February 3, 2017
Decks & FX: Sound Experiments 002
by Chris Randall
The second in my Sound Experiments series for the Analog Industries YouTube channel. In this one, I'm using various tape sources in lieu of my normal tools. (Although, it's worth noting, all these decks are part of my normal toolset.)
The speech, running on the small Marantz deck, is from an interview with John Cage where he is talking about a Glenn Branca performance he'd seen the night before. He calls Branca a fascist. I guess if you're John Cage it's fine to bag on Glenn Branca. I don't think I could personally get away with it.
Otherwise, I just made loops from various sources and dumped them to the decks, and perform with the decks' various controls for doing so. Of special note is the pad. I recorded two channels on the 4-track with two different chords of the same sound. I'm running the tape cue out of the 4-track to the Eventide H9 Max, set to an edited Black Hole preset, and I'm "playing" the chord by cross-fading the two send controls. This gives the nice big stereo effect.
I made the drum loop on my Eurorack, and then dumped it to Frasier, my MTR-12. I cut the one-measure loop directly on Frasier, and I'm playing it back in Edit/Dump mode (you can see me hit the dump button every time I stop the deck). The reason for this is that if the deck isn't in Edit/Dump mode, the right hand capstan, which is supposed to keep tension on the reel, spins at a ludicrous speed. In Dump, that capstan stops.
This brings up an interesting point, though: when working with tape decks in a musical context (as instruments, rather than as playback/recording vehicles) each deck has its own personality. The dump button on Frasier is a good example. On the Marantz deck that has the Cage interview, it has a pitch knob (it is a dictation deck IRL) so I was able to pitch Cage's voice, which is whiney at the best of times, down to a more reasonable listening experience. That sort of thing. Every deck has its own little tricks and features that you need to explore and exploit. This is mildly fun. "What can I do with this?" That sort of thing.