The idea of the cassette: A gallery with musings

Posted by Rob Walker on March 19, 2010
Posted Under: Music,The Designed Life

[ 3-24-10 Note:Below the jump, there are extensive updates to this post based on comments and other feedback.]

By Kate Bingaman-Burt. Throughout this post, click image for additional details.

In a recent essay for a museum show about music and objects, I made the following rash assertion: “The poor old cassette – cheap, plastic, fragile— enjoys none of the romance associated with vinyl culture.” In retrospect this was a silly thing to say; at the least, I wish I’d said it differently. It’s a different kind of romance, and it certainly isn’t creating anything like the unlikely resurgence in sales of vinyl that’s occurred in the last couple of years. But it was flat wrong of me to imply that nobody cares about the idea of the cassette.

I brooded about this for a few weeks and started collecting links and images relating to the various ways that the idea of the cassette persists. I’ve compiled much of that in this massive post, and welcome your suggestions about examples or useful reading that I’ve missed. Unlike my series of posts on the idea of the book, this will be more of a one-stop approach, like the earlier gallery of default anonymity. That is, I’ll add stuff to this post as I find it, or you tell me about it.

What follows, then, is a bit of a hodgepodge, but I’d really love to hear your thoughts. Do you still have a box of old cassettes somewhere? Do the images here do anything for you? Do you feel any cassette nostalgia?

“All My Tapes, Part 1,” by Bughouse

It so happens that smack in the middle of my brooding and link-collecting, Pitchfork published a huge essay setting out to explain the “underground resurgence” of cassettes, citing “a confluence of cultural trends.”

Instant access to almost any recording has left some of us over-stimulated, endlessly consuming without really digesting what we hear. Many children of the 1980s first owned their music on cassette, so for them the format represents a nostalgia for simpler times; younger kids probably never owned cassettes in the first place, so for them tapes don’t have any negative associations. The spread of Internet-enabled smart phones and 24/7 social networking has made work and pleasure increasingly intertwined in our digital existences. Like records, cassettes offer listeners a tangible experience at a time when our jobs, our social lives, and our popular culture are becoming more and more ephemeral.

Noted in the Pitchfork piece is the British cassette-only label The Tapeworm (“No barcodes,” the label’s site announces almost immediately, and that strikes me as a pretty interesting thing to tout as a selling point) and this roundup of 101 Cassette Labels. Wieden + Kennedy’s WKE site recently had a short video feature on a couple of cassette-only labels in Portland.

From Andy Sawyer’s “Signs of Use.”

That said, the idea of the cassette, so far as I know, doesn’t have all that much to do with with nostalgia for or connection to the sounds it produced; you can find somebody to tell you vinyl sounds better, but are there advocates of the audio quality of cassettes? Maybe, but it would be a lot easier to find the cassette used as material, or a visual trope, or a subject for interpretation as a physical thing, not a medium of sound per se. (Both that Pitchfork story and a recent WSJ writeup about a guy with a huge collection of 8-tracks (a whole other story of course) note that a mere 34,000 cassettes were sold in 2009 — a truly surreal drop from 8.6 million in 2004.)

This Popmatters essay is skeptical that there’s any nostalgia for cassettes at all, but: “If there is a movement for nostalgia for cassettes, it’s not the medium, but for the concept of freedom it offered listeners. For those who thought junior high and high school were exercises in purgatory, a Walkman finally offered some minor refuge.” I would add the car tape-deck to this point. True it was squeezed out by CD players, but a cassette-littered car was once a part of being young.

Maybe the obvious point to make is that the cassettes people like aren’t new ones, but rather cassettes acquired long ago — particularly those given as mixtapes (as opposed to purchased at Sam Goody). That’s the spirit that I suppose drives Cassettes From My Ex, a collection of “sixty hilarious, nostalgic and heartbreaking stories stories all about crushes and mixtapes.”

Cassettes From My Ex

I guess a couple of years ago now, DesignBoom published this impressive roundup of “cassette tape culture.”

The craze for cassettes as music messengers may well be gone, and hundreds of millions of tapes are out there unused, but two current trends have brought them out for a second play. With 80′s nostalgia rife in the visual world and recycling and sustainability mentioned just about everywhere, the humble cassette has undergone several unlikely re-incarnations in the last few years. Whether it be the retro graphics adorning them or the reels of tape inside them cassettes are finding their way back into the hands of the ‘cool’ crowd.

The image at the very top of this  post, by Kate Bingaman-Burt, is a result of a project of hers I mentioned here earlier: Interested in drawing mixtapes, she found that they tended not to be sold in thrift stores and whatnot, so put out an open call for pictures of mixtapes. I’ve sprinkled a couple of other art-images above, and here are some more examples of cassettes as the subject and/or material of art works:

Garth/Extreme Craft highlighted this piece recently, by Bryan Dettmer.

By Bryan Dettmer

From a Flickr Gallery called Beautiful Cassette, these two images:

By wikshirepix

“Cassette Tapes,” by ilovecakedoyou

There’s much more out there. Check out all these mixtape-related groups on Flickr.

A theme suggested by Designboom that was certainly echoed in my own link-collecting at least was often the cassette is used simply as a form for other other products. I’ve repeated a couple of their examples below among mine, but see their post for even more. Does this suggest something about the nature of cassette-nostalgia? Or does it just happen to a form — a slim oblong box — that lends itself easily to many adapted uses, while remaining recognizable?

USB drives are inevitable:

USB Hub By Marc Jacobs

USB Hub By Urban Outfitters

Here’s an Etsy seller who makes belt buckles out of license plates — in this case in the shape/form of a cassette:

By vintageinretrospect

Pouches, wallets, and even totes are popular: Echoes of the cassette as “something that holds personal things”?

By Brave Moonman

By Jenny Henry

By Jason Amendolara

The notebook is also a holder of the personal:

Wednesday Garden

All of the above items of course also can be carried about thus said to have some kind of “signaling” function. What does public display of appreciation of the idea of cassettes suggest?

 By Buttonhead

And what about domestic or office products in cassette form, or using cassettes as material?

Felt LikeIt

Via PopGadget

“Cassettes Not Dead” floor lamp

More on the lamp just above, here.

Having spent much of this post on nostalgia and a kind of skepticism of the cassette’s relevance as a useful music/listening tool in the 21st century, I’ll close this out for now by noting a “cassette tape loop” project, which I don’t actually understand is explained below.

Disquiet: “Elegant cassette-tape loop,” constructed by Marc Fischer.

Disquiet says:

As he explains it, it’s based on an earlier design, and his attempt involved using as much of the interior cassette space as possible. It’s lovely how the familiar mechanisms of a cassette tape appear in a slightly unfamiliar setup, how the looping device retains the structural integrity of the original, and simply builds upon it. This isn’t nostalgia, and nor is it ironic; it’s a logical step forward for a device that time hasn’t quite forgotten. More on Fischer’s tape-loop experiment at unrecnow.com/dust. He’s promised audio examples in the near future.

—–

UPDATES: Okay, so check the comments for some early reactions, I’ll be adding to this post over the weekend based on what comes in. First one I should point to is Marc “Disquiet” Weidenbaum on that last bit above about the tape-loop, I get it now. (Sorry I was a bit thick about it before.) As Marc explains, what Fischer has apparently made is a cassette that’s been hacked a bit so that it plays one snippet of music (or other sound) up to eight-and-a-half seconds long, endlessly. I’m used to the idea of loops that work digitally, but this would be, I suppose, an analog loop.

Separately Marc also points out another cassette experiment that involves actually using the objects to deal with music and sound in new ways: Stephanie Simek’s Sound Locket: “A ribbon of sounds contained in a necklace made from cassette tape, steel, and silk. Each pendant holds a song on a tightly wound cassette tape that was made especially for this project by soundmakers from around the world.” (Oddly, to me at least, it comes with a CD.)

Sound Locket by Staphanie Simek. Click for more info.

In addition to comments here there’s more on the Consumed Facebook page. (In one of Marc’s comments below he mentions the “mechanical thud” of a cassette coming to its end in a tape deck; one of the FB commenters mentions “there’s something so satisfying about the ‘click’ when you press play on the tape deck.” So there’s a whole other layer of sound connected to the cassette experience I hadn’t thought about.)

And I’m pleased to say Metafilter picked this up, and so did Fark, so there’s a lot there too. So here  goes with adding new stuff, starting March 21, 2010. I’m a little swamped with stuff as some of this material that’s been so helpfully suggested takes some scrutiny, so I’ll keep adding gradually. And will happily accept more! Thanks!

Things to read/view include:

  • Essay on “I Still Make Tapes,” by Gabe Meline, here. Good stuff!
  • Meline also has a piece about the thrill of receiving newly manufactured cassettes for five local bands. It contains this: “I’ve been assured that there’s only 100 copies of these cassettes out there, which considering the demand for cassettes these days is probably about 97 copies too many. They come packaged in a $10 5-Pack, boasting ‘Now With Compromised Fidelity!’”
  • It appears someone has started a Facebook page called Cassette as an indirect result of this post? If you’re a fan, fan up.
  • Marc shares this post, a glimpse “from deep in the world of cassette-sound-art,” where it turns out that “apparently the Parisians who fiddle with the cassette as an artist medium at ‘cassetteurs.’”
  • As long as as we’re international: Check out Kaseta, which I gather means “cassette” in Hebrew. The site is in Hebrew. So actually I don’t know what it says. But Penny in the comments tells me (us): “For 4 years I’m collecting and writing about cassette culture and about tapes and cassette as an icon, mixtape culture, tapes as a tool for musicians in the present etc.” So that seems on point.
  • This New York Magazine article about a Brooklyn label that has a cassette only arm called Fuck It Tapes.
  • Here and here, producer J-Zone explains his preference for tapes.  In the video in the second link he notes that “O.G.s rock tapes,” and the more surprising argument that newer formats have merely enabled the distribution of more “wack shit” that’s not worth hearing, meaning that sticking with tapes offers de facto quality control. He also points out all the stuff in his collection that’s not available on iTunes. “I’m from the old school,” he points out.  It’s very entertaining, and also profane, if that’s an issue.
  • Justin Blackman has a wistful essay, The Death of the Mixtape, on Facebook.
  • The MySpace of the Mixtapes Do Exist Project is here.
  • The MySpace of another cassette-only label, Hair On My Food Tapes, is here.
  • BoingBoing recently posted this video, which satirizes the arguments of contemporary music companies regarding file sharing by way of a fake 1980s-era campaign, “Home Taping Is Killing Music.”
  • Though it runs contrary to a lot of the cassette love that this post revealed, I think this comment from The Selective Memory cannot be dismissed: “Dear cassette, please just give up the ghost and die already. We’re not missing anything with you gone.  I love magnetic technology, but you represent all that needs to pass with the consumer side.  Just let go.  We’ll sing your praises, I promise.  Posthumously.”
  • I’m hesitant to bring up the Boom Box, which seems like a whole other can of worms, but, it has to be acknowledged as a device that is as important to the idea of the cassette as the Walkman, or the car cassette deck. Right? So here is The Boombox Timeline, a visual history of the Boom Box era. Via Bsky.

On the tapes-as-art-and/or-design-material front, one of the comments reminded me of these great portraits made with tape (which made the rounds a while ago, I don’t know how I managed to forget).

Click to see a full Flickr set

Type, from tape:

By Ersinhan Ersin; click pic for more info.

Cassette Mobius Strip by Christian Marclay.

Conrad Bakker’s 2003 “Untitled Project: Mixtapeswap” offered people the chance to trade an actual mixtape for for a “carved, painted mixtape.”

Mixtapeswap. Click for details.

Product additions:

Here’s a USB packaged in a cassette-shape, via Bsky and commenter Jason, who points to more info here.

From Suck UK. Click for details.

Commenter Jason also notes this 2007 writeup about an “MP3 Player Inside a Cassette.” (Below.)

Cassette MP3 Player. Click for details.

This company, Transparent House, offers “a tribute to an object of their 80s youth,” the cassette, here used in the creation of a lamp:

Lamp by Trasparent House, click for details.

Another lighting project via the comments: “This piece is comprised of 42 found cassettes. when wall hung, and back-lit, the cassettes come alive and create a graphic pop art piece”:

By David Kugielsky. Click pic for details.

Here are neckties made partly from recycled cassette tape:

By Alyce Santoro, click for more info.

More items (most via comments):

Cassette Tape Buttons, by Sniffle Co. Click for more info.

ASOS Cassette Face Watch

Cassette Envelopes

Recycled Glass Soap Dispenser – Cassette Tape

Also this:

Via the comments.

April 27, 2010 update: After I wrote a piece related to this post in Consumed, a couple more notes/suggestions came in. More  or welcome, but I have a feeling we’re nearing the end on this one:

In Brighton, says Wooster Collective.

Crocheted cassette tape, pins, wall, cassette tape; Nicola Vruwink; click for more.

Thx: Randy K. and @rafikam

Okay, one more, from PSFK, 5/6/10:

 

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

To receive a mix tape from a lover …It wasn’t an easy thing to produce a cassette mix tape. No cut and paste or drag and drop. And you could picture the rifling through collections of CDs or tapes. Some of the finest memories can only be made with low fi. I treasure them.

#1 
Written By Carol on March 19th, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

A few months back the incredible (and funny!) hip-hop producer J-Zone did some blogging on his love of cassettes and his cassette collection.

http://danteross.com/blogs/jzone/2009/09/23/i%E2%80%99m-not-an-ex-con-i-just-like-tapes-pt-1/

http://danteross.com/blogs/jzone/2009/10/19/im-not-an-ex-con-i-just-like-tapes-pt-2/ (this one includes video)

#2 
Written By rafi on March 19th, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

So excellent to see the Marc Jacobs and the Marc Fischer cassette-tape remixes in the same spot.

As for Marc Fischer’s tape-loop gadget, what he’s done is to create a tape cassette that plays a single, short snippet endlessly. In this case, he’s estimated that the loop can be as long as 8.5 seconds.

A traditional cassette tape has a beginning and an end. (Tangent: Recall that hard mechanical thud that occurs when a tape reaches its end? Not only does the tape itself snap to a stop, but the tape recorder/player itself has this heavy mechanism that retracts from the tape when it comes to the end. Every time a cassette stopped automatically, I felt reminded of its short lifespan. This cassette loop device, on the other hand, plays on and on.)

Not only can the cassette looper be employed to repeat a single swath of sound, it can also be used in a cassette-based four-track recorder to allow for looping in performance (or, of course, also when noodling, aka composing, in private).

Writing on Disquiet.com, I stupidly often assume knowledge I shouldn’t. I could have done a much better job explaining how the cassette-loop functions. I think this makes it more clear.

#3 
Written By Marc Weidenbaum on March 19th, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

I think the continuation of that PopMatters essay hits the nail on the head. The cassette was the first musical format that could be directly altered by the average end user. In my opinion, that level of empowerment is the emotional anchor that keeps people of our generation going back to it’s iconography.

#4 
Written By Justin Kirkwood on March 19th, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

Does anybody miss those really cheap Walgreen’s cassette tapes, the ones where you could get like a hundred or something for ninety-nine cents?

#5 
Written By cousin lymon on March 19th, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

I have been doin a little project for 2 years now, called “mixtapes do exist project” where I create mixtape various underground hip hop joints all recorded on to tapes “mixtape” and hand them out in the streets. If your interested peep my myspace page – http://www.myspace.com/mixtapesdoexistproject got pics of j-zone and reks rockin t-shirts i created in support for the project and some other various stuff – But mixtapes are always classic and will forever play on!

#6 
Written By Mixtapes Do Exist Project on March 20th, 2010 @ 3:52 am

My new bank card is a cassette: http://twitpic.com/16jy0o

#7 
Written By Stefan Constantinescu on March 20th, 2010 @ 6:07 am

I don’t have much experience with the Walgreen’s cheap cassettes, but I recall the equivalent from RadioShack. Come to think of it, the first tape recorder/player I ever owned was probably the one that came with my first computer, a TRS-80, back in 1979. If memory serves, it was better to use cheaper cassettes when recording information from the computer, because higher-quality tapes didn’t have enough surface noise to mask small inaccuracies.

Anyhow, this following post may be of interest. It is from deep in the world of cassette-sound-art. Apparently the Parisians who fiddle with the cassette as an artist medium at “cassetteurs”:

http://www.harsmedia.com/SoundBlog/Archief/00718.php

#8 
Written By Marc Weidenbaum on March 20th, 2010 @ 10:20 am

The Tapeworm thanks you for your passing interest.

Re: no barcodes – “…and that strikes me as a pretty interesting thing to tout as a selling point.” you write. Not a selling point; much more about our mindset, our priorities and possibly a comment on how selling, certainly via conventional streams, is something we are not focussed on.

#9 
Written By The Tapeworm on March 20th, 2010 @ 11:08 am

Here’s some more cassette beauty:

1. Typography by Ersinhan Ersin that’s all built from cassette materials:

http://disquiet.com/2009/08/30/ersinhan-ersin-tapeography/

http://www.behance.net/Gallery/Tapeography/252919

2. Check out the Lamps page at:

http://transparenthouse.com/design/

3. And Stephanie Simek’s jewelry at:

http://18kt.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/sound-locked-by-stephanie-simek/

4. Gorgeous photo-illo by Hannah Whitaker to accompany a New York mag article from last September:

http://disquiet.com/2009/09/29/hannah-whitaker/

http://nymag.com/arts/popmusic/features/59222/

5. Beautiful Christian Marclay cyanotype:

http://disquiet.com/2008/11/02/image-of-the-week-marclays-mixtape/

6. And, looping back to my TRS-80 memories, a 1976 cassette containing the earliest Apple software … turned subsequently into audio:

http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2008/07/16/apple-i-basic-plucke.html

#10 
Written By Marc Weidenbaum on March 20th, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

Thank you for a lovely article. Takes me back to taping songs off the radio, and making copies off my dad’s vinyl records. #6 post: That credit card is really cool.

#11 
Written By Bonnie on March 20th, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

The greatest pick-up line I ever saw was done with a cassette. My new roommate had been down in the dumps (lovesick) and was having a hard time, so I dragged him out to a great bar in NYC to show him how much fun one could have. It didn’t take long before he was dancing around and having a grand old time, and he ran up to me breathless saying: “See that guy at the bar? I think he likes me!” When we staggered home at three in the morning, he giggled “that guy, he slipped me a cassette! We have to listen to it! It might be a mix tape”

We slipped the casssette into my player as soon as we got home. The outside only had a phone number inked onto it. The music coming out of the speakers was Sophie B. Hawkins – “Damn, I wish I was your lover!”

My roommate never called the guy, but he was high as a kite on that compliment for ages.

#12 
Written By Dabitch on March 20th, 2010 @ 6:03 pm

i make these tiny wooden cassette tape buttons:
http://www.sniffleco.com/cassettes/

#13 
Written By John Patterson on March 20th, 2010 @ 6:24 pm
#14 
Written By Anon on March 20th, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

Great post!
I have a music blog called “kaseta” (cassette in Herbrew)

For 4 years I’m collecting and writing about cassette culture and about tapes and cassette as an icon, mixtape culture, tapes as a tool for musicians in the present etc.

Just 3 days ago I published a post about musicians and labels who still prefer to record their materials on tapes.

I also lecture about the subject and always surprised to see people’s reaction to it.

My website is in Hebrew – http://www.kaseta.net
but Rob, if you want to talk and exchange info please feel free to write me
http://www.kaseta.net/2008/06/blog-post.html

#15 
Written By Penny on March 21st, 2010 @ 10:29 am

My throbbing gristle remains true to the pre-cassette period when 8-track cartridges ruled the roost.

Hearing and feeling the thundering throb of the 400-plus cubic inch V-8 engine accompanying the audio output of the quadraphonic 8-track player as the cute high-school cheerleader shifted her curvy derriere across the bench seat and rested her hand upon your swelling fruit while the smell of wafting 18-cent Der Weinerschnitzel hot dogs rose from the back seat on a warm summer night was as wondrous affair unequaled by the lackadaisical period of this era’s ghetto thug oriented rap crap music period of CDs and electronically-saved music backed with thoughts of “going green,” political correctness and shuddering at the thought of remotely offending but one of the multitudes of minorities who are now are the majority.

An era is over never to return and the USA will be much the less for it.

#16 
Written By Obbop on March 21st, 2010 @ 10:49 am

Okay, wow, thanks for all of this. I’ve started adding to the main post some of the tips here, much obliged!

Beyond that a couple to respond to directly:

Marc: I totally get it now, sorry I was obtuse earlier! Didn’t mean to imply you or Fischer weren’t explaining well; the problem was me.

Penny: Very cool, I’ll get in touch.

Tapeworm: Sorry if I worded that in a way that was bothersome. Not my intent.

Lymon: You know all about my extensive collection of penny-pinching blank tapes from the good old days. And of course I bought them at Walgreen’s when possible, for employee-discount reasons.

Thanks thanks thanks for all tips and feedback!

#17 
Written By Rob Walker on March 21st, 2010 @ 10:51 am

here are a couple more nostalgic call backs to cassette tapes:

Cassette tape USB (really, just a standard flash drive in a case that has the same shape and size as a cassette):
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-9761634-1.html?tag=mncol%3btxt

Cassette MP3 player (can be used as a stand alone player or popped into a cassette deck where it will play the MP3′s stored on it):
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-9768113-1.html

#18 
Written By Jason on March 21st, 2010 @ 11:55 am

I’m in full agreement with Marc’s comment (#3) and would add that the the mix tape process involved a level of engagement both for the maker and recipient that I cannot match with CD’s or any other process/media. There are many things that I mistakenly lost or discarded over the years (photos, baseball cards, etc) that I wish I had kept. I did not repeat the same mistake with my tapes. A few buddies of mine along with myself have made it a goal to keep the humble cassette medium alive as long as possible with the formation of our little cult, the “World Tape Pals” where we exchange tapes 2-3 times a year. It has kept us in contact with each other and has succeeded in helping expose the others to both new music and our classic roots. It has been glorious.

For those of us who have kept and maintained good cassette decks I can claim that our sound quality is excellent. We have certainly been guilty of mixing too “hot” at times, but the final product along with the love and respect required to make the tapes more than makes up for an occasional mistake. We have been able over time to amass a good supply of good to superb tapes from BASF, TDK, Denon, Maxell, etc to keep our club going for quite some time.

Pause/Record

#19 
Written By Pause/Record on March 21st, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

I also run a cassette only label called Hair On My Food Tapes.

#20 
Written By Joe The Stache on March 21st, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

I seem to remember the cassette format was originally invented for dictation and transcription (letters and documents). As such, it still works exceptionally well. I still have a microcassette deck where everything can be controlled with one thumb. Also use a microcassette dictate/transcribe station for recording and transcribing my own notes.

I love my cassettes for music, mainly for portability and because I have so many, but there are better formats for music.

For dictation and transcription, there was never a more robust and useful format until digital came along.

My two cents. Thanks for this gallery.

#21 
Written By transcriptMaker on March 21st, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

Ahh, Cassettes, so many years spent rewinding, taking apart in a futile attempt to repair and now the CD is so easy to handle as long as you don’t scratch or break it, well, good riddance cassettes, but, they served their purpose… I quit downloading music since I can hear just about anything I want to hear anytime on the internet. Why own it, which was part of the job of the cassette, to “own” the music, when you can listen to it anytime and if I want to hear it in my car, I can always put it on my cell phone or on CD or iPod etc.

#22 
Written By JJ on March 21st, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

I remember long nights in middle school and high school, listening to the classic rock station, ready to pounce on the “record” button. It as the finest music education I could ask for.

#23 
Written By Eric B. on March 21st, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

I still have cassettes from 1971 recorded from transister radio country music thru Panasonic portable recorder. Hundreds of others recorded from over the air radio stations that dont exist anymore – they would be called “airchecks” now. You can buy from collectors. You can join reelradio.com for $12 a year to hear top 40 recordings from DJ’s across American and Canada from 50′s to mid-80′s – Wolfman Jack, etc., many recorded over the air onto cassettes by regular folks, whose stories are included in this 12 year old “museum of the radio waves”.
I would use the cover art under the shell and recreate by carving the image into the clear cassette shell above it, then removing the j-card and inserting bright white card instead. It allows your artwork to “stand out” and I just like the feel when I rub my fingers over the grooves and valleys of my carving. But you couldn’t put too much weight into it! I’ve never heard anyone else do this. I also have some recordings of live unsigned L.A. area bands from 1970′s. My 94 yr old father-in-law had a vinyl-”burner” and made live records in late 1930′s of his mother singing opera, and of his late wife singing in the 1940′s. The cassette is the medium that made music something you could take with you, jog to, walk to, exercise with, take to space with you (Apollo 13 scene). It made music personal.

#24 
Written By Scott on March 22nd, 2010 @ 2:40 am

My first tape recorder (cassette) was when I was in the Navy. I bought two so that my folks could send messages to me. My dad would never have sat down and wrote a letter, nor my uncle. However my dad would keep the recorder by the chair he sat in and would start a tape when he relaxed. My mother played the piano and organ and wrote some of her own songs. I purchased a good boom box for her and she recorded her songs. Had we skipped the cassette and gone into computerized CD recording, she would never have recorded her music. Now both mom and dad are gone but I have some conversations of my dad on cassette, plus about 20-30 tapes of my mom playing music. Ofcourse in later years I recorded her and dad on video, but the cassette was a great addition to my life. I purchased a Rod Stewart and Dean Martin tapes just this last month at thrift stores. CD’s might deteriate in a few years, but I have tapes from my days in the Navy that are still being played in my car, which by the way has a CD and Tape player. I think for a person that is recording their guitar playing or such, tape is the easist way to do it. I suspect they will be with us for years to come. RJT.

#25 
Written By Ric on March 22nd, 2010 @ 11:06 am

Another cassette-based Christian Marclay artwork:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/98035031@N00/1444502903/

#26 
Written By Randy on March 22nd, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

I rarely link to my own writing but I love cassettes too much to leave this comment box alone. I’ve got over 4,000 tapes and I still put albums on cassette to listen to in the car, boombox, etc. The patience and psychological connection involved is the reason:

http://www.bohemian.com/bohemian/12.17.08/music-cassetes-0851.html

Also, there’s a company in Petaluma, CA called Kaba Audio that still manufactures cassettes with legit printing in short runs – it’s just over a dollar per tape, and includes professional printing. A few friends of mine used them to make Christmas presents for local bands recently; there’s some pictures here and a little overview of how Malaysia kept cassettes alive long past the ’01-’02 phase-out:

http://www.bohemian.com/citysound/?p=1411

Thanks for compiling all this great stuff! I was at a show last month and four of the five bands on the bill were selling tapes. Even if it’s the hipster thing to do, it’s nice to see cassettes accorded respect.

#27 
Written By Gabe on March 23rd, 2010 @ 10:22 am

All of them. Congratulations!!!

#28 
Written By ooomydesign on March 26th, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

you missed Untitled Project: MIXTAPESWAP
http://www.untitledprojects.com/index3.php
best,
Conrad

#29 
Written By conrad bakker on March 28th, 2010 @ 11:32 am

Wow; nice monster of a post. Apologies if I missed these in the huge pile of info above, but here are a few more, for any parties who truly like cassettes.

From David Kugielsky: http://www.coroflot.com/public/individual_file.asp?keywords=david+kugielsky&c=1&portfolio_id=3316596&individual_id=216800

Etsy envelopes: http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=11928414

Asos cassette watch: http://www.asos.com/Asosman/Cassette-Face-Watch/Prod/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=258750&cid=4210&clr=Silver&Rf-100=Watches&sh=0

#30 
Written By josh on March 28th, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

Cassettes are my main squeeze for music-making!

(a four-track loop tape, plus a microcassette Dictaphone)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bm_rH7XceXo

Thanks for the beautiful article.

#31 
Written By Daryl Shawn on April 2nd, 2010 @ 10:45 am

The Wonderful web comic Cat and Girl has a great meditation on the role of the cassingle in the universe:

http://catandgirl.com/?p=34

#32 
Written By Ian Pearson on April 25th, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

Don’t know if anyone has listed this lovely archive as yet.

http://www.polaralert.com/exhibition/top100/index.html

Enjoy.

#33 
Written By Joel Priestland on July 9th, 2010 @ 12:02 am

Hey, Rob:
FYI, if you didn’t catch it, a cassette-centered story ran on NPR today: http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2011/02/23/133995073/cassette-tapes-get-a-west-coast-rewind

#34 
Written By Molly Block on February 24th, 2011 @ 12:57 am

Molly, hadn’t caught that, listening now!

#35 
Written By Rob Walker on February 25th, 2011 @ 10:17 am

Trackbacks

  1. Pop Loser ★ Cassettes  on March 22nd, 2010 @ 11:13 am
  2. Music of Sound » Detritus 34  on March 23rd, 2010 @ 2:44 am
  3. Cassette… « Brooklyn Sky  on March 24th, 2010 @ 10:59 am
  4. KinoSport | Datajack Four  on April 11th, 2010 @ 12:30 pm
  5. A Song A Day in May | overjoyous  on April 30th, 2010 @ 9:05 am
  6. A MUSIC-Y DAY… | A Beautiful Path  on February 8th, 2012 @ 2:02 am
  7. Links for today | jjjjosh  on April 5th, 2012 @ 1:24 pm
Previous Post: