Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thursday, April 30th early A.M. report

I woke up at 1:30 A.M. - two hours earlier than I usually get up, at 3:30 - couldn't go back to sleep, so I decided to do some more work on mastering the first volume of the Dictaphonia compilation project. I have worked out the problems I described in the "Dictaphonia Shop Talk" topic below. I have mastered all 19 submissions received so far and it all sounds great. It looks like I will have room for 25 or 26 total contributions on the 60 minute master. Most of the microcassettes I have worked with usually hold something like 31 minutes and 15 seconds per side.

I look at auctions for microcassette-related items on eBay every day. Yesterday I saw this one: Recordings_W0QQitemZ370194846116

The guy is selling a Radio Shack brand recorder and 90 microcassettes for a starting bid of $0.99. The microcassettes all contain secret recordings made by a previous owner of conversations and telephone calls. What a treasure trove! The seller includes a YouTube video in which he describes the items and even reads texts from the j-cards of the microcassettes. It is a shame that he didn't play excerpts from the tapes!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

19 total submissions now received

Yesterday I received three more submissions for Dictaphonia and that brings the total number of tracks to 19. I probably need just three more to fill up the first volume of the compilation.

17) 3D-MAN - "Untitled Guitar Solo" (Stafford, Virginia, USA)
18) Chefkirk - "no-input for microcassette" (Eugene, Oregon, USA)
19) Ironing - "Microca├čettestra├če" (Gainesville, Florida, USA)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dictaphonia shop talk

Here is the text of an e-mail letter I just sent to Dave X:


Yesterday I started working on mastering the Dictaphonia compilation, just getting a feeling for it, testing out gear connections, etc. I immediately encountered some challenges. As you know, my plan has been to do mastering and then make copies using two Panasonic RR-930s. I figured that I could connect a cable with eighth-inch plugs on both ends - one to the MONITOR (headphone jack) of one machine, and the other into the Microphone jack of the second machine. When I tried this last night it didn't have the desired effect. There was a lot of distortion and "machine noise", both of which radically changed the sound of the original recording (your track in this case) and in fact nearly drowned out the source sound. My guess is that the MIC jacks are not meant to handle a line signal like that which comes out of the MONITOR jack. I tried everything, including using different cables, plugging into different AC outlets/power strips. Still, no good.

I was able to make decent copies by playing back the tape on one machine and recording it with the built-in condenser microphone of the other RR-930. While satisfactory one time through, I doubt that doing this twice, once for mastering and another for making a copy from the master, will have a good result.

So, unless I can find a way to overcome the noisy MIC jack problem - perhaps I need to find a way to attenuate the MONITOR signal? - I am going to have to find a work-around method! One solution might be to make a master on CDR, play it back over my stereo system speakers and record with a microcassette machine condenser microphone. Actually, the Sounds From The Pocket label used a CDR master for their Reynols microcassette release. I tried this out briefly and your track sounds great transferred to CDR.

Even if I am able to find a way around that MIC jack issue it seems that making a master on microcassette and then copies from that will just make copies that sound like crud, and not in an appealing way.

On other issues, I am starting to regret my original rule about:
"The DICTAPHONIA Microcassette Compilation will only be available in the microcassette format. Not online, not on CDR or cassette."

After having listened to your piece on the CDR I started thinking about how great it would be to release Dictaphonia online too, in addition to the microcassette.

Let's face it, the audience for this compilation is going to amount to about 40 people - the people who actually contribute to it!

Some of my best stuff, as far as I am concerned, is my microcassette work which I have released online in mp3 format. Such as The Man With The Tape Recorder, Magnetic Personality, and Sandwichism.

I adore the sound of microcassette-based recordings! It has an immediacy and pleasing lo-fi-ness that just gets my brain cells all happy and tickled.

As you know, I have been a big proponent of online music, and many of my recent works have been specifically designed with the mp3 format in mind - working within its limits, fully taking into account the characteristics of the medium. Certainly, while they are different in many respects, microcassette and mp3 both excite and amuse me and appeal to me as minimalist vehicles for audio art.

I will certainly consider all of this in a lot more detail. At this moment it seems to me that what I am discovering about microcassette is that really it is best suited as an original-capture device and as a performance tool to do live mixes - but perhaps NOT as a medium for duplication, making multiple copies. The way most microcassette machines were designed is for one-time immediate use in a sketch-pad, note-taking kind of way.

One of the participants in the Dictaphonia project (Rob of Su Sous Toulouse En Rouge) has an idea to make one of a kind microcassette tapes to give to people. While this is not of interest to me, it seems like something that would be well-suited to the characteristics of microcassette -- one-time use as the final product.

Oh well, one lives and learns! And I am not afraid to change my mind about things, thanks in great part to the GIFT of schizophrenia :) I think it's most important to keep the Dictaphonia project within the spirit of the microcassette as audio art medium and object, and maybe not so important to adhere to the strict guidelines I originally set out.

I have already made allowances! I have allowed local contributors to in-person hand-deliver their submission to me. Plus I have allowed one contribution that was less than the stated minimum length of one minute.


Hey everybody, please reply to these thoughts. I would like to read your feedback and reactions.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

16 tracks received for Dictaphonia so far

I received four more contributions for Dictaphonia within recent days:

13) Violet - "Spring" (Bethesda, Maryland, USA)
14) Krysten Davis - "BBBBBAD" (Tallahassee, Florida, USA)
15) Fiver's Stereo - ??????? (Jacksonville, Florida, USA)
16) Hal McGee - "Inverse Square Ratio" (Gainesville, Florida, USA)

Monday, April 20, 2009

April 20th - 12 submissions received so far

I received one contribution on Saturday, and two more today.

10) Vagina Teeth/Jesus Teeth - "The Sky and The Sea Bed" (Clemmons, North Carolina, USA)
11) William A. Davison - "Garbage Guitar And Objects 090410 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
12) Homogenized Terrestrials - "air" (Princeton, Illinois, USA)

After I receive another 8-10 submissions there are ought to be enough material to fill up the first volume of Dictaphonia. If you cannot send your contribution in time to make it onto the first Dictaphonia compilation, do not worry - I will do at least two volumes, so you can be on the second one.

I should receive another Panasonic RR-930 desktop microcassette machine in the next day or so, so this next weekend I will probably start working on mastering the first Dictaphonia compilation.

Friday, April 17, 2009

April 17th report 3 more new tracks received recently

7) Mike Khoury - "Solo Violin" (Livonia, Michigan, USA)
8) Black Beast Of Arrrghhh - "Micro-Boogie" (St. Petersburg, Florida, USA)
9) Horseflesh - "Hyper Flies" (San Francisco, California, USA)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

3 more Dictaphonia submissions received

4) Istituzioni Ambienti Naturalismo - "Nastro #13b" (Rome, Italy)
5) Otolathe - "Unorchestratable" (Tampa, Florida, USA)
6) IWANTTOKILLEVERYHUMAN - "One Dogless" (DeSoto, Texas, USA)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Today I received the first three submissions for Dictaphonia

Today when I got back from a short bus trip to get the Szechuan Chicken lunch special at the nearby Wok N Roll Chinese restaurant I opened my mailbox to find the first three submissions for the Dictaphonia compilation:

1) Dave X - "Keeping my hand in" (Carterville, Illinois, USA)
2) Su Sous Toulouse En Rouge - "brugmansia tea" (St. Petersburg, Florida, USA)
3) Kathy Burkett - "Dachsooka Radio Buzz" (Lady Lake, Florida, USA)

I listened to them on my new Panasonic Model No. RR-930 microcassette transcriber. This is a desktop microcassette machine which I will be using to master the Dictaphonia compilation, and to make copies.

I have been working on my submission for the compilation!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

DICTAPHONIA Microcassette Compilation call for submissions

Please contribute to the DICTAPHONIA Microcassette Compilation.

Send a recording on a microcassette that is at least one minute in length and no longer than three minutes.

You must send your contribution on a microcassette. I will not accept submissions in any other format - no CDR, no standard cassette, no mp3 or WAV, etc.

Do not send more than one contribution. If your submission is longer than three minutes it will be rejected. Do not send a tape containing a recording longer than three minutes and ask me to choose three minutes for the compilation.

Your submitted microcassette should be recorded at the Standard Play (SP) speed of 2.4 centimeters per second - NOT at the Long Play (LP) speed of 1.2 centimeters per second. If your microcassette recorder has two tape speeds, choose the higher/faster one. The compilation will be mastered at the SP speed, so if you submit a microcassette that was recorded in LP speed it will sound speeded-up.

Your submission should be recorded specifically for this project and I prefer (but do not require) that you make your original recordings in the microcassette format. One of the emphases of this project is to highlight the microcassette as a unique audio art format with its own unique properties.

Participants are urged to bear in mind the particular and peculiar characteristics of the microcassette format, such as limited dynamic range (usually 400-4000Hz), low fidelity, and tape noise and hiss. Most people who hear the compilation will be listening to it on their cheap portable hand-sized microcassette machines which have a speaker that is about one inch in diameter. Also remember that there might be a two-generation loss in sound quality from your tape to the master to the copy. Your submission should be composed and created for optimized transmission under these conditions. You might want to avoid submitting a piece that contains subtle shadings, colorations, and nuances, or quiet passages.

If you do not yet own a microcassette recorder (alternatively called "dictaphone") but would like to participate in this project you can usually purchase one on eBay or at second-hand shops for a small amount. Most recorders come with a built-in microphone.

Any and all styles are welcome.

Here are a few suggestions for submissions, keywords, and possible themes:

lo fi, lo tech, minimalism, harsh noise, tape collage and cut-ups, minimal synth, micro metal, loner punk anthems, feedback modulation, erotic confessionals, spoken dream diary excerpts, kazoo solos, soliloquies, street rap, 8 bit chiptunes, recordings of street musicians, surreptitious recordings of private conversations, voice beat-boxing, circuit bent sounds, ravings of lunatics and insane people, minimal electronics, no-input mixer, pedal noise, outsider folk songs, children's and toy instruments, answering machine messages, everyday sounds, public transportation sounds, urban noise pollution, machine sounds, shitnoise, construction sounds, plunderphonics, free improvisation, broken instruments, prepared guitar, shortwave and AM radio static and tones, video and computer game sounds, spoken word whatever, beatnik bongo rave-ups, tapes of your lover or spouse cheating with someone else, doctor's consultation notes, barnyard sounds, interviews with nursing home residents, broken and skipping records, dada, fluxus, micro-dub mash-ups.

Send your microcassette to:

Hal McGee
1909 SW 42nd Way
Apt. E
Gainesville, FL

I will not return your tape to you.

Submissions will be added to the microcassette compilation master in the order that they are received.

Each participant whose submission is used will receive one complimentary copy of the compilation, with an option to purchase additional copies at cost, which will likely be very inexpensive.

When you send your submission please include a piece of paper clearly stating artist name, track title, and your postal address.

The DICTAPHONIA Microcassette Compilation will only be available in the microcassette format. Not online, not on CDR or cassette.

After contributor's copies are sent out the compilation will be made available for sale, and for trade.

No deadline. If I receive more than enough contributions for a 60-minute tape I will probably publish an additional volume or volumes depending on interest.