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May 1999

Mp3s of ‘Matter’ posted; Web oeuvre complete for now

The Grand Delusion In retrospect, the 1996 release of Matter must seem like a deflection from the trajectory the Tape-beatles put in place from the opening tracks of their first release. To be sure, there is no denying something is different. ‘Matter’: The name suggests some thing fundamental; nutrients, the yet-to-be formed stuff of life itself. And so too does the sound seem to bubble up, darkly, with complexity. This recording delves below those surfaces so carefully mapped out by The Tape-beatles. More than just an illumined gloss of the interminable spectacle of our media-saturated culture, Matter points to the archetypal forms given voice in the pre-Fab Four’s previous works. We found it difficult to call it a Tape-beatles’ work. Clearly it owed much to the sensibilities and techniques of this previous collaboration, but a new name was needed as the harbinger of a new vision: Public Works. As Ralph and Lloyd continued to collaborate after the dissolution of the previous working structure of the Tape-beatles, more voice was given to the latent darkness of John’s child-like cynicism. What developed was Matter. Is it live or a moment in our estranged lives?

Hear the mp3s.

Public Works lurches forward; ‘fans’ taken aback

Good Times Difficult as it is to struggle through our heavy work loads, the three of us are simply unable to give up. It’s not that we think our project is so noble as to deserve this much attention, not to mention the foolhardy diversion of our un-ample resources, to such a cause. But we do find it rejuvenating, after the morning’s news and coffee, to turn whenever possible to the involving activity of producing media for Public Works.

Yes, the making of ‘music’ in our output has always been strongly represented, but it should not be forgotten that we are a ‘media group’ and that we pay equal attention to the making of films, presentations, publications, as well as, and of course, not excluding, this web site.

It is beginning to look like STCD138 Good Times is on-track for a late spring release on the Staalplaat label. The construction will contain some 60 minutes in 20 or 21 tracks, being the longest running-time (non-revised) CD we have ever released. Good Times (Synthety no. 5) signals an expansionist phase in The Tape-beatles/Public Works production. With the re-joining of John Heck to the group’s activity, one is drawn to ask, can we can broaden and deepen the themes that were presented on ‘Matter’ (Synthety no. 4)? No doubt, you wonder, will listeners welcome the somewhat lighter humorous touches that John brings to the project? Will they anticipate hearing Ralph’s brilliant musical ear and Lloyd’s ’tedious but sanitary conceptualizing’? Will they buy into the fresh cultural postures espoused by the group?

Answers? We have no answers. We have only the dim outline of a question; a question with many facets. Stay tuned, there will be more information in the dispatches to follow.

Tape-beatles Appear in

In an article entitled ‘God and Country, Remixed’ music reporter Mark Athitakis compares and contrasts the Christal Methodists and The Tape-beatles. In it (appropriately enough!), Ralph ‘Al Gore’ Johnson is credited with having ‘invented’ Plagiarism®, stating, ‘We claim to be thieves … we mean that, under the current topsy-turvy ethics of cultural property, we are thieves. Beethoven stole. “Ode to Joy” is a folk melody, and yet who had copyright over that? Stravinsky admitted that he was a thief. Art is dependent on thievery.’

Read the article.

In addition, the same site features a new article about ‘culture jamming’ entitled ‘The Medium is the Message’ [sic] which will be of interest to fans of subvertizing and media hacking activities, particularly those who live in the Bay Area. Sonic Outlaws auteur Craig Baldwin is among the interviewees.

Read this one, too.

Double-dip Irony with a Triple Back-flip

The Xerox Corporation has created an involuted set of ironies with a recent ad campaign. The spots, concentrated within the Sunday-morning ‘public affairs’ programming morass, urge us to ‘Share the knowledge.’

Here’s the scoop. The X-Corp. has built a healthy business selling machines whose main purpose is to make plagiarism available at the touch of a button. They’ve been so successful at it that electrostatic photocopying (for which Xerox owned the first patents) has become a metaphor—visually and otherwise—for cultural piracy, terrorism and intellectual hijacking. So far, so good.

Xerox ‘owns’ the patent for a truly efficient plagiarizing machine. That’s rather like the Tape-beatles holding a registered trademark on ‘Plagiarism®,’ no? And they encourage us to ‘share the knowledge.’ Share the knowledge! Were they ‘sharing the knowledge" when they once sought to stamp out unauthorized use of the word ‘xerox’ as a generic term for ‘photocopy’? (Which they did with an ad campaign a few years ago.) I’m not complaining—access to photocopying is an essential modern liberty. I like Xerox because it gave us a device that makes what I do not just easy, but possible. Many have made use of xerox copying in their attempts at dismantling the capitalist apparatus, which makes photocopying itself possible. The layers of irony proliferate onion-like.

I wonder what Xerox would say if I were to xerox their patents and make my own photocopier using them? My guess is that their lawyers would be on me like killer bees, in spite of the fact that they may have profited from the photocopies I made.

I’m not writing this to attack Xerox Corporation. I am writing it to relish the complex web of interaction between principles, laws, and the hands that they force.

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