice O Mat ice crusher glued to its drive wheel. During the installation, each participant is asked to turn the crank where they are stationed thus giving the performer complete control over the speed of the tape, and allowing them to explore its sonic texture.
37 In the installation the three components are placed in an alcove with the eight track players mounted on opposing walls, facing each other. The projector is positioned about six feet back from the center wall, projecting a fil m between the players. In performance the film is chosen at random by the artist from a collection of ten. The films are chosen at random so as not to give t oo much importance to the content presented in the image. Rather, the moving pictures are intended as a centerpiece for the sound, a way of unifying the content from each eight track player. The content on the films are home and vacation footage dating from the 1950s and 60s from an unknown family. One of the films has some late 1950s burlesque footage on the end of the reel. The text accompanying the piece is: 888 Cranks 8 Track tape, also known as Stereo 8 was first introduced in 1964 by a group led by Bill Lear of Lear Jet Corporation. 8 Track tape is unique in that it is a continuous loop; chan ges in track are signaled to the machine by a small metal strip on the tape. The reel turns at a constant rate so the tape around the hub has a lower linear velocity than the tape at the outside of the reel The tape is coated with a slippery backing materi al, usually graphite in order to allow the tape to glide easily. Rewinding the tape on a Stereo 8 player is technically impossible. The success of the 8 Track player relied almost wholly on the automobile industry, providing the first portable music syst em outside of the transistor radio. It was killed by the smaller size and greater reliability of the cassette. Score: 1. Turn the crank provided: CLOCKWISE COUNTER CLOCKWISE 2. Watch the film. 3. Listen to the sounds of your crank, the sounds of the other crank. 4. Stand behind the 8mm projector. Listen in stereo. Stereo 8. Helpful Hint: The speed of 8 Track tape is 3.75 in.(9.5 cm) per second.
38 [A Note: In performance the appropriate direction (CLOCKWISE COUNTER CLOCKWISE) is circled in red .] The intent of this piece is to add a human element into the simple function of winding tape. By eliminating the band that usually propels the drive wheel on eight track players and replacing with a crank, the experience of listening to a tape become m ore subjective as each person will turn the tape at their desired speed. The movie playing adds a visual element to the sounds, giving the turning of the crank and sound of the tape a purpose outside of itself. While the films are not enacted upon by parti cipants, the image two eight in itself and makes minimal effort at hiding its workings from the naked human eye. I included two eight track players on either side of the projection in order to make the piece a true collaborative effort. There is no way that the piece can live up to its full potential without at least two performers engaging with it. Walkie Talkie This piece is relatively simple. The materials include: one cassette player and a set of 1970s walkie talkies. The cassette player is displayed with its cover removed. One of the walkie talkies has had its cover removed s o that it is a circuit board attached to an ante nna and a battery. The speaker/ microphone from the walkie talkie is removed and replaced with a quarter inch instrument jack. A patch cable is connected from the output on the cassette player to the instrumen t jack on the open walkie
39 open walkie talkie is taped down with silver duct tape in order to make it a permanent transmitter. The cassette player is playing a tape loop of a selection from Our Secret, the first song recorde d by Beat Happening in 1983. Beat Happening is the band of Calvin Johnson, founder of initially cassette only label K Records. Both walkie talkies are switched on. The loop plays over and over, transmitted from the open walkie talkie to the receiving walki e talkie, which has been placed at a distance of several feet. The text accompanying the display of this piece is: Walkie Talkie The walkie talkie was developed for military use during WWII by the Galvin Manufacturing Company. While originally a backpa ck encased contraption, a later version marked on May 22, 1951. Walkie Talkies are two way radios in that they can both transmit and receive signals. The one displayed here has been converted to a one way radio with a piece of duct tape. Helpful Hint: The human body can affect radio waves. Score: 1. Move between the cassette transmitter and the radio receiver. 2. Listen. The purpose of this work is to contrast transparency and non transparency in the realm of consumer electronics. The transparency is represented by the disassembled walkie talkie and the open faced cassette player. Including the cassette used, every piece o f this half of the work is completely see through. The other half, however, consists of a walkie talkie playing garbled music from a mysterious source. The intent is that the audience member will realize where the sounds are coming from and through that re alization gain further knowledge on how these machines operate. I have also indicated in
40 the text that accompanies the work the assertion that the human body affects radio waves. This informs the audience that they are in fact important in the reception of the sound by the second walkie talkie. This allows them to break down the wall between audience and performer and subtly invites them to attempt to interfere physically with this invisible force. Furthermore, it informs the audience member of their unwitt ing place in the every day reception of radio signals. The flawed sound of this piece was very important. The combination of the flaws of cassette tape recording combined with the radio transmission and limitations of the walkie talkie speaker allowed fo r a very beautiful timbre to be created which highlights the mechanical elements of analog sound reproduction. Also, upon the repetition of the tape loop it created a churning and grinding, never ending melody. Random Access Twenty Ten This piece was con Random Access The installation was comprised of several distinct sections, however, the section of particular interest to TapeHeads consisted of approximately 50 strips of magnetic tape glued to th e wall. The viewer was invited to guide a tape head over the tape random access to any point within the recording material, giving them control over a technology tha t usually offered reception in only one direction and one speed. Random Access Twenty Ten ( fig. 3) tries to recreate this experience with modern technologies and sonorous material. The physical set up of the piece is: a mobile cassette adapter meant for playback of portable CD players or mp3 players through a car tape deck
41 removed and the circuit board and tape head are mounted on the wall; a modular cassette player has been altered to have its tape head on an external wire of around one foot in length, the tape head is attached to a small wooden box which the viewer is directed to hold while they make contact between the tape head on the cassette player to the tape h ead of the top selling songs on iTunes in 2009 (The Independent). The song has been heavily speed and direction. The song has been spliced using computer software so that sections appear out of order, backwards, and at variable speeds. All of the splicing was done randomly. Figure 3
42 The text accompanying the dis play of the piece is: Random Access Twenty Ten Random Access. The work consisted of fifty strips of magnetic tape, which were glued to the wall. The viewer was directed to slide the tape Score: 1. Pick up the wood block that has tape head attached. 2. Make contact with the tape head on the wall by squaring the two metal blocks of the tape heads together. machines. The iPod is sleek and beautiful, but its inner workings are shielded entirely from the naked eye. There are no cues coming from the silent iPod that it is switched on or playing music during the presentation of the work. Conversely the modular tape player beside it is whirring and hissing an d clearly in operation. The only way that the viewer can Furthermore, this work serves to illustrate the inner workings of the mobile cassette adapter which has see n a resurgence in recent years as they are used by people with older model cars to play their mp3 players as they drive. In Random Access Twenty Ten as well as in life, these structures serve as a bridge between older and cutting edge technology.
43 8 Track Bicycle The 8 Track Bicycle (fig. 4) was born from my desire to have a piece where the viewer could connect to the technology of magnetic tape using their entire body. I decided to use a bicycle because it is a common technology and it is also trans parent, all of its gears are visible, its chain is visible, and billions of people around the world are familiar with its operation. The bicycle is also structurally similar to the drive system on an eight track or cassette player: a circular disc is conne cted to a chain or belt which moves the actual mechanism. Figure 4 The set up of the piece in the installation is as follows: a stationary bicycle that has had its belt removed sits facing an eight track player that has been opened a nd placed on the ground. A board is used to separate the two machines. A large rubber band is looped around the front wheel of the bicycle and a tape reel that is glued to the drive wheel of the
44 eight track player. The eight track player is plugged in to a n amplifier which sits facing the stationary bike. When the bicycle is pedaled it drives a short loop of Diana Ross. The text accompanying the display of the piece is: 8 Track Bicycle Bicycles have been around since the 19th century. There are one bill ion bicycles in the world today, twice as many as automobiles. Score: 1. Pedal the bicycle. 2. Vary your speed. 3. Listen. experience of the tape player mechanism and by extension the sound of the pi ece. The performer/ audience member has complete control of the speed of the tape, giving them an incentive to induce control over their body and muscle mechanics in order to create their personally most desired sound. This w ork is also physically large, thus magnifying the technology of the tape player mechanism through its mirror in the stationary bike. Trax Trax was the first piece constructed for the installation and in many ways it is the most simplistic. The work consi sts of a plastic toy car track paved with random strips of cassette tape pre recorded with pop songs about driving and cars. The strips of tape on the
45 track are activated and played by a toy car with a tape head mounted on its underside. The viewer has com plete control over how to approach the track with the car, and in many ways Random Access. The text accompanying the display of the piece is: Trax Matchbox cars were introduced in 1953 by Lesney products. The f irst Matchbox cars were packaged in containers styled after match boxes. They eventually became so bought Tyco Toys in 1997, bringing Matchbox and Hot Wheels under the same corporate umbrella. Score: 1. Drive the car along the track. Make sure to apply adequate pressure. 2. Listen. In many ways Trax is a tone setting piece meant to highlight the spirit of play that I wanted to color the reception of the entir e installation. Ultimately, this piece merely adds a highlights the simple and linear relationship between tape and tape head by removing the tape from the cassette and placing it within another context. Cassette DJ Booth The Cassette DJ Booth was largely inspired by the nature of the Califone tape player that I purchased at the Bradenton Bargain Barn for two dollars. The player is unique in that it features a variable speed knob, allowing its operator to adjust the speed of the playback while the audio is playing. After playing with the machine for a few hours I came
46 up with the idea to allow two audio tracks to interact, with one of the tracks having an interactive, variable speed option. The text accompanying the display of the piece is: Ca ssette DJ Booth On November 18, 1981 Suzanne Vega wrote the song while sitting in Restaurant in NYC. She was reading about the death of William Holden in the New York Post. The song, first envisioned for piano and violin, appeared as a c apella recording on Solitude Standing album in 1987. In 1989 two British recording producers added a released the track under the name DNA featuring Suzanne Vega. The song peaked at number 2 on the UK singles chart and number 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Here, you can manipulate the track in a similar way. On the right of the table is a yellow ner On the left side is a variable speed CALIFONE cassette player. It is playing 4 drum tracks for 15 minutes each. Score: 1. Listen to how the last DJ left the song playing. 2. Adjust the timbre of the vocal track using the knobs and buttons on the F X pedals. 3. Adjust the speed and volume of the drum track using the variable speed control found on the left side of the CALIFONE. 4. Mix & match. This piece allows the participant to interact with popular music as a DJ would, creating an original a nd unique composition using technology of reception as technology of production. The popular music is especially important here as the song is instantly recognizable and accessible. The viewer is allowed to exercise an authority over the music by manipulat speed knob allows them to change the tone of the piece further by selecting a speed for the drums and experimenting with tempo. This work is the most clearly performative in the
47 traditional sense. The title of the piece contextualizes it in such a way that the participant cannot help but be made to feel like a performer. (fig. 5) is built around my desire to see the fragmentation of a song interact with the song in its original form. Structurally this piece is made up of strips of cassette tape with sections of the Go a f loor tom (drum). The strips of tape are to be played by sliding a tape head across them. The tape head is attached to the head of a drumstick. The drum has a 1970s tape recorder microphone mounted inside of it. The microphone is plugged into the input on a modular cassette player. This modular cassette player is unique in that it has had its cover removed. It is connected to a separate cassette player with its cover also removed by way of two cassette tapes which share the same tape. The tape travels throug h the first modular cassette player and out of a hole in the cassette into the cassette in the second player. The cassette in the first player is recording the sounds of the drum in the microphone. The second cassette is playing them back several seconds l ater. The first cassette player has an output line repeat. The P.A. switch is on, therefore the sounds of the drum are coming out of the speaker at the same time as th e Go
48 Figure 5 The text accompanying the display of the piece is: Vacation Drum In 1982 the Go ngle (Cassingle) released in the United States. Later Cassingles were packaged in a cardboard sleeve and shrink wrapped. Often the two songs were on each side of the tape, but sometimes a different song was presented on each side. While popular, the format never eclipsed 45rpm vinyl singles in sales. Score: 1. Strike the drum with the tape head drumstick. 2. Slide the tape head drumstick across the band of tape on the drumhead. 3. Observe the echo of your sounds. 4. Listen.
49 This piece might be the most complicated visually and aurally of the entire installation. Ultimately, the goal of the work is to allow the participant to override the pop song by exhibiting control over its dismembered parts that have been stretched out and displayed on the drum. Also important here is the movement of tape between the two cassettes on the tape delay. This movement from one cassette to the other not only allows the hidden to become visible, but it exhibits the nakedness and fragility of the exposed tape. This movem ent also allows the viewer to see the sound physically moving. There is anticipation created by hearing the drum being played and recorded and then waiting for the delayed playback moments later. Tapewriter The idea for the Tapewriter was spurred by seeing an electric typewriter for sale at a second hand store. I started to ponder the need for electrifying the typewriter when it had served its purpose as a completely portable and entirely mechanical machine. From there I began to think about the mechanical typewriter as the beginning of a progression of word processing machines. The typewriter begat the electric typewriter, which begat the word processing computer (with a lot of small steps in between). The word processing machine, like most tools of modern society, began as a mechanical device run entirely through simple (usually visible) processes, became electrical, and then became digital, or computerized. Audio technology experienced the same shifts o ver the 20th century; the hand c ranked phonograph became the electric turntable which became magnetic tape in all
50 of its forms which became compact discs with their series of ones and zeroes which became the digital music file, an icon selected and engaged on a touch screen. The bottom line is that the typewriter is a beautiful and transparent machine that engages the human body and mind in a way that modern word processing computers do not. Thus, the Tapewriter blends the transparent technologies of the typewriter and magnetic tape. T he structure of the Tapewriter is as follows: a tape head is mounted on a depressed, the tape head makes contact with one of many strips of magnetic tape that have bee n adhered horizontally to the scrolling cylinder of the typewriter. When the participant tape is played back through the cassette player that the tape head is connect ed to. The text accompanying the display of the piece is: Tapewriter The first typewriters appeared in the mid 19th century and were indispensable tools of modern life through the 1980s when word processors rendered them obsolete. The typewriter is an amazingly simple as well as transparent machine; its type bars slam into a mark in the shape of the character selected. layout is the standard for computers despite the fact that the reasons for using the layout have ceased to be an issue. written by Gerry Goffin a nd Carole King, recorded by the Shirelles, and produced by Phil Spector in 1960. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. The the grain of t he sound. Score: 1. Depress the green key (H). The tape head will make contact with the magnetic tape. 2. While holding the key down, guide the scroll bar on the back of the typewriter back and forth (to and fro).
51 3. Feel free to use your creative int uition. Linger on sounds, repeat stretches of tape. Be a cheater and skip ahead (Fast Forward) by rotating the scroll bar with the wheel on its right side. Turn the wheel away from you. Be nostalgic and go back (Rewind) by turning the same wheel towards yo u. Helpful Hint: Have a friend perform while you stand behind the typewriter and observe the tape head reading. The Tapewriter, like Trax and gives the participant the ability to explore the pop music recorded on the tape in a way wh ich gives them power over speed and direction, granting them agency. Dually, it allows the participant to examine, operate, and learn about an antiquated technology which is operated by the full body and is transparent. Cassette Skeletons The Cassette Skeletons (fig. 6, 7) are a series of five sheets of plexiglass that are suspended at the entrance to the installation. As the participant moves through them they ey e level and from all sides. It serves to introduce the participant to the theme of transparency within the installation as well as to familiarize them with the structures that they will soon be operating as convivial tools. All but one of the skeletons is non operational. The operational skeleton is completely self contained, battery powered and playing a short section of the Go
52 Figure 6 Figure 7 (operational)
53 Installation The final installation of TapeHeads is organized in such a way as to allow all participants to move freely from station to station freely. The work opens in a short hallway within the gallery whe re the five Cassette Skeletons are suspended in a staggering order. Alongside the skeletons is the title TapeHeads mounted on the wall in vinyl letters. Below those letters is a framed description of my installation accompanied by a hand drawn diagram of a tape head: In his book The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology inventor Ray Kurzweil claims that within the next century human beings will bond with computers after machines have surpassed human intelligence, which Kurzweil estimates will happen sometime around 2029. It sounds far fetched, but the general idea of it is horrifying: that intelligence could become the primary form of power, and the consumer tools which man has created to serve him could become a part of him and possibly ensla ve him. Societal shifts as of late have definitely trended in this direction; the advent of devices like smart phones make the whole of human knowledge accessible almost everywhere on earth, rendering discovery and knowledge literally a couple of swift fi nger movements away. While on the whole this increased access to knowledge seems positive, it only serves s the workings of which the vast majority of consumers do not understand. TapeHeads explores solutions to this problem. Drawing from two works: Ivan Tools for Conviviality Small is Beautiful also published in 1973, I attempt to realize a society where our machines become tools for cr eativity. All of the machines herein have been converted into tools to be explored by each member of the performer audience. Furthermore, their plastic, metal, and wood coverings have been stripped away as much as possible in order to make their mechanisms as transparent as possible. Explore the landscape of TapeHeads as you would a playground; receive the total experience as you would a piece of music. The participant moves through the hallway and into the main gallery. The first enclave on the par ticipants right side contains 888 Cranks. As the participant moves farther into the gallery the next enclave on their right contains Random Access Twenty Ten the
54 Tapewriter, and Trax. Each of these works has been placed on a podium. The former two are at arm level and the latter piece is low to the ground, forcing the participant to crouch in the position of a child playing with their toys. On the left side of the room Cassette DJ Booth and share an enclave. The next enclave on the left i s home only to Walkie Talkie; this allows for participants to position their full bodies between the walkie talkies, several at a time. 8 Track Bicycle has been placed in the center of the room to highlight its size and allow participants to move on and of f of the bike freely. Each work is displayed with its score at eye level on white paper, secured to the wall with silver pins.
55 CHAPTER FOUR: OBSERVATIONS FROM THE EVENT The machines that make up the TapeHeads installation comprise only half of the entire experience of TapeHeads the other half was contributed by the participants. In this chapter I will describe and analyze the event of TapeHeads that took place in the Isermann Gallery on March 12, 2010 at New College of Florida. All of the claims I make herein are based upon my own observations of participant behavior. Ultimately I will try to answer the question: Was TapeHeads successful as an event? The Constraint of Time In the previous chapter I describe d the physical structure of TapeHeads however, there was another structural control influencing the installation: time. The event started at 8:00PM and ended promptly at 9:30PM when I cut the power to the machines. The length of the event, including start ing and ending times, was announced to all who were invited in the advertisements for the event. I had planned to have these strict time constraints so that the event would feel contained; I wanted the participants to get the sense that they were participa ting in a space that was removed from the outside world. In this sense the event was successful. The moment at 9:30 when the machines turned off was jarring, suddenly sound was absent from the space and the participants were catapulted back into reality. I wanted the participants to feel a sense of loss at the end of the installation. I wanted them to miss the interactions with the machines when the event was over.
56 Another byproduct of these strict time guidelines for the event was the sense of linear prog ression that they lent to the installation. One feature of this linear progression was a growing volume and intensity as more and more participants filled the space over the 1.5 hour period. Because the sounds of the installation began and ended together, the installation possessed a greater sense of cohesion as well. The combination of this cohesion and linear progression gave the entire event the feel of a piece of music developing over a set amount of time with a discernable beginning and end. I was pres ent for the duration of the event so I was privy to this development, but was the participants tuned in to the large musical expanse developing slowly around them? Surprisingly, yes; a large portion of the participants came to the event within its first fi fteen minutes and stayed until 9:30. Another large portion came later, but stayed until it was over. A sense of organic growth informed the majority of the participants to stay and experience the development and change within the space. Interactivity I put a lot of thought into making these machines approachable, as an installation comprised entirely of interactive work can be off putting for the viewer. In the previous chapter I included the complete text of the placards displayed with each piece. Thes e placards were intended to ease the participants into interaction with the work. However, at the actual event participants tended to begin interacting with the machines before reading the accompanying text. Perhaps this is because the machines themselves were inviting enough, but mostly it was because participants instead looked for examples of how the
57 pieces were operated by observing their fellow participants. Seeing another participant interact with a piece indicated that the interaction was allowed a nd provided an appropriate model for this interaction. In some cases this was necessary as the placard directions and score were missing key information. This was especially evident with the Tapewriter which confused a few people throughout the course of the night and caused me to field several questions about its typewriter. As the majority of participants were under 25, many had never laid their hands on a typewrit er prior to the night of the installation. I feel confidant that by the end of the night those who encountered and operated Tapewriter were more knowledgeable of the mechanisms that comprise a typewriter. Getting Acquainted The most important feature of the machines that comprised TapeHeads was their function as convivial tools. It was this ability to be used as means to a creative end that the machines in sometime s surprising ways. One of the most delightful accidents of the evening was the frequency that the rubber band of the 8 Track Bicycle (connecting the front wheel to its companion eight track player) reached too high of a speed and subsequently fell off. A t the beginning of the event I happened upon the stationary bike several times to find the rubber band lying limp on the ground. Apparently, feeling they had broken a piece of art, the participant perpetrator had
58 slinked away unnoticed. As the space filled with more people, the possibility of derailing the rubber band without anyone seeing you became almost impossible. By that time I was trying to stay relatively near the piece so that I could fix it as soon as it was needed. At one point, as my attention w as focused elsewhere, the band became derailed. By the time I noticed, a participant who had not been riding the bike had swooped in and was already busy re attaching the component. This demonstrated two things: 1) it is entirely possible for people to qui ckly understand machines when they are presented in this manner. 2) The participants in my installation had become a kind of community where knowledge and skills were exchanged for the greater good. As the participants grew more familiar with the work the re was a tendency by some to revisit machines. The re visitation was often marked by a greater confidence in manipulating the piece. With Walkie Talkie participants would often explore it the first time by simply walking between the radios to read the desc ription of the work and then walking back and forth between the radios. When revisited participants often experienced it in groups and felt more comfortable contorting their bodies and moving more sporadically between the radios. With Cassette DJ Booth I w itnessed one participant using her cell phone to interfere with the speaker signal. She had noticed the ability of her cell phone to interfere with the signal and cause distortion when her phone rang and, in a group, had begun to explore the piece with the cell phone as an added element.
59 Popularity Contest I would like to examine the Cassette DJ Booth because in the installation it served a purpose that I had not imagined or intended: a bridge between familiarity and the unknown. During the event on March 12 it was clear that the Cassette DJ Booth was the most popular. It was always being used and as t he event continued it even became crowded with bodies huddles around its perimeter. Why was it so popular? The work contained no exposed parts, therefore the machines presented were the most familiar of the entire installation. Also, the machines composing this work were merely re appropriated, not reconfigured. All of the effects pedals were being used as effects pedals, just not for guitar or a standard instrument. Rather, they were being used to manipulate a recording on cassette. The level of familiarit y that this provided allowed people to first become comfortable with this piece and helped to better frame the rest of the space of the installation as a place for exploration. Conclusions As the participants explored the space of the installation it b ecame increasingly clear to me that witnessing the event of TapeHeads was essential in helping me to understand my own project. I had never expected people to learn how to use the machines in the ways that they did. I was especially surprised by the way pa rticipants coped with the temporary breakdown of pieces they even found a way to fix them. Viewing this behavior gave me renewed faith in my original idea that it is entirely possible for people to understand the electronic machines that our consumerist s ystem produces, provided that
60 they are presented as convivial tools. By interacting with technology in a new way, the participants were finally able to understand technology that th ey had not cared to comprehend before. There was a purpose in the participa nt understanding the technology: the better they understood it, the more creative possibilities were open to them. It is for these reasons that I believe the 1.5 hours that TapeHeads was active demonstrated a successful installation.
61 CONC LUSION Undertaking this project has been a great learning experience. When first planning and designing the machines of TapeHeads my primary concern was how they would be received by an audience. Would the participants of my installation be willing to ex plore the machines to the extent that I intended? Would they be able to understand the social context of my project? I kept these questions in mind throughout the entire process in the hope that they would guide me to a successful installation. At the same time, I understood that TapeHeads is a very different kind of installation, one that could fail simply because its components had not been presented to the audience in the optimal way. Ultimately TapeHeads is a work about its audience. It simply would no t exist without them. A painting could hang in an empty room and it could still be a wonderful painting. A symphony could be played for an empty hall and yet that would not detract from its sonic qualities. However, without an audience TapeHeads is silent. On the night of the March 12, 2010 I experienced a very different work from every other person in attendance. As the participants explored each machine, listening and learning, I stood back and watched each participant. For me, TapeHeads became not the ma chines but the people who were using the machines. TapeHeads could have existed in any form, as any combination of eight machines using tape. The most important feature was that within the space people were creative in ways that the confines of our modern society do not typically allow. Thus, the only way I can measure the success of TapeHeads is through the people that participated in bringing the project to life. My own observations on the night of March
62 12 indicate that TapeHeads was a success. It succeeded not just in being an intriguing experience, but in conveying the concept to the participants. A man approached me and here I just get getting or understanding of the experience indicates to me that the installation had a clear direction, something that I hoped would come across to participants. Post TapeHeads I am interested in continuing to create sound art that provides a commentary on tech nology. The role that technology plays in the reception of sound in our culture is just too great to be ignored. If TapeHeads can allow someone to see the benefits of an eight track tape, then anything is possible.
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