I Have Been Here A Long Time

I had another dream about my lost cassettes from 20 years ago (remember? I dreamed about this previously). This time, I was not in a pawn shop. This time, beleaguered campus radio station CiTR (which in this world has had to resort to fundraising in the face of UBC budget reallocations and spiraling costs) was caught up in the mix. In the dream I happened by the station only to encounter a number of harried young volunteers pushing piles of boxes out of the station, and awkwardly tumbling down the stairs with them, piling them on the grass outside the SUB. Breathless half-reports was I able to glean from these frantic vollies, about the station closing down, could I help please? I decided that the decent thing to do would be to roll up my sleeves and help salvage the music library.

Upon entering the station I looked around for where help was needed most. It seems nobody was saving the cassette room, which had long been considered an eyesore at the station anyway. A half dozen volunteers desperately crammed collectable (though well-worn) rare vinyl into crates, along with CDs and oddball PSA carts, but none got their hands dirty with the tapes. Alarmed, I dove straight into the tape room, remembering too well (& far better than this group of apparently vintage-vinyl-obsessed 20-somethings) the time when a homemade cassette was the only affordable way to disseminate yr basement squawks.

Lo & behold, after about 10 minutes of packing, sorting through cassettes that were long out of their cases, barely identified, garnished with hopelessly faded scrawl over top of Maxell, TDK, Sony HR-90, and the like sticky label branding, there it was, on a bottom shelf, buried under a pile of Dayglo Abortions mixtapes – a small 3 by 8 by 12 brown suitcase, packed to overfull with home recorded cassettes, emblazoned with, in mine own hand, obscure titles that could only trigger distant, uncertain memories in two or three heads in the entire universe, mine being one of them. My lost tapes.

I’ve been neglecting the archiving project I committed myself to back in December. I suppose time is really of the essence here, and somehow those half-sorted piles of semiconductive 1/8 inch tape reels fashioned decades ago are sending me their last psychic plea, o’er piles of baby toys and documentation about the MIDI specification, which for some reason, I’ve never spent any time figuring out systematically until now…

Interesting Textures

I bring this in from my LJ – which is sadly even more out-of-use than this blog.

Dupobs got sampled for a PSA for a local noise show that apparently never plays our music. Cool! Listen to it here. It’s clearly “Introducing Le Barf Ball“, from our Shindig show last Autumn.

The new A Spectre Is Haunting Europe LP Embers is almost almost done. Just 4 more songs need vocals added to them, and then it’s mixdown time. I so want to share, but have vowed to myself not until it’s finished. I can’t believe it’s been almost two years in the making.

On that note, we’re still fixated on the donation model of record releasing, even in this post-In Rainbows era. So if you want vinyl, you’ll have to donate to the label’s paypal account using the button below. Otherwise, it will be available for free download anyway. That’s inescapable. But no CD, barring a massive petition from the people.

I will say this: baby Isabel will be featured somewhere on it. It’s amazing what a 7.5 month old girl can do with her pipes. Wow.

Tapes and Tapes

The A List

The image above depicts the “A List”: tapes that are clearly labelled and known to have original music on them. There are 100 more on the “B List”, which are mislabelled but suspected to contain original works (e.g., they were recorded atop prior recordings on the blank tapes, but never properly re-labelled). There are yet 200 more tapes which are not labelled at all, and many of which might not even be mine.

For those just tuning in, this is the beginning of a massive personal digital archiving project I’m undertaking, and which I’m promising to blog about as much as I can. The oldest tape I’ve found so far is from 1987, but I’m certain there are older ones lurking in a box somewhere.

I’ve come up against a few boggles already, in deciding how to prioritize things. First, multiple media. I’ve got floppy disks with writing on them (yes, even the big “floppy” floppy disks – which contain early university papers and oodles of lyrics, poems, and fiction). I’ve got Hi-8 tapes with all manner of film school and ethnographic projects from my undergrad on them, including, probably some early music videos and short films I’ve made along the way. I’ve got VHS tapes of band performances (though I’m missing some very crucial ones of List Of Mrs Arson that I’m mourning the loss of). Then there’s old CDRs that need ripping, and then the tapes and tapes and tapes. I’m prioritizing tapes because they contain the most valued material (the music), and are the most fragile due to their age (20+ years).

Then there is the problem of how to blog this process. I don’t have much interest in putting everything up online, and doing so would be untenable. I need to build a narrative, which can obfuscate as much history as it can illuminate.

And this brings me to a consideration of the scope of the project, which augments my perplexion even further. Some projects I was only slightly involved in – do I include those and thereby prioritize the biographical dimensions of this endeavor? How will former collaborators respond to my requests to make everything public, noncommercial, attribution only, sharealike, copyleft? How will these considerations limit the project? And should I just ignore these concerns altogether and let the chips fall where they may?

And then there are the questions of destiny, of purpose. Why do this, besides my impulse to restore and save the historical record, however personal and idiosyncratic that history is? Who cares? And what if the music bores people to death?

Finally, there are practical concerns – the tedium of scanning homemade cover art, the hopes that I can locate everything, and that it’s all still salvageable (and PS – for those in the know and who do care, Yummibrain has indeed survived the full 19 years since it was recorded), and whether I have the stamina to carry it through, while exposing some very personal (and perhaps embarrassing) stories in my musical learning process since I was a child.

Lots at stake in such a thing. And I haven’t even mentioned the notion that some of it (hopefully) might get remixed by someone. Anyway, it’ll be a couple weeks before the uploading starts, as there’s much planning to do.

Mobile Media Use & Disuse – Research findings, plus musical odds and sods

Hey. I’m digging my head out from under a tense, transitional semester of research, teaching and baby-raising. I’m working directly in mobile media now, in a new job at Mobile Muse 3 (so expect more posts in this sorter space as we go). On that note, you can see a recent presentation of research findings gleaned from my ongoing mobile research for Nokia here (PDF, 3.7 Mb). A full paper on this research, authored by me and Richard Smith, is forthcoming.

On the music and audio front, I’m about to embark on an ambitious audio archiving project pending the purchase of a USB cassette deck. Not a found sound project, mind you, but more of a personal biographical project. I have a huge box of old tapes, set to expire any minute, that simply must be digitized. I’ve been recording things since I was 9 years old. No word yet on how much has survived, but in the new year I’ll have a good idea. This’ll also be my chance to debut the clicknoise podcast…

I will likely set this bio project to coincide with the release of the newest A Spectre Is Haunting Europe record, too, which will permit much dialectic between past, present, and futurism. This way I’ll have the dual pleasure of digging through the vaults whilst unleashing something that is completely fresh (in the past, ASIHE albums have always combined new and old seamlessly, and with Embers (the next LP), we definitely didn’t want to do that again.

Ex-Perry Mental Geekery

Nice to be back in the swim of things. I just put a final report out the door on a research project that I’d been working on for 14 months. It was a difficult project – one that didn’t always go as planned, that got intermittently sidelined by other events in my life (buying an apartment, having a first baby), and included a whole feeling of responsibility and guilt unlike any other research project I’d ever worked on. More than anything, it was in a research area worlds away from poopular (yes, I mean poopular, it’s not just the baby talking) music, which is my number one research passion.

I’m not going to divulge any more details about that project here (details of it will soon be published elsewhere), but your takeaway from the above blurb should be that now that the project’s done, much more of my time can be devoted to my work in music and my work in mobile – both of which are central themes of this blog.

To wit, I’m TAing a 3rd year course in popular music studies this semester, and the gearing up is invigorating. We’re doing something of an experimental “taste laboratory” of sorts on Last.fm. I’ve invited the 76 students in the class to join so we can have some healthy backchannel in a music-rich environment. We’ll be sticking to the books and lectures in tutorial, but I figured having this optional addon for students who are so inclined can be instructive, and perhaps give some students some concrete experience with which to grapple whilst reading Hebdige, Attali, Adorno, McRobbie, and others (PS – I didn’t design the reading list, so if you have a problem with it, take it up with the Sessional).

The other thing I’m diving into now is a short ethnographic study (yes, the third in a series) of mobile phone use, using the Nokia 95. I’ve been playing with one of them for a couple of days now, and I am quite impressed with its ergonomic design. Something about this phone feels just alright, as Lou Reed would say. However, the phone keeps crashing when using the built in photo gallery app. Looking for a workaround.

Oh, and of course, there’s the upcoming AOIR, which I’m helping out with (and presenting at).

I’ll be keeping you posted.