Day #337/365: Tapes – lost and found (numbers 1-267 and other fortuitous finds)
And while I’m on the subject of tapes and reels and the fascinations that can reside in amongst such very physical, tactile recording material/instruments (see Day #335/365)…
I recently stumbled upon a project that created radio broadcasts from a selection of tapes that were found at a carboot sale:
“A few years ago radio producer Mark Vernon bought a hoard of old reel-to-reel audio tapes in a car boot sale in Derby, as a job lot with an elderly and very heavy tape recorder. Coaxing the old machine back to life, he realised he had rescued the jettisoned archive of the Derby Tape Club – a group of amateurs who made, played and swapped recordings in the 1960s and 70s, when domestic tape-recording was in its infancy and before the audio cassette had conquered the world. A radiophonic elegy to an anonymous group of people and their forgotten enthusiasm: domestic tape recording and amateur radio in the 1960s and 70s.” (From the program notes.)
Although I think it’s important to tread carefully when exploring such work and its creators – there can be an unsteady line between respectful appreciation and cultural voyeurism/anthropological exoticism – the recordings contained on the tapes are a fascinating listen.
Particularly when focusing on the music experiments of the groups members, bringing to mind the work of The Radiophonic Workshop and Delia Derbyshire they seem like genuine folk/outside/accidental art and capture a very particular spirit of the times in which they were created and the passions, interests and enthusiasms of their creators.
And talking of such things as The Radiophonic Workshop, Delia Derbyshire and tapes lost and found…
Apparently there are 267 tapes of Delia Derbyshire’s work that were found in boxes in her attic that had been unheard by the wider public.
There has been an academic related archiving project that has digitised them but oddly in these days of the ether transmission of sound recordings via the sending of zeros and ones down the cables and through the airwaves, as far as I can tell the only way that they will be able to listened to is (possibly) in one particular building in one particular location; meanwhile ether mentions and signposts for that particular location often dissolve upon a-visiting.
It would appear that for the time being the work contained amongst these lost/found ferrous reels is (fortunately) being protected/preserved – a tip of the hat to anybody who is putting the time and effort in – but it is also being maybe a touch cloistered away in amongst the storage capabilities of academia, which is a shame really…
Ms Delia Derbyshire’s work had roots equally in avant-garde experimentalism/pioneering and populist transmission and a wider sending forth that took into account both of those (inter-joined) sides of her work would be, well, rather pleasant…
…after I’d written that, I came across the writing to the left (from a few years ago now, from David Butler – see below) – which seems to acknowledge the different sides of her work while offering a (potential) solution that seems a little, well, to use that word again, cloistering.
(I don’t know the ins-and-outs of it all still mind; what stage it is at, the amount of time time/money/resources available for/from those involved, is it all still slowly going on behind the scenes etc?)
Apparently Delia’s archive was entrusted to the composer Mark Ayres, who is also the archivist for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop:
“Ayres returned to the Radiophonic Workshop Archive anything that belonged to it. However, that was just the beginning of a long, unfinished process. The problem was two-fold. On any one tape, there were pieces from separate, and usually different projects. Secondly, the tapes were improperly stored, and the sticky labels fell off. So any one box could have 30 tapes and hundreds of labels in the bottom of the box. There were nearly 300 tapes and the cataloguing alone would take at least six months. Then Ayres got a call from Dr. David Butler at Manchester University, who wanted his department to be involved with the Radiophonic Workshop as an academic exercise. But the tapes belonged to the BBC so that was out of the question.” (From A thesis and story, see below).
Although since then they have been passed on to Mr Butler for safekeeping and I think that sending forth (at least in one geographic area) is mooted for some time soon(ish)…
A few pathways to explore and investigate amongst:
Traces of Ms Delia Derbyshire’s attic archive:
Via a venerable broadcasting institution. Via Chloe Louise Glover.
The beginning of dissolvings and storings: 1 / 2
A thesis and story of a pioneer by Breege Brennan.
The Attic Tapes.