march 20, 2010.
The photographs below show my two personal copies of the Paris Tape Run (2009) cassette, recently released on Staaltape, the cassette label of Berlin based Staalplaat, that - in the wake of the renewed interest in the audio cassette as a means not only for creation, but also for publication - rose from an at least 15 year deep coma. Label-director Rinus van Alebeek gave each of the 9 contributors to the PTR 'relay recording compilation' 2 naked copies (only Cosmo got more, but that's because he wore different hats), along with the command to "go, and cover them!".
Here is the first of the two that I dressed: it is the (one copy only) Paris Souvenir edition.
You'll discover the PTR cassette inside the transparent plastic box of a found Walt Disney® VHS tape. ( * ) The box has been given a new cover. Like the box's inside, it contains a selection of documents (letters, drawings, photographs, ...) that were formerly owned by a French citizen of Vietnamese origin (by the name of Tran Dinh Trong). Recently these, for reasons unbeknownst to me, were thrown out into public space. I found them among the garbage somewhere on a Parisian pavement.
My second of two dress-ups is the Paris Map edition.
In the (one copy only) Paris Map edition, the PTR cassette comes packaged with a handsome 96 pages street guide to Paris that bears a wonderfully appropriate subtitle, also part of this entry's title. Besides buying you a precious audio document, this edition will be an indispensable traveling companion for those nurturing plans to come and visit the French capital, for example on the occasion of the real time cassette estafette that later this year will take place in the Rue Cassette, in the 6th arrondissement. (You find the Rue Cassette on page 40 of the guide, map coordinates L17-M17.)
The Paris Tape Run was a follow-up to the somewhat earlier Berlin Tape Run. Both were initiated by Rinus in reaction to the tapesponding project that sometime spring 2009 was launched by British sound[re]searcher Felicity Ford on the Yahoo Phonography group. Felicity herself found inspiration in comparable projects known from the mail-art / cassette-culture history of the 1970s and 1980s. Felicity's Tapesponding consisted in the shipping via - of course: snail - mail of a cassette tape, from participant to participant, from one corner of the world to the next. Each participant was to record a couple of minutes of original material onto the cassette, and then ship it on to the next one on the list. And so weiter, until (the exquisite) tape's end. ( ** )
Rinus imagined a local version of tapesponding, by-passing Royal (and other) Mail and morphing the idea into something of a relay race: the cassette is not sent from one to the next, but handed over in person. With a little kiss, a tap on the shoulder, a shake of the hands, a chat, and maybe - who knows - even a drink.
Of course this makes sense in this day and age. Not only because we are
living in a time where social networking is considered a new
kind of water, a new way of breathing ( *** ),
but also because heute/aujourd'hui the number of tape-artists
based in Berlin-Neukölln/Kreuzberg (or of those based in Paris-Montreuil/Belleville
or in whatever other single metropolitan neighborhood) probably by far exceeds
the total number of tape-ists active worldwide in the early days, say around
It's evident. Unlike not even so very long ago, nowadays also the pretty, pretty pop- and dance-girls know exactly what you mean when you tell them you do music with tapes. When you do, they nod and shine a little pity smile while onemato-peeing something similar to "Pfffjizzzz, schroenkkk, zschroenkkkk !". Then they put up their hair, and frisk back to the dance floor...
Besides, thirty years ago snail mail was quite a bit cheaper and certainly far more reliable. Am I exaggerating? Hardly. Felicity's tape disappeared somewhere halfway her tapesponding project: it was sent, but never reached its destination. The tapesponding then had to re-start from cassette recordings of the playback of digital back-ups that some justly mail-distrusting participants had kept. Which, obviously, spoils a lot.
The Paris Tape Run kicked off on june 21st, 2009 : summer solstice and day of the fête de la musique. Standing next to a banana plant, Rinus recorded a farewell-to-Paris note. He left it on the table in an apartment overlooking the Place de la Nation and then ran to catch a train to elsewhere: "My suitcase was packed. In it was the cassette with the song I wanted to use to open this tape. I couldn’t find it. I left the cassette and a photocopy that showed glass roofs and the silhouette of the Eiffel tower on the table of the apartment of my host."
That host was Anthony Carcone, who thus became the logical next one on the run. He spent a couple of weeks contributing
to PTR by scratching off parts
of his stretch of the tape's magnetic emulsion, before - finally - handing it over to
me, on some occasion the precise nature of which I have forgotten. (Chances are that it was
evening and that
there was drinking involved.) The morning after I slipped the cassette into my dictaphone
and hit the record button. I went around the house, fighting back an early morning cough and
sneeze, and reading
at random from one of the distress warrants that I am only too
used to find in my mailbox these days. Thus I filled my 4 or 5 tape-minutes in about as
Then I rang Nicolas Perret.
"It is finished," I said, and bowed my head.
That same evening Nicolas came rushing over to my place on his motor scooter to pick it up. Later, for his contribution, he taped a lively reportage on a performance of TG (Thibault Gondard) in the Espace En Cours, who was the next one to obtain the tape. That, says Nicolas, was sometime during the grand 2009 Parisian Placard in the Rue Stendhal.
The PTR took a dramatic turn with TG on the wheel: on the 26th of july it suddenly and unexpectedly was lead away from Paris. He even took it out of France: the cassette crossed the Belgium border and arrived in Brussels. On the road, inside the car, Thibault recorded the final (fifth) track of the tape's A-side. It would maybe not be the compilation's best, but it certainly became the loudest. In his own words: "I recorded 4 minutes of words on this tape, on the way between Paris and Brussels, in the car with Nino and Mélanie." Spending 6 euros and running the risk of it forever disappearing, TG then snail-mailed the cassette, together with the growing pack of little papers (containing brief explanatory notes and things) that came with it, from Brussels back to Paris. That was on july 28th.
Its transport through snail-mail seems to have taken a while, but in the
end the tape reached Jedrek Zagorsky aka
Zaraz Wam Zagram.
His track is opening the B-side.
Jedrek in turn put the tape in the hands of Rébus. "I recorded on it 4 minutes of a Placard session," he writes. "The session itself was made with found sounds."
Rébus entrusted Blenno und Die Wurstbrücke with the cassette. "Rébus gave me the tape in a strange place," Blenno notes, "with a strange smell of cheese, French cheese. The idea of this song comes from my travel to Iran for a shura party."
From Blenno the tape went on to occupy Cosmo Helectra's orteau-phonic studio, in Paris XX. There Cosmo single-handedly filled up the space that was left, switching styles by putting on some of his several musical hats.
However, boys and girls, this was not yet the end.
The Paris Tape, duly and fully magnetized, continued its plentiful & curious peregrinations:
Cosmo handed it to my son in Vincennes, who gave it to his mother, who took
it with her to Amsterdam, where she gave it to me. From Amsterdam I brought it along to Maastricht, where, during the Waiting in the Wings
Festival in the Artspace
Rondeel, I ceremoniously
put it back into the hands of Rinus ...
It was that evening of saturday october 3rd, 2009, that the PTR truly finished.
The Paris Tape Run tape release party and concert were in Paris, on february 25th 2010, when, in the
Espace En Cours in the Rue de la Réunion (20ème) all the PTR contributors (with the exception of
TG) performed in the order in which they appeared on the compilation.
There was no way to fast forward or rewind, so first we got the A-side.
Then there was the B-side.
Had you been there, you'd have found yourself surrounded by the crême of Parisian cassetteurs.
Everybody (well, almost everybody) was there. And all (no doubt about that: all! ) had a great time.
The PTR at Espace En Cours was a hit: once more the little cheap-o-cassette (who does not love to use and abuse them?) showed its charm and strength as social glue. OK. That then. At the very least.
[ For more documenting pictures and words on the PTR hop over to the Staaltape web site. You may get all of your Staaltapes, current and coming releases, live or by snail-mail, from the Berlin Staalplaat store. ]
notes __ ::
(*) To be precise, the tape originally inside the box was "Le livre de la jungle": Jungle Book (1967). [ ^ ]
(**) Cf. the audio cadavre exquis that the initiators of the sound injury exchanges aimed for. [ ^ ]
(***) "A New Kind of Water", by This Heat - from their album Deceit (1981). [ ^ ]
tags: cassette culture, Paris
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