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.