Tape Fragmentation

Trevor Blake: Tape Fragmentation

Tape fragmentation consists of interrupting the audio input to a tape deck from the take deck. That is, using the tape deck to fragment an audio input.

I often record my environment for source material in audio collages and for cassette correspondence. The portable recorder I use has a pause button that slurs when turned on while recording. I decided to see what it would sound like if I turned the pause on and off rapidly while recording. The results cannot be explained by someone who wasn’t there. The sound is alien and familiar at the same time.

My home recorder has a pause function that is exact and without slurs. Using this deck, I fragmented sounds from the radio (mostly classical music and speech), other tapes I’ve produced and sequences programmed into my synthesizer. I also tried unplugging and plugging in the power cord to the tape deck while recording, but the results weren’t satisfactory.

I believe the best fragmentation comes from speech. One can recognize voices and an occasional word, but the overall effect is the destruction of language. Words are cut apart and re-combined in new and unpredictable ways.

Fragmented tapes are very easy to ignore. If you set your mind to something else while listening to a fragmented tape you will find it easy to block out. It is the kind of destroyed sound that you hear when there is a television on in the next room, or when a radio is playing in a passing car. This background noise effect and the ease of creating fragmented tapes makes them ideal audio accompaniments to performances or exhibits for those with limited access to expensive recording equipment.

from OVO 1 (1987)
reprinted in Sound Choice issue 5.