[ "Back to Berlin" is the title of the 11th edition of Raudio's mainstream. It contains extracts of the tapes found in Berlin, some isolated oddities and parts of the synth recording I made when visiting Berlin way back in 1984. All is centered around "Kentucky Freedom Chicken - The Master of Germany", a selection of several hundreds of extracts taken from the about 18 hours of field recordings that I made during and around das kleine field recordings festival in Berlin (monophonic using my dictaphone, and stereo on an MD recorder), between february 6th and february 13th of 2007 ... Now listen to this ... ]

Back to Berlin

[ 2. found tapes ]
other episodes -->
[ 1. "bo tunty te ...!" ] [ 3_i. feelt ] [ 3_ii. reek or ] [ 3_iii. dinges ]

march 07, 2007.

"The risk of some random sleazebag serendipitously
profiting from found tapes on the side of the highway
is extremely remote ..."
( * )

In the many conversations I recently had about found tapes, and cassettes in general, I mentioned that I wondered about the total quantity of cassette tape that has been produced worldwide since the format was introduced by Philips in the early 1960's.
It was easy enough to use unthreaded cassette tape to wrap my head.
And when we met on sunday february 11th in the Electronic Church in the Greifswalderstraße on das kleine's final evening, that of the Berlin Soundscapes, Marcel Türkowsky told me about a 'travelling expo' planned for this summer in Berlin, inside a van wrapped in tape.
Well, also that is still easy enough to imagine ...
But, in its less than half a century of existence, would there have been enough cassette tape produced to wrap the earth ... ?

That was my question ...
And I have posed it so often these days that I think it should stop being merely rhetorical - the idea being that indeeed there might be enough tape around to cover up our globe.
But is that really so?
Here's a rough calculation ...

A compact cassette tape moves at 4.76 centimeters per second along a cassette player's playback head. Hence, a C60 cassette, with 30 minutes = 1800 seconds of playback time per side, measures 1800 x 4.76 = 8568 centimeters. That is, a cassette tape's length is about 85.5 meters.
A compact cassette tape's width is 3.18 millimeters.
Hence the total surface of tape contained in a C60 is 85.68 x 0.00318 = 0,2724624 square meters, that is approximately one quarter of a square meter.

How much measures the surface of our earth? Now that is really an impossible question, but we're only estimating ... so let's calculate the surface of a sphere that has about our earth's dimensions, that is a diameter of say 12 756 kilometers. You may remember from high school that in order to calculate a sphere's surface, you square its diameter, and multiply by pi ... Faisons le calcul ... we find that the surface of a sphere with the earth's diameter is approximately 511 million square kilometers.

That is a lot ... ( ** ) It will take approximately 2 x 1015 unthreaded C60 cassettes to wrap that surface ... Two quadrillion (in long scale)... that is 2000 million times a million.

So there you go.
The answer is "no".
No way that some day to come a would-be cassette-tape-Christo will amass enough cassettes to unthread and wrap the globe.

Which sort of eliminates one among possible threats to humanity's future existence ... :-)

From an article on the BBc's website I gather that at its mid-1980's peak cassette albums world wide sold 900 million units a year. With what factor one should multiply this to include the sale of blank cassettes, I do not know. But it'll be far, far from enough in any case. Note though that unthreading such a mid 1980's year's cassette album harvest would suffice to wrap large parts of a relatively small country like the Netherlands. Now that would be a sort of a cute enterprise, wouldn't it ... ? :-)

Rinus got me a bicycle and each day we biked up and down from his Berlin bivouac - in the Edisonstraße in Schöneweide - to Friedrichshain or further. Long stretches to go, along the Rummelsburger Landstraße and the Köpenicker Chaussee on the one, or the Schnellerstraße and the Köpenicker Landstraße via Treptower Park, on the other side of the river Spree. Stretches with lots of traffic, typically the sort of roads along which one is bound to find casette tape thrown out of cars ... It was sunny and blue-skied on my first full back-in-Berlin day, and while biking over to gallery Takt in the morning of wednesday february 7th I picked up two bits of tape along the Köpenicker Chaussee. A first one on a traffic island at the crossing with the Blockdammweg. The second bit I spotted a couple of hundreds of meters further ...

transitlounge transitlounge
transitlounge transitlounge

The first three afternoons, from february 7th to 9th, I set up a 'Found Tapes Atelier' in the Transitlounge (in the Josetti Höfe, Rungestraße), opposite the space where just-arrived-in-Berlin australian sound artist Rob Curgenven had wrought an intricate soundscape installation. The pictures above show you what the floor of my 'transit FT atelier' looked like. And in the middle of it all, there was the table where I sat drying and unraveling the tapes that I picked from the Berlin streets earlier on in the day.

Before and after the Transitlounge, also in Kunstprojektraum Takt I sat unraveling and rewinding found tapes. As much as I was able to manage, which - with the late hours, the evening concerts and preparations for my own performances at the das kleine (on thursday and on sunday evening) - was far less than I had hoped for. I had brought all still untreated tapes that I picked up before january 2007. Material for six new acquisitions (#68-#73). I only managed to get #68 done ...

And after the first sunny wednesday the weather turned bad.
Bad for spotting tapes, that is.

First it started snowing.
Snow, of course, covers things up. Especially tapes.
Then in between snow showers much of what had fallen melted. And it rained and all got wet. I usually spot the tapes 'out there', because strands flap in the wind and I remark their peculiar way of reflecting the light. Now the rain tends to 'flatten down' tape strands, the water weighs on them and prevents them from 'flapping'. Because the 'wetness' moreover tends to make almost anything reflect, it becomes much harder to distinguish and spot tape clods.
So they have to find me ...
As for example that thursday morning, february 8th, when I was biking on my own from Schöneweide to the Wülischstraßse. Not being quite familiar yet with the neighborhood I got somewhat lost under s-bahn bridges, not far from Ostkreuz. So I got off my bike, and stepped onto the pavement. I stopped a woman that was approaching with her dog, and asked whether she could tell me where the Wülischstraße was. She did her best holding on to the dog, while waving with both her hands in a direction away from Ostkreuz. Which I knew was wrong, so obviously she didn't know. But I thanked her anyway. Then, before stepping onto my bike again, I looked down at my feet ... There was a dirty wet, spungy, brownish mass lying just next to my left shoe. No kidding. It really was a clod of thrown away unthreaded cassette tape ...

#431The seven cast-away tape fragments that I did collect during my seven day stay in Berlin include a first one found by Rinus some days before my arrival, and part of a reel-to-reel tape purposedly destroyed by Wolfram Der Spyra and Udo P. Leis following their performance at the second 'Imaginary Homecoming' evening of das kleine, on wednesday february 7th in Wendel. Together the seven add up to the 78th acquisition and montage of the online exhibition. As the exhibition is built-up in chronological order, it may still take a while before you can find it online. Meanwhile though it is available as a limited edition on C10 cassette. 'Found in Berlin' thus, after 'Found in Maastricht', is the second in what will be a series of 'Found in ...' limited edition cassettes.

cassette cover

The 'Found in Berlin' cassette is also part of my contribution to the 'Acoustic Flux' exhibition, that started in Kunstprojektraum Takt on february 17th, and which will continue until march 31st. acoustic fluxOther contributors to 'Acoustic Flux' are Alexandre R. Decoupigny, Neil McIntee, and the trio Miguel Álvarez-Fernández, Stefan Kersten and Asia Piascik.
Towards the end of 'Found Tapes, Found Sounds, Found Recorders' I prepared a 'found tapes installation' that I set up and left behind in Takt, to become part of 'Acoustic Flux'. It is inspired by the last of the two tape finds that I did in the very early morning of sunday january 21st, while walking back home after having attended a concert at the Atelier Tampon, with Jean Bordé, Dan Warburton, John Menoud and Benoit Moreau. On a traffic island on the Saint-Mandé side of the porte de Vincennes there lay a hub cap all wrapped in cassette tape ...
takt ft installation That is why for the expo at Takt I decided to pick up and use some hub caps.
It's easy to pick up hub caps. Along highways and roads entering cities there's lots of them. Somehow they came off the wheels they used to decorate.
I collected three (of at least four or five) that I had seen lying around under the first of the two s-bahn viaducts on the Schlichtallee.
The picture on the left shows what I did with them. The upper left one is branded Opel and the lower left one: Renault. The right one does not wear a visible 'brand' ...
It has a sort of 'seaweedy' feel to it, looking as it does like the rubbish covered with weed structures that one finds along beaches. But that of course is a pretty accurate analog, with hub caps wrapped in unthreaded cassette tape being the sort of thing 'washing up' on the verges of our motorways ...

The 'Acoustic Flux' show continues until march 31st. I'll hop over again to Berlin for the finissage, and will be able to tell you more about the other contributes then.

- next: feelt -

notes __ ::
(*) Thus writes John Oltsik, senior analyst, in a recent article on ZDNet. I particularly enjoyed the 'random sleazebag' part, as you may imagine... :-) [ ^ ]
(**) [added sept. 7, 2007] On the other hand, it would "only" take about 471.000 C60 cassettes to make a cassette tape loop that runs around the earth. Now that would be *some* project, wouldn't it, to make a tape loop around the earth ? ... Running at the speed of a normal audio cassette tape it would take about 27 years to make one complete tour ... "There and back again" ... try to imagine a piece of music, a sound that would take 27 years to play ... that's mind-boggling ... [ ^ ]

« | »

our podcasts:

Raudio Podcast