View Full Version : A shock of the old (music cassette)?

Torben Grut
17-11-2008, 10:15 PM
So, I recently found this amazing http://awesometapesfromafrica.blogspot.com/ blog that most of you perhaps already know. Plenty of interesting obscure african music I can totally recommend, and supposedly most of it recorded on tape.

Apart from downloading some fifteen hours of nothing short of splendid music, it got me thinking on the way we normally think about formats/mediums for recorded music. I guess the core question I ended up with was: how well spread is the global cassette culture? The obvious answer that cassettes were eradicated with the introduction of the recordable CD, might well be much too simplified.

This, I stress, while pointing to historian of technology Dave Edgertons excellent book "The Shock of the Old" (http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/HistoryOther/HistoryofTechnology/?view=usa&ci=9780195322835). If we count the actual number of listeners having cassettes as their prime source for music listening, don't we come up with totally different facts on music consumption?

In his book, Edgerton presents a way of thinking about technology that I found very convincing and thoughtful. Stressing the notion of how we, instead of focusing on the stuff we've invented, should focus on what we are using (and in the "we" we should count the entire global population). By doing so we are able to distance ourselves from this silly idea that we live in a world of constant invention, and instead realise the amount of actual things we surround ourselves with and take for granted. For example, corrugated iron should be a lot more talked about than the V2 rocket or the Concorde, to repeat the example used in the link above.

Anyhow, applying this thinking on formats of recorded music, what does this mean to our views of how music is consumed? Does anybody have some hard facts?

18-11-2008, 09:27 AM
there was a programme on radio 4 over the weekend about cassettes - the art of making your own mixtapes/compilations etc, also some stuff about how brand new cassette players are still being made in japan for markets like india etc.

i've still got a tape player in my car, i like them.

here's the link to the show


18-11-2008, 03:59 PM
i still love tapes. i even think some of my old albums sound better on tape (recorded from vinyl) than cd. but then my car only has a tape player so i have to use the format (handy for taping off radio too).

18-11-2008, 04:20 PM
There's a harshness to bass levels on tape that just doesn't exist anywhere else you know. Some of the tapes from the site just don't sound right when ripped, the Slimzee sundays especially. Of course when they're fucked it's the worst thing ever- sounds like the speakers are underwater- but they're my youth at the end of the day.

The amount of music that will never go anywhere else, it's admirable in way. I'm rambling.

18-11-2008, 04:41 PM
Before I could mix, before people asked me to play out, I was working out how to get a smooth sequence of tunes together on cassettes. Certainly more heartfelt than just clicking mp3's and adding them to Nero, technology gets cold.

Torben Grut
18-11-2008, 09:21 PM
Thanks alot for the link gabriel, it was very appreciated!

Apart from that, what would your estimations be on the actual amounts of cassettes (and for that matter compared to CDs, vinyls etc.) sold globally? How are for example BASF and Maxell (both in business) cassette sales figures nowadays?

19-11-2008, 03:49 PM
Maybe I missed the reference but got to link to Woebot's piece in FACT a few days ago. Seems very apropos to this thread.