Sleep (1983) – Cassette Revolution: Why 1980s Tape Tech Is Still Making Noise in Our Digital World

This cassette sound collage by Joseph Nechvatal was released by Sound of Pig in 1983.

This cassette sound collage by Joseph Nechvatal was released by Sound of Pig in 1983.

Cassette Revolution: Why 1980s Tape Tech Is Still Making Noise in Our Digital World


Reviewer: continuo

In a way, the so-called Plunderphonics movement that spread across North America in the 1980s was merely updating music with experiments already familiar from the visual arts and literature and writers like Dos Passos, Ezra Pound, William Burroughs or William Gaddis, for whom collage was a natural way to grasp reality. This implied borrowing from other people’s work, but also a total lack of prejudices toward the origin of the material, be it contemporary mainstream media, well-known Classics, advertising, legal stuff, b-movies, etc. For the Young Turks named Negativland, The Tape Beatles or John Oswald, the juxtaposition of high art with crap was part of the fun, and the question of legality and copyright infringement arised later, almost as an afterthought – a painful one, admittedly, for those actually prosecuted. This Joseph Nechvatal cassette is precisely part of this exuberant reuse, Garbage in, Garbage out strategy called Plunderphonics.

♫ Sleep was Joseph Nechvatal‘s first cassette, issued 1983, the same year he co-founded the Tellus cassette series with Claudia Gould and Carol Parkinson. It was released in New York on Al Margolis’ Sound of Pig cassette label, who released hundreds of tapes during the 1980s. Sleep is entirely made of audio debris and found sounds sourced from radio, TV, movie soundtracks and commercial music, with the occasional addition of synthesizer. Joseph says he started collecting material for this tape as early as 1979, yet the music excerpts mostly sound 1983 era. To listen to Sleep is to put your ear at one end of a sonic kaleidoscope and hear the constantly changing patterns of its endless aural collages. Side 1 is a relentless, hilarious mashup of the most ridiculous sonic signatures from the ca. 1983 period: aimless guitar solos, break beats, Bollywood films, harpsichord at the wrong speed, talk shows, etc. After two minutes of the same material, Side 2 suddenly turns to a barely audible murmuring man speaking a few words on loop mode for the remaining 20mns. A relief from the preceding audio litter or mere technical difficulties, according to point of view.

About josephnechvatal

Since 1986 Joseph Nechvatal has worked with ubiquitous electronic visual information, computers and computer-robotics. His computer-robotic assisted paintings and computer software animations are shown regularly in galleries and museums throughout the world. From 1991-1993 he worked as artist-in-resident at the Louis Pasteur Atelier and the Saline Royale / Ledoux Foundation’s computer lab in Arbois, France on The Computer Virus Project: an experiment with computer viruses as a creative stratagem. In 2002 he extended that artistic research into the field of viral artificial life through his collaboration with the programmer Stéphane Sikora. Dr. Nechvatal earned his Ph.D. in the philosophy of art and new technology at The Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts (CAiiA) University of Wales College, Newport, UK and occasionally teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City (SVA). His book of essays “Towards an Immersive Intelligence: Essays on the Work of Art in the Age of Computer Technology and Virtual Reality (1993-2006)” was published by Edgewise Press in 2009. In 2011 his book “Immersion Into Noise” was published by the University of Michigan Library’s Scholarly Publishing Office in conjunction with Open Humanities Press You can follow him on Twitter at @twinkletwink Homepage here:
This entry was posted in Art & Art Theory. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s