The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant-Garde Review

The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant-Garde
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,The San Francisco Tape Music Center' is a collection of essays and interviews about the first electronic music studio on the west coast. At the time, there were only a few of these institutions worldwide and fierce differences of opinion and methodology between them. In Paris, for example, were Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry who came up with `musique concrète' which consisted of the montage of natural sounds on tape. This approach was anathema to the people around Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne, who also used tape but insisted on only utilizing electronically generated sounds.
To the initiators in San Francisco, Ramon Sender, Pauline Oliveros and Morton Subotnick, these factional disputes appeared meaningless so the chose the ecumenical name `Tape Music' as tape was the medium common to all these endeavours. Happily for us, they kept this unorthodox approach to produce a series of momentous works.
Since all of the main protagonists get to tell their story and there is also a comprehensive introductory essay by editor David Bernstein we have some overlap in the main narrative (after all, the period in question were roughly the six years from 1960 to 1966). I find the structure fitting to the subject matter as one of the main techniques used by these composers was repetition, in particular the tape loop. In repeating the main story over and over, every time with some modification and different point of view we arrive at a much more substantial story than one straight essay could have provided.
To someone interested in the technical aspects it is astounding how basic the equipment was initially. Some tape recorders and noise-making stuff, mainly car parts that were then recorded and edited. Ultimately this led to the creation of the Buchla box, one of the first, if not the first, voltage-controlled synthesizers.
Included with the book is a DVD of a concert series, where all the protagonists met again and perform their works - this movie alone is worth the price of the book.

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This book tells the story of the influential group of creative artists--Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnick, Ramon Sender, William Maginnis, and Tony Martin--who connected music to technology during a legendary era in California's cultural history. An integral part of the robust San Francisco "scene," the San Francisco Tape Music Center developed new art forms through collaborations with Terry Riley, Steve Reich, David Tudor, Ken Dewey, Lee Breuer, the San Francisco Actor's Workshop, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Ann Halprin Dancers' Workshop, Canyon Cinema, and others. Told through vivid personal accounts, interviews, and retrospective essays by leading scholars and artists, this work, capturing the heady experimental milieu of the sixties, is the first comprehensive history of the San Francisco Tape Music Center.

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