In rehearsals for Rogues and Wanderers this week, SourDough Theatre have been discussing cassette tapes. Poor dusty, old, abandoned cassette tapes. We have been discussing what we associate with them and how cassette tapes resonate for us as an old media.
We shared a long list of associations, resonance and memories of the cassette tape. For instance, illicitly recording our favourite pop songs from the radio in order to create the ultimate compilation tape, ‘ultimate hits Feb ’97’, ‘ultimate hits March ’97’, ‘smash hits April ’97’ and so on and so on. The snippets of radio jingles sneaking on to the album before we had time to jump across the room to hit the stop button. It happened to the best of us.
Long car journeys, equipped with your parents extensive cassette collection; for me the choice comprised of Chris de Burgh, James Taylor, Phil Collins and Kate Bush, I am eternally grateful for Kate Bush.
The frustration of chewed up cassette tapes. The terrible warble that sounded as your heart broke with the loss of what could have been your best compilation yet.
Probably the fondest memory of the cassette tape though is sitting in your sibling’s or best friend’s room recording home radio shows or your very own musical masterpieces. It was very valuable work experience for us all and it taught us a lot. I would give anything for the chance to listen back to those tapes. Even if I could find them, I don’t even own a CD player any more never mind a cassette player. (The death of the CD: another blog post for another time)
Our discussions have progressed into talking about the quality of voice recording using cassette tapes and old Dictaphones etc. Is there something enchantingly reminiscent about the distortion of cassette recording in comparison to our superior digital replacement? Can we place cassette recording under the same net as home video? A media that is stigmatised by the familiar experience being forced to watch hours of unedited holiday videos when the most exciting clip is one of your Nana eating a German sausage.
Home videos have a quality that is somehow organic, humble and sincere, they capture memories and experiences as well as the spontaneous facial expression of a family member as they open a birthday present or the sound of a loved one’s voice coming from behind the camera as they tell you to ‘dance for grandma!’. This ability is probably something home videos share with not only cassette sound recordings but with photographs too.
It was fun discussing and reminiscing about cassette tapes, we were probably the last generation to enjoy the wonders of cassette tapes and we are keen to use them in rehearsals as a media because it clearly sparks our imaginations and a familiarity with them.