What Tape/Recording Has Done For Music

The important thing about tape is that it transforms something that existed in time, and therefore wasn’t durable, into something that exists in space and is durable, and is not only durable, but is malleable in lots of different ways. Once music is recorded on tape, it’s just ferrous oxide on plastic, and it can therefore be chopped about, switched around, put together in different orders, stretched, compressed, whatever. So, what tape did, and what recording did for music was turned a transient medium into a plastic medium, and it did something quite unique. We’re so used to recordings that we tend to forget what the world was like before they appeared. The endurable ones were what people knew about. Paintings and sculptures endured. Music didn’t endure. So, for anyone living a hundred years ago, their total knowledge of music was what they would actually hear performed. Now, that means that in one week of listening, I could hear more Beethoven, for instance, than even an avid Beethoven listener would hear in his or her entire lifetime.

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