David Tremlett

The Spring Recordings


Not on display

David Tremlett born 1945
81 cassette tapes with plastic cases and tape labels, glass shelf, metal brackets, cassette player, speakers and headphones
Object: 381 × 6096 × 222 mm
Purchased 1973

Display caption

During the late spring of 1972 David Tremlett travelled through all 81 counties of England, Scotland and Wales. In each county he made a recording lasting approximately fifteen minutes. With the exception of Greater London, each recording was made in quiet rural locations and is of whatever could be heard at that time (principally wind and bird song). Tremlett observed that ‘your field, or your hill, or your landscape is your studio’.

The Spring Recordings portrays a particular set of sounds as a sculptural linear intervention in space and as a geographical mapping of the national landscape in sound.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

David Tremlett b.1945

T01742 The Spring Recordings 1972

81 sound cassettes on glass shelving supported on metal brackets attached by metal uprights to the wall; cassette tape recorder required for operation of sound.
Dimensions of cassettes, shelving and brackets 15 x 240 x 8¾ (38 x 610 x 22).
Purchased from the Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf (Grant-in-Aid) 1973·
Exh:Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf, October–November 1972; Museum of Modern Art, New York, March–April 1973.
Lit: Roberta Pencoast Smith, review of Museum of Modern Art showing, in pp.83–4 of ‘Reviews’ section of Artforum, Vol XI, May 1973 (repr.); Lizzie Borden, ‘A note on David Tremlett’s work’, in Studio International, CLXXXV, June 1973, p.289.
Repr: ‘The Spring Recordings’ in Studio International, CLXXXV, June1973, pp.290–1.

The following notes, based on conversations with the artist in May 1973 and April 1974, have been approved by him.

At the time when Tremlett made this work, Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) was divided into 81 counties. Tremlett undertook a journey, lasting from 16 May to 11 June 1972, during which he visited each of these counties. Each of the 81 cassette recordings in T01742 was made in a different one of the 81 counties.

The metal brackets and uprights and the glass shelving are of a type and dimensions specified by the artist. The shelving is placed at a level 5ft. 8in. above the floor, and is supported on twenty brackets attached to uprights whose centres are one foot apart. Each of the cassettes is placed on the shelving in a vertical position, at 90 degrees to the wall plane, with its blank (back) face facing to the left. An equal space, determined by the installer, divides any two adjacent cassettes, and small spaces equal to one another divide the extreme left and right end cassettes from their respective ends of the shelving.

On its front (right-facing) face, each cassette bears a lettered strip indicating in which county the recording in it was made. The cassettes are placed on the shelving in the same sequence (reading from left to right) as the recordings were made.

In a notebook which does not form part of T01742, Tremlett noted, as it was made, the date and county of each recording, and its location within that county; also the state of the weather at the time of the recording. The Tate Gallery has a transcript of these details.

With the exception of the recording made in Greater London, each of the recordings was made in a country location. In all the counties, Tremlett sought out quiet rural locations. At these locations he made his recordings, out of doors, onto the master tapes which are not displayed as part of the work but which the Tate Gallery owns. Each recording lasted either fifteen minutes or slightly over this time. Onto each cassette displayed in the work, the first fifteen minutes of each recording (i.e. all or virtually all of it) was in turn recorded. Each of these recordings is of whatever was audible for this period of time—principally wind and/or bird song—except that five minutes after the start of each recording Tremlett himself briefly spoke basic information giving the county, the time of day and the stare of the weather. A typical example of his spoken contribution to a recording is ‘This is Essex. It’s evening, and the air is warm’. Apart from these brief spoken passages, the sounds recorded on each cassette deliberately combine audibility with a low and unobtrusive noise level.

Even when none of the recordings is being played, the work in its displayed form is complete; it embodies and expresses the completion of the artist’s idea. However, an important part of Tremlett’s intention in this work is that whenever it is displayed, the recordings should be played as frequently as possible. This is to be done on a cassette recorder installed near the shelf of cassettes but separate from it, visible but not obtrusive. The frequency with which the recordings are played, the order in which they are played, who determines these factors and who operates the tape recorder, are all to be decided by the owner each time the work is displayed, subject to the frequency being as great as they can manage in the particular circumstances. But once a recording is removed from the shelving to be played, it must be played in its entirety. While it is being played, there will be a gap at the appropriate point in the sequence of 81 cassettes on the shelving.

There are several small drawings for this work as displayed (one of them is reproduced in Studio International, loc. cit.), and one such drawing which is approx. 3 ft. high x 25 ft. long. At each of the locations at which a recording was made for T01742,Tremlett made, on each of two blank postcards, a near-identical drawing of the view, in green felt-tipped pen, thus creating two versions of a separate work entitled ‘The Cards’ 1972. He posted one series to John Dunbar during the journey. Each card was posted in the county in which it was drawn, but despite Tremlett’s scrupulousness in this respect, some bear postmarks of adjacent counties, due to the structuring of the British postal services. The companion series was bought by Gilbert & George after the completion of the journey.

In common with the modes of presentation chosen by Tremlett throughout his recent work, the content of T01742 is expressed in a low key. Although the form of the work as displayed is precise, it is intended not so much to draw attention to the manufactured objects that are seen, as to be a vehicle for communicating the reality of Tremlett’s experience of the landscape as transmitted by the process of selecting and recording these particular soundtracks at these particular times and locations.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.

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