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July 1988

The group at the time of the release of A subtle buoyancy of pulse;.

After a long silence, Iowa City’s weathervane audio artists The Tape-beatles will release their first collection of new material, entitled A subtle buoyancy of pulse. The Lp-length cassette will hit the stores just in time to remind North American listeners that The Tape-beatles still exist. The release is the first major new material The Tape-beatles will put out in public since their KRUI début The Big Broadcast took place last September. The Tape-beatles are Iowa City residents Lloyd Dunn, John Heck, and Paul Neff.

The production makes use of borrowed and ‘found’ sounds. Most music makes use of sounds which are made by special devices known as ‘instruments.’ The Tape-beatles use tape-machines as their instuments to produce and compose sound normally not considered ‘musical.’ The noises of common objects and situations are used to create a conteporary version of concrete music. Concrete music was pioneered in France in the 1950s.

The philosophy of concrete music is that any and all sounds become music when ‘composed’ or placed in a musical context. Therefore, the technology of tape recorders makes possible an entirely new kind of music. The Tape-beatles use tape recording to construct dynamic rhythmic backdrops and unpredictable ‘melodies’ using their found sounds as raw material. They then often combine these backdrops with speaking voices, also on tape, to serve as ‘lyrics.’

The pieces themselves are not just a way of trying these ideas out formally. The Tape-beatles’ work always tries to make a point. ‘We’re fighting against the tendency to make art into just another form of real estate,’ insists Tape-beatle John Heck. Often political, ironic, or wryly humorous, these pieces make this and other statements, and just manage to be entertaining as well.

A few examples from A subtle buoyancy of Pulse are as follows:

  • A collection of Beatle screams extracted from their original recordings of the sixties
  • A televangelist voice cut up and rearranged to make richly complex rhythmic patterns
  • The voice of a talkshow hostmade to sing a kind of song
  • An old jazz song, combined with voices from the news, made to comment on urban violence
  • A computer-generated voice singing a new kind of love ballad

As audio-artists, the Tape-beatles participate in an art-network that is global in scope. Through this network, the Tape-beatles have been in contact through the mails with artists from North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia. One side of A subtle buoyancy of pulse contains work which was first heard publicly during Festivals of Plagiarism held concurrently in San Francisco, Madison WI, and London, England.

‘Networking audio makes it easy for us to share ideas and art with likeminded people no matter where they are,’ says Tape-beatle Lloyd Dunn. ‘It’s a way of making use of the powerful resources of a technological society which are available to everyone.’ Dunn should know, as he has also been editing PhotoStatic Magazine in the network for the last five years. Where Dunn’s work with the Tape-beatles focuses mainly on audio work, his work with PhotoStatic is largely graphic and publishes artwork made specifically for the xerox machine.

The Tape-beatles hope that A subtle buoyancy of pulse is only the first of many future audio compilations. For now however, they are kept busy distributing their new cassette, which they admit is a difficult task. ‘We don’t have many normal distribution channels open to us, so we have to be creative in how we market the thing,’ says Tape-beatle Paul Neff.

This item first appeared in PhotoStatic Magazine no. 31.

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