Found Sound

Tapes into bits

I made it through the holiday season without acquiring any new gadgets. I slept on it a number of times and realized that USB tape decks are for people who love the cassette medium. I’m not making that sort of emotional commitment here – this is about extending the life of my original recordings. Instead I went to my local pawn shop and bought a Pioneer cassette deck, pictured right. I chose the one with the slowest eject in the place, brought it home for $35 CDN, cleaned the heads, and started my archiving project, pictured at right, problematized here.

A longtime collaborator has indicated to me that he has scraped up some tapes I haven’t heard in almost two decades, so naturally much excitement abounds about this. It looks like we’ll be digging as far back as 1984. So cheap cassettes can last 23 years. Wow.

On the downside, after a thorough checking of storage spaces and closets at home, it appears I’ve misplaced a large number of early recordings made 1984-1988, which is tragic. Most of this material was recorded once, listened to once or twice, and never duplicated. Hopefully they’ll turn up.

If they don’t turn up, I do wonder where they’ll go? Would anyone discover them, use them, wonder why they were made? Much of the content included fictional bands and radio programs made in my bedroom and other exotic locales, though there are some early live recordings of my teen Top 40 cover bands in there too. I can’t believe that it all might simply be gone forever. Not sad – just tragic, shocking.

I guess this is what it feels like to be a found sound object.

Two nights ago I had a dream in which I was digging around through a box of tapes at a (different) pawn shop and, of course, I was anticipating that I would find something I had made with that equal-parts-excitement-and-horror you get in dreams. And then I did find a few tapes. I identified my own handwriting instantly (that was what drew my eyes toward them). I shouted “Oh my god!” – actually shouted, waking up the spouse and the infant.

I’ve got to get this project under control. The spouse and the infant need as much sleep as they can get.

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