Why I collect tapes. Finding left field music in unlikely places.

As I have mentioned here before…

I love tape.

One of the many reasons, is that over the past 50 or so years it has made it possible for different kinds of people all over the world to document their rich and varied existences. From the aspiring metal band in a garage or basement, to the lovingly crafted mixtapes from one dreamer to another.

Recently my wife called me to inform me that she had found a reel to reel recorder in the trash on the way to work and saved it for me (awwwww… i LOVE my wife). She said I should stop by the place she found it, because they had lots of cassettes and reel to reel tapes.

I grabbed a big bag and biked down. There was a ton. I filled my whole (large messenger) bag up. There was absolutely no more room. I wound up with about 15 or so reel to reel tapes, some recorded on, some not, and about 20-30 cassettes.

The reel to reel tapes were mostly jazz, R&B and soul recorded either from LP or the radio. The cassettes were either unmarked, or church cassettes. These I was pretty excited about, so I put a few on as soon as I got home.

After going through a few, I found one of the things I had hoped to find; a gospel organ rave-up. The tape is unmarked, so I cannot tell what the event is, but it sounds special somehow. The first side is a sermon by a male preacher, which so far has not been interesting enough to listen to all the way through. The second side is what I can only describe as organ assisted prayer.

The speaker is a woman this time. She seems to be “prophesying”, meaning she is using a form of extra-sensory perception to know what people need to be prayed for and how.

At some point in each prayer the organ kicks in and drives everyone into a frenzy. I’m sure to be there must be an amazing feeling. Being surrounded by all these people with so much joy and devotion in them, radiating waves of excitement out in all directions. Still, in a way it is surprising that these people are all getting this down to what is basically folk-experimental music.

All about context
Here we have a church full of lower to middle class black people in an urban area. Not the average demographic for left-field music, or performance art (generally white, upperclass, academic), but here we have them becoming enraptured in amorphous waves of sound and being driven on to the heights of slain-spirit by the shouts and hollers of an accidental-shaman.

This is ethnic-psychedelic music at it’s most pure. There is no record label to persue. No fans or critics. No intellectual questions. No stylistic dogma. Just pure, unadulterated, trancendental aural magic.

Maybe it is all of the questions, pressures, poses, etc. that can make any music boring. Maybe it’s the idea that something is in a package because you are supposed to think it’s good, that makes listeners resentful. maybe it’s the need for a sellable format that makes most music crap. Maybe the reason average people don’t like experimental music is because its in the wrong context.

Anyhow. I’m not here to give any answers. All I can say is that the people on this tape got something right. And, of course, they got it on tape. so I present it to you now. Enjoy!!!

Edited version (removed some of the talking)
– Gospel Organ Freakout Edit

Unedited version
– Gospel Organ Freakout Full


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3 Responses to “Why I collect tapes. Finding left field music in unlikely places.”

  1. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    It’s very hard to be a recording artist, amateur or otherwise, and not be guilty of some conceit. I myself constantly check myself in order to focus my mind on the SOUND and not so much the “packaging” or “commercially viable presentation.” It’s difficult, nay nearly impossible for us suburban culture spawn. What makes sounds such as those within the gospel recording so compelling is the lack of self-consciousness and the immanent pure release that of “in the moment” bliss going on: the seeing-nothing yet seeing-everything idea perhaps. These odd tapes of conversation, eerie audio artifacts, machine sounds, crackling piano, etc: all are liberating in their anonymity. Warhol comes to mind with his idea of random snapshots of reality. Nevertheless once you turn a profit when presenting this this stuff under the pretext of “art” the mask slips on. Anyway, great stuff! Keep it all coming!

  2. howsthatsound Says:

    great comments. i think the whole idea of the “art star” (this could be a rock star or a painter or whatever) has warped all of our minds in a way and made us all desire to be larger than life like them, and not just who we are doing what we can. that idea of playing to the crowd comes to mind in a way. it can certainly be hard to do anything artistic without having that infect your creative process.

    one of the things i like about these kinds of recordings, is while i’m sure that element exists here in some form, it has definitely been eclipsed by that pure bliss you speak of, that rapture. part of which, in religious culture like this, is owed to the belief that it doesn’t matter if you are good or bad, original or not, as long as you do it to the glory of god. this thought in itself allows you to go to that place. i think its considerably harder for people to acheive that same ecstasy from just makin’ art for it’s own sake.

    your comment about anonymity is interesting, but i’m not sure it’s 100% accurate. i think that a degree or originlessness is part of it, but not all. i have thought about this a lot, and i really i don’t think i could say with certainty what it is about those sounds that is so compelling culturally.

    i’m curious about this statement about the mask slipping on, i’m not sure what that means, same goes for the “pretext of “art””. care to clarify?

    thanks for the thoughtful post.

  3. sandy Says:


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