Thursday July 13, 2017

The Wire: How the tape recorder revolutionized the music industry


Listen to Full Episode 54:00

Electricity refined the way sounds were captured in time — adding a new dimension of fidelity to the acoustic phonograph. The invention of magnetic recording tape represented a quantum leap forward in audio technology. For the first time, thanks to tape, sound could be manipulated. What had been the representation of a singular moment in time became a malleable moment in space. It was the change of the sound. 

The Wire: The Impact of Electricity on Music first aired on CBC Radio in 2005. Each episode tells the story of how electricity changed music in the 20th century, focusing on a particular new technology. In Episode 2: magnetic recording tape. The series was a 2005 Peabody Award winner. This episode of The Wire was also awarded a Prix Italia in the Work on Music category. Part 3 airs Thursday, July 20.

The Wire is presented by Jowi Taylor.

**Note: this series is not available for download and is available for listening in Canada only due to music copyright restrictions. 

​Multitracking and the Tape Machine
"I always think of it as so modern — even futuristic — those iconic squares and triangles that stand for PLAY, STOP, FAST FORWARD, and REWIND. They pop up everywhere in design and advertising. People even talk in those symbols: 'Fast forward to the 19th Century and labour reform has replaced land reform as the main preoccupation of British progressives.'

The funny thing is that they all play on our internalization of a technology that is mostly obsolete. I mean, laser beams read a CD from the inside to the edge, hard-drives scan anywhere on the disc looking for the right packets of information. We're still thinking in terms of that coated ribbon moving back and forth through the transport on our tape machines. It may just be nostalgia, but that's how powerful a concept idea of recording tape is in our cultural consciousness." — Jowi Taylor

Guests in this episode: 

  • Les Paul (1915-2009) was an American guitarist, singer, and inventor. He was one of the pioneers of the electric guitar. He was also recognized for his work as a pioneer in overdubbing and other tape recording techniques.
  • Steve Reich is an American composer and electronic music pioneer famous for his experimentation with tape looping techniques and minimalist compositional style. Visit the website Steve Reich Is Calling.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) was a German composer and electronic music pioneer recognized for his groundbreaking work with tape splicing and synthesized sound.
  • Holger Czukay (1938-2017) was a German rock, ambient and electronic musician who was a founding member of the krautrock group Can. He studied music with Karlheinz Stockhausen. He passed away on Sept 5, 2017.
  • Gayle Young is a Canadian composer and author. Among her works is a biography of the Canadian composer and inventor Hugh LeCaine. 
  • Dennis Patrick is a Canadian composer. For many years, he was director of the Electroacoustic Laboratory at the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto.
  • Mark Kingwell is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto and author of several books.

Also heard in this episode on archival recordings:

  • Glenn Gould (1932-1982), the renowned Canadian pianist and recording artist.
  • Hugh Le Caine (1914-1977), the Canadian composer, inventor and instrument builder.
  • Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop — Theme from Doctor Who (1963)

The following tracks were used in this episode:

  • Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
  • Rudy Vallee - I'm Just a Vagabond Lover (1929)
  • Johannes Brahms - 1st movement from Symphony no. 3 in F, Op. 90
  • Bing Crosby and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra - Ol' Man River (1927)
  • Les Paul - Little Rock Getaway (1950)
  • Les Paul & Mary Ford - How High the Moon (1951)
  • Hugh Le Caine - Invocation (1957)
  • Hugh Le Caine - Dripsody (1955)
  • Pierre Schaeffer - Étude aux chemins de fer (1948)
  • Steve Reich - It's Gonna Rain (1965)
  • Steve Reich - Come Out (1966)
  • Pink Floyd - Time from Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
  • The Beatles - I'm Only Sleeping from Revolver (1966)
  • The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows from Revolver (1966)
  • The Beatles - Revolution 9 from The White Album (1968)
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen - Kontakte (1960)
  • Holger Czukay - Boat-Woman-Song from Canaxis 5 (1968)

​The Wire Episode 2 Remix was produced by Caribou. The series is produced by Chris Brookes, Paolo Pietropaolo and Jowi Taylor. It originally aired February 14, 2005 on CBC Radio 1.