Towards a better understanding of my work with Tapes

Introduction

Only once in my life I had to walk with crutches. Apart from having to deal with a useless foot, I liked it. The view on a town and its traffic changed: I realized how moving with a normal speed puts you in a kind of trance. When moving slowly I felt as if I had arrived at the shores of the continuous flow of city life; it felt peaceful. I could observe everything differently. I must have moved at a pace of approximately 176,4 meters an hour. The earth rotates about ten thousand times faster.

A magnetic tape moves at a pace of 4,9 cm/s across the tape head. You can see it move – anti clockwise. When I perform various tape players are running. They all cause circular motions. They all move at the same speed, 176,4 meters in an hour, a very peaceful pace which gives you the time to observe things in a different way.

I like to think that the listener intuitively knows about this all, about the tapes moving in circles and about the comforting pace. I also like to think that this calm and the relative helplessness of my gear cause a kind of affection towards the medium. People like to help. My cassette players belong to an almost finished era. They are like very old people you’d help to cross the street.

1. A tape carries sound

I record on tape. I record peculiar sounds I hear. Once the recording is on tape, the sound will be altered, by hiss and by the technical quality of the cassette player and by the speaker system. But everyone will be able to recognize the sound. And intuitively he or she will listen differently, because of the circular motions and the calming speed.

The medium cassette seems to transmit a message. The listener wants to help, that is why he also wants to understand. He will listen more and get captured by a sounding environment.

2. Two or more tapes carry the complexities of sound

In every environment there are multitudes of sound sources. We perceive them as one, for the simple reason that each one of us finds himself at the very center of his impressions. In an evolutionary sense mankind seemed to need its hearing ability for security reasons. Thank God we reached safer waters before our ears got a chance to adapt to our needs and took on a more cone-like form.

Sound is helpful for orientation, to get a notion of the space we are in. In a performative situation the sounds I play hardly relate to the space itself. I play more then one tape simultaneously, sometimes up to a number of eight. Recordings are also played backwards or in a different pitch. In this mix of abstract and recognizable sounds, some of them on the foreground, some of them behind a rumble, some of them spoken words in a strange or familiar language, the listener by force of nature will try to arrive at the very center of the audible information.

I control and reach an altered state of tranquility: I am the eye of the cyclone. I like to think that my listeners find their own center, and that each one of them hears something different. I also like to think that they will be able to visualize their listening experience.

3. Das Tape an sich

Sometimes I like to think that time passes at 4.9 cm/sec. The rotating motion of my cassette players would recall the spinning and whirling movements of planets, moons and galaxies. It is a long way to the stars.

In point 1. and 2. the sounds on my tapes were perceived on a conscious level, hence time could pass. Then we dream.

I record the hiss of a blank tape on another blank tape. Following this, I record the recording back on the original blank tape, and so on. There is no limit. It is not an original idea, I know. Neither is it a very original idea to use twenty-six characters from the alphabet when I write.

In the process of recording and re-re-re-recording sounds get added. The machine and the tape quality itself, maybe some dust particles come to join the hiss. Every now and then I listen to the result. The layer upon layer of nothingness sounds hypnotizing. I fall into the great confusion of hisses, crackles and hums. I like to think that I hear people talking in a very far distance. I like to think that at the other side of this storm everything sounds crisp and clear. It is like wishing to enter a painting by Monet or to wake up in Virgil’s Aeneid.

I am on my way to the heart of the tape, to the point where it will reveal its secret. In another experiment I exhaust the medium and record the room I sit in over and over again on the same tape. The original recording will disappear under the next one and so on. New layers get added while time passes, just like what happened to the surface of the earth over the last millions of years.

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