Dictaphone Cassette Collage

I’m always buying tape players/recorders/walkmen at thrift stores and hacking them up into various other things. Recently I found one that had a built in mic, speed control (!), and a built in speaker. Initially I was just carrying it around with a loop cassette in it and making little cassette loops of found sounds. Later on, however, it occurred to me to put a normal cassette in it and just collect a sequence of audio snippets. I just record a few seconds of something and then stop, and when i want to record the next sound I just pick up where I left off. This creates a sort of stream of consciousness sound collage, that keeps growing by the day.

Right now my collage is about 3 minutes long, but I’m hoping to fill up one side of the tape at least. It’s been a lot of fun just walking around with a recorder and grabbing bits of sound. It’s kind of sneaky in a way, especially if I’m in a shop or at work, which also kind of makes things interesting.

I find the more distant I get from some of the earlier sounds on the tape the more interesting they become as I can no longer identify them. I’m looking forward to when this is more like 15 minutes long, then I think it will really start to get interesting. I like the idea that it is sort of a different kind of musical improvisation. One which is really slow and very deliberate, but at the same time kind of indeterminate, in that you don’t know how what you are recording will sound until it is on the tape. Whatever the case, it’s definitely fun. I’ll post more as I get further in.

- Cassette Field-Recording Collage

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7 Responses to “Dictaphone Cassette Collage”

  1. james schidlowsky Says:

    I can’t find a reference by googling, nor do I remember a name, but I heard of someone mailing a voice-activated microcassette recorder to themselves. So the thing recorded bits of its voyage, whatever was loud enough to trigger it to start recording. Now that’s gotta be a pretty random tape collage!

  2. howsthatsound Says:

    yeah, i heard of that, and i’ve been meaning to find out who it was. i’d love to hear it. if i find out, i’ll post it here. thanks for visiting!

  3. james schidlowsky Says:

    Found it!… It’s Janek Schaefer’s “Recorded Delivery”. Some info at http://www.audioh.com/projects/recorded_delivery.html.

  4. howsthatsound Says:

    ah, that is it. thanks for posting.

  5. cementimental Says:

    Check out home-taping legend Hal McGee’s work, he’s done some great stuff with this approach. – http://www.halmcgee.com/

    He did a tour recently and each gig included taped activity from his previous gigs and travels, which was added to and taped over each time…

  6. howsthatsound Says:

    thanks for the link!
    i actually do that quite a bit in latralmagog. i am always building loops on my four-track, sometimes using all for tracks. then when we play again, i often reprise some of the existing loops from the last set in a new context and use them as a jumping off point for a new direction. it can produce very interesting results. it’s almost like a piece of music that never ends… just gets paused for a week or so. :)

  7. Dictaphone cassette collage part 2 « OF SOUND MIND Says:

    […] cassette collage part 2 So, it’s been nearly a year since I first mentioned this technique, and since then, I’ve been in quite a few places and recorded a ton of audio snippets. Funny […]

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