why tapes matter


“I’m pretty obsessed with contemporary cassette culture. Over the last few years, countless young and ambitious efforts have adopted the format – sculpting one of the most vibrant contexts of new music I’ve encountered, yet it seems – caught by the object itself (or simply not having a tape deck), people often miss what makes it so special. It feels reductive to mention the all mighty dollar – but it counts, and is generally downplayed in narrative of seminal music. Art is supposed to come first – and it does, but particularly for those of us who have shuffled through a frustrating flux in formats during the last three decades, it has played a significant role. Though everyone has their preferences and reasons, a largely unspoken factor which contributed to the vinyl revival we are currently witnessing, is that for many years (the 90’s and the first half of the 2000’s) LPs were the cheapest way to buy music. …”
the hum

Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture – Thurston Moore


“The stories are endless. There is the guy who in college used the same mix tape to impress three different girls — his girlfriend, a fling and a prospective second fling — simultaneously and got away with it. There is the 13-year-old whose musical existence was shaken out of a Sex Pistols-Beatles bipolarity by mix tapes from cooler, older friends. There is the guy who made a romantic tape called ‘You Best Believe I’m in Love’ with nothing on it but New York Dolls songs. In retrospect, the era of the mix tape — which began not long after Philips unveiled the audiocassette in 1963, crescendoed throughout the ’80s and probably peaked in the early ’90s — looks like a vast, unintentional folk art movement. Nearly every music-loving teenager in the country participated. Think of it this way: If every kid who spent a Saturday afternoon making a mix tape over the past 25 years had instead spent that time painting, sculpting or writing poetry, the ’80s and ’90s would be known as a period of unbridled renaissance in American outsider art. Now that era is over, the hours of tape-deck labor replaced by the drop-and-click production of the iPod playlist. At least that’s the sense one gets from ‘Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture.’ Edited by Sonic Youth frontman Thurston Moore, ‘Mix Tape’ claims to be the first book wholly devoted to mix-tape culture. …”
Salon
W – Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture
Wired: The Best 90 Minutes of My Life
NPR – The Mix Tape: Art and Artifact (Audio)
amazon

The ROIR Label’s Timeless Documents of Underground Music


“If you had a taste for underground music in the ‘80s, you almost certainly had multiple releases on the ROIR (pronounced ‘roar’) label in your collection. The tiny New York label’s output was exclusively available on brightly-colored cassettes, with liner notes by noted rock critics like Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Byron Coley, Kurt Loder, Jon Pareles, and a pre-Yo La Tengo Ira Kaplan. The catalog included releases by proto-punk and punk legends like the MC5, Television, the New York Dolls (and Johnny Thunders), Nico, the Raincoats, the Dictators, and Suicide, as well as hardcore acts like Flipper and GG Allin, compilations like New York Thrash (featuring the Beastie Boys’ earliest recording), and the Bad Brains’ legendary ‘yellow tape.’ They also released noisy, arty music by Glenn Branca, Christian Marclay, Laibach, and Einstürzende Neubauten. And they balanced their loud, aggro side with releases that revealed label founder Neil Cooper’s passion for dub and reggae, with titles by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Big Youth, Niney the Observer, Yellowman, Bill Laswell, and others. …”
bandcamp (Audio)
Guardian – Label of love: ROIR

OP Magazine


Wikipedia – “OP Magazine, based in Olympia, Washington, was a music fanzine published by John Foster and the Lost Music Network (leading to the title, which extends the abbreviation LMN to LMNOP) from 1979 to 1984. It was known for its diverse scope and the role it played in providing publicity to DIY musicians in the midst of the cassette culture. The magazine was co-founded by Foster, Toni Holm, Dana Squires, and David Rauh. An emphasis of the magazine was ‘articles about music written by musicians’, and regular contributors included Victoria Glavin (Victoria Barreca), Peter Garland, Eugene Chadbourne, and Larry Polansky. When Foster ended OP after only twenty-six issues, (labeled A-Z, with topics within beginning with that issue’s letter), he held a conference, offering the magazine’s resources to parties interested in carrying on; two magazines became the dual successors to OP’s legacy: attendant journalist David Ciaffardini went on to start Sound Choice, which published until 1992, while Scott Becker, alongside Richie Unterberger, founded Option, lasting until 1998.”
Wikipedia
The Handmade Tale: by Kathleen McConnell
Tape OP

Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine


“Launched from the Lower East Side, Manhattan, in 1983 as a subscription only bimonthly publication, the Tellus cassette series took full advantage of the popular cassette medium to promote cutting-edge downtown music, documenting the New York scene and advancing experimental composers of the time – the first 2 issues being devoted to NY artists from the downtown no wave scene. The series was financially supported along the years by funding from the New York State Council of the Arts, Colab and the National Endowment for the Arts. Tellus publishers – visual artist and noise music composer Joseph Nechvatal, curator, former director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia and current director of The Jewish Museum (New York) Claudia Gould and new music composer Carol Parkinson, director of Harvestworks from 1987 on – never considered running an underground culture audio publication, rather envisaging the compact cassette medium as a no wave fluxus art form in itself. This was quite a unique point of view at a time (the early 1980s), when many self-released cassettes blossomed through mail order and trade between audio artists, mail art folks and hardcore punk bands who were promoting a mostly minimalism punk inspired DIY technique of more-or-less anti-art nihilism. But Nechvatal and Parkinson had met in the mid-1970s dancing as a performance art / minimal art dance trio (with Cid Collins) influenced by the post Merce Cunningham postmodern dance/choreography of Lucinda Childs, Deborah Hay, Yvonne Rainer and Carolee Schneemann (with whom they toured Europe in 1978). And they continued to see each other in the art music milieu of the rigorous downtown minimal music scene as they worked for the Dia Art Foundation as assistants to La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and Pandit Pran Nath. So by contrast to a lax attitude, the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine never indulged in rank amateurism. Their audio releases were always tightly focused, well researched and aptly curated. …”
Wikipedia
UbuWeb: TELLUS CASSETTOGRAPHY (Audio)
Continuo: Tellus cassettography