Sponge-worthy metal tape begets decentralized culture

by David Solomonoff

TDK cassette ad "The Sound Sponge"

Boingboing recently had a post about the last remaining factory making analog audio cassette tapes. Business is booming with a resurgent taste for things analog, physical and tangible – and they also sound good.

My wife and I took part in an international underground art and music movement in the 1980’s that used snail mail to create a decentralized culture that predated but anticipated the public Internet. Cassettes were the game-changing technology that allowed for fast, cheap music reproduction in small production runs.

Blank cassettes are actually collectors’ items now. Unfortunately the type of cassette that allowed us to do complex sound collages with cheap hardware doesn’t seem to be made anymore. The Type IV metal tape – actual metal bits instead of metal oxide in the tape emulsion – had sound quality that rivaled analog reel-to-reel machines and digital compact disks.

I found a few metal cassettes at a church rummage sale recently and plan to save them for special musical projects – the way Elaine chose “sponge-worthy” boyfriends on Seinfeld.

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