Audio Arts cassette
An Audio Arts cassette, Tate Archive.

The Compact Cassette, invented by Philips in 1962, revolutionised recorded sound. As a portable recording format it provided the means for audio material to be captured, sequenced and distributed to a huge network of listeners across the globe. By the early 1970s, improvements in the magnetic composition of tape led to the production of pre-recorded music cassettes and, perhaps more importantly, the growing number of home tape recorders meant that people could avoid the need to purchase music altogether. Tape, like vinyl, offers the listener a physical connection with recorded material and, through the latter part of the 20th century, a generation of sequentially programmed compilations or ‘mix tapes’ were created, each telling a highly personalised story through sound. It is this potential for the construction of audible collage or montage, coupled with the opportunity to convey actuality, which captured the imagination of William Furlong, providing the basis for Audio Arts. As curator-editor, Furlong began to gather together the equipment and skills required to realise his vision of a unique audio magazine. He felt that by recording, manipulating and constructing sonic materials he could develop a new concept of sculpture which would occupy space in much the same way a physical object does. The cassette I have chosen from the Audio Arts archive collection (TGA 200414) is a 1981 recording of William Furlong in conversation with Charlie Morrow, an American musician and sound-artist who produced the Audiographics Artists Cassettes magazine in New York. The discussion really caught my ear as it reveals so much of the practical considerations and concerns in producing work in sound during the 70s and 80s. The two men discuss their production values, their technical approaches to audio fidelity, the difficulty of generating publicity as well as the finer points of cassette design and packaging. They reminisce about their first cassette pieces, consider the limitations of the medium in comparison to other recording formats and imagine the future of recording to digital disc (CDs became commercially available in 1982). Ultimately what shines through is a shared sense of wonderment in the artistic potential of recorded sound. The discussion begins with Furlong and Morrow comparing their approaches to producing cassette publications; in this interview, they consider the advantages of audio cassettes over video cassettes and go on to discuss the benefit of recorded sound for ‘continual reaccess to the material’. Since its inception in 1972, Audio Arts has grown to become the world’s most comprehensive and coherently focused sound archive of artists’ voices as well as sound art. We live in an era where we expect to be able to listen on demand, usually online.  Is there still a market for an audio magazine in a physical format? 

Written by Jack Maynard



Christine. In answer to your question I thought the Gauguin spell binding. I really liked the approach, as someone who knows little about art, the exhibition drew me in and transformed my knowledge/experience. The thematic approach really helped the understanding though of course at the heart of it all was just plain pleasure at seeing the works for real and close up. Like music seeing/hearing live is so much better and one can only deduce that the eye is capable of picking up so much more than one is really aware.

Thank you for asking my opinion - I'm impressed by the Tate's approach to friends. I work with HLF monitoring projects for them and I'm struck by how good you are at this extremely important aspect. It seems to me engaging withn the friends and actively seeking to improve the relationship; perhaps even develop it is key to the survival of culture in general - in my case heritage artefacts like historic ships. Many of the projects I visit are very poor at this aspect of audience development. Is there someone at Tate interested in identifying best practice here. I'm sure HLF would be keen to collaborate - we have guides on how projects should manage conservation for example but very little on how to develop, nurture, grow a good friends setup. As an educationalist I'm always loking at ways to improve the experience of course. I thought the standard pamphlet was excellent - copies of the pieces on the gallery walls? - perhaps there could also be a preparatory pamphlet or piece on the website to prepare for the exhibition? Perhaps even an app for my blackberry? Perhaps nicely identify the novices like me and help them more - in the nicest possible way. Hugely busy and crowded of course - perhaps more evenings just for the friends; probably a cost problem here; some of us though would even pay for this. Just I hope helpful suggestions - your work was spot on - a very enjoyable (and educational) exhibition - very many thanks best wishes john