Jazz and the degradation of tape. Or; Jazz Two Ways.

I read somewhere that clear blog post titles are very important for driving traffic to your blog. I guess I’m failing miserably. hahaha. Clarity and ease of communication is easy when your content is boring, which I assure you this next bit is not.

I decided this morning that I was going to start listening to some of the reel to reel tapes I found in the trash the other day. What’s more I listened to them on my newly acquired Wollensak 3M reel to reel recorder, which I just rehabilitated. (Note: a little lubricant will fix a lot of old mechanical things :))

Wollensak 3M tape recorder and Mac

I really never expected to find really cool audio on the first tape, but low and behold… The tape seems to be a compilation of jazz pieces. However, the tape is so old that the iron-oxide is starting to shift and re-polarize and the result is bleed from each side into the other. Effectively, you hear side two of the tape playing backwards in the background of side one and vis versa.

What is remarkable about this common event, is how well the two sides blend together at times. It is almost like it was meant to be this way. Before I realized what was happening I thought I was hearing some odd instument playing it this jazz combo. I hate to keep harping on this, but this is why i collect tapes! This was in the garbage! No one would ever have heard it again. Now, is it not only out of the garbage, it is on this blog and hopefully preserved forever, or at least a good bit of time. Unless you are as obsessed with this stuff as me, you will probably never hear anything like this again. I hope you’ll give it a listen.

I have gone a little crazy and decided to present this as an album. I have created artwork for it and everything. The artwork is below and also encoded in the mp3s. There are 9 (yes 9!) tracks in all, in glorious mono. I present to you, “Jazz Two Ways”. I hope you all enjoy!

Jazz Two Ways Cover

– Jazz Two Ways No. 1
– Jazz Two Ways No. 2
– Jazz Two Ways No. 3
– Jazz Two Ways No. 4
– Jazz Two Ways No. 5
– Jazz Two Ways No. 6
– Jazz Two Ways No. 7
– Jazz Two Ways No. 8
– Jazz Two Ways No. 9

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6 Responses to “Jazz and the degradation of tape. Or; Jazz Two Ways.”

  1. serge audenaert Says:

    Nice correlations – I agree. Quite enjoyable to listen to. No2 is one of my favorites. There it really looks like the reverse track is playing along. I also like to experiment from time to time with blind recordings on 4 tracks and the results can be nice indeed. But it adds the extra touch as you have this as ‘found audio’ – You must like the ‘audio kitchen’ podcast as well no?



  2. howsthatsound Says:

    hey serge, thanks, i’m glad you enjoted this.
    blind recording is a technique i also employ frequently. especially in combination with random editing.
    i have never heard of the “audio kitchen” podcast, but i will definitely check it out. thanks for the recommendation.


  3. rickygee Says:

    Cool sounds!
    I think it occurs because you are playing 4-track stereo reels on a 1/2 track mono machine. 4-track reels had the stereo channels staggered to provide better separation. Example:

    _____________________ l———–l
    stereo L Side One ->>
    _____________________ mono head
    stereo L Side Two <<-
    _____________________ l———–l

  4. Lenny Nombril Says:

    Hey hey,
    Rickygee is correct. Tape doesn’t have “sides”. Both “sides” are recorded beside each other but in different directions. In reality, the 4 different tracks sit very closed to each other. Bleed over will happen unless played back with the proper head stack. Wollensaks were usually 1/2 track (mono in each direction). The tape is 1/4 track stereo. Nevertheless, your find is fantastic! As an old-school recording engineer, backwards stuff has always been cool to me. Finds like yours is the reason I look for weird stuff on the net! Thanks so much!

  5. howsthatsound Says:

    HA! yes, i know this now. i should probably edit the post to reflect that. still the results are what is important, and i’m glad you enjoy them!

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