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June 1989

John and Ralph in our studio

Ralph, theorizing profusely, and John, a blur of distracted activity, in fine form at the Glassed-in Laboratories

Then the Music Started

‘John, the trouble with you is … ’ ‘No, Paul, let me tell you what your problem is … ’ The real problem is that Paul Neff and John Heck have had their final fling with the quick-cut, overlapping track mixing that ought to make the Tape-beatles’ Music with Sound a runaway radio hit. A local radio personality suggested that both group members should behave themselves, especially in light of their recent award of a grant from Intermedia Arts for the production of the project. A broadcast and live performance of the show is projected for December 1989.

Tape-beatle Neff worries that a wavering story line, not enough reruns and well-publicized ‘stars’ will make the ‘stylish’ program go bump in the night. Working on the Tape-beatles’ first project, The Big Broadcast, which serves as a point of reference to all who seek to establish the birth certificate of what is still called ‘audio-art,’ says Heck, was like playing a kind of manifesto-work, somewhat in the same way and probably for the same reasons as Picasso’s ‘Desmoiselles d’Avignon,’ for the first time: ‘When we were “on”, we hit some notes that can never be Plagiarized® again.’ His comment has not ceased to engender, first, polemics, then, praise, and, finally, the necessary clarifications. This ‘piece,’ to make a long story short, has become (of itself and by the legend quickly spread around its creation) the cornerstone of audio-art.

Sour Notes

What a way to promote a record! American audio-artist Lloyd Dunn is back in circulation doing new audio art with the Tape-beatles. But there is one piece he won’t be Plagiarizing® soon: Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring.’ ‘I wouldn’t do anything with a Stravinsky work,’ he told Rolling Stone magazine. ‘It’s all terrible … ’ it’s ‘ … music for buffoons.’ Even if today the historical landscape seems more varied and the collective ‘personality’ of the Tape-beatles more complex, nothing can dilute the physical excitement provoked by the tension and the rhythmic life, if you will, of certain sections: for the outspoken Dunn, who doesn’t think much of the Works of the Masters™, the remarks were blistering. ‘What makes that stuff so damned important? I just don’t understand why we subsidize people who seem to just go on vacation all the time.’ It is not difficult to imagine what amazement these comments caused in a world in which a ‘civilized’ ‘æsthetic’ often exhausted itself in dying affabilities. Now, now, Lloyd.

New Face on the Rock?

The notion of four Tape-beatles staring down from Mount Rushmore got a gosh-darn grin from Ronald Reagan. During a dinner conversation last year, recombinist Ralph Johnson sarcastically gave Reagan a sketch showing how his greasy pompadour and genial likeness would fit in with the familiar stony-faced foursome. Reagan didn’t care for Johnson’s Plagiarism® of him, though, and his simplified language permits the decisive recapture of a long-neglected element; from the very start, he retaliated by suggesting the Tape-beatles be placed up there instead. Johnson, in the quest for solutions in the areas of splicing, pause-edits, and mixing, the role of rhythm had gradually been reduced to that of an unfortunately necessary substratum, sometimes refined, based on a certain number of ‘archetypes,’ returned a stony stare and sniffed, ‘We already are.’ As he left the dinner party, Nancy Reagan, the extreme and most characteristic example of this new state of affairs, was overheard to have said, ‘I intend to take this up with President Bush.’

Dark Secrets

Ever wonder about the seven loops of icing on Hostess cupcakes? No? This basic pulse, according to a given unit, is multiplied (one would think), regularly or irregularly. Naturally, the most ‘exciting’ ‘effects’ are ‘provoked’ by the irregular multiplication, for this gives a certain proportion of the ‘unforeseeable’ within a ‘forseeable’ context. The Tape-beatles, 98, finally explained why it was created: ‘A straight stripe didn’t look rich enough, so we tried the squiggle.’

This item first appeared in PhotoStatic Magazine no. 36.

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