Piece for Eight Microcassette Recorders

Duet for any two musicians, each with 4 microcassette recorders. Premiered on December 15, 2015 by JSM & Jon Singer at Elebash Recital Hall @ the CUNY Graduate Center. Performed on September 16, 2016 by JSM & James O’Callaghan part of the International Computer Music Confrence, at HKU Utrechts Conservatory, Fentener van Vlissingenzaal, Utrecht, Netherlands.

Program Note: While digital audio is the primary medium for most contemporary recordings, many people still prefer the sound of magnetic tape. Recording to 1/2-inch tape, or even to a cheap 4-track cassette machine can add a particular warmth and character. Microcassette recorders, which are designed as nonmusical portable voice recorders, exaggerate this effect to an almost unusable degree – filtering out high and low frequencies, “warbling” the pitch, and adding a thick layer of hiss and crackle. These sounds have drawn me to use microcassettes in my music for a number of years, either as a sound effect or as an auxiliary musical instrument.

In this piece, eight microcassette recorders are used together as a musical instrument. Rather than employing a wide-ranging sonic palate, each tape contains a single sustained pitch. Therefore, what is interesting about the sound of this piece is not necessarily what was recorded, or the resulting melodies and harmonies, but rather the distortions that come from the tapes themselves. This creates a tension between the traditional pitch-based musical content, the expected content of a “tape piece,” and the mechanical and utilitarian interaction with the instrument.

Recording: JSM & Jon Singer, Performed at the CUNY Grad Center, Fall 2015

JSM & James O’Callaghan @ ICMC 2016, Utrecht, Netherlands