Tape This! (Or: Namedropping Paul McCartney)

Time once again for the San Francisco Tape Music Festival, a celebration of experimental sounds.

Last year, I finally got to attend, and it was a real treat. What’s performed are prerecorded pieces that resemble today’s experimental laptop music. No, they don’t use tape; the pieces are played digitally — in total darkness with a 20-speaker sound system. A planetarium for the ears.

Pieces vary from metallic rushing noises, to alien waterlike sounds, to musique concrète (a high-def Revolution 9, in a sense). They do bring the lights up between pieces and let you know what’s coming next.

As usual, the three-day event has a different program each day. Depending on the day, you’ll get to hear:

  • New works from local artists like Moe! Staiano and Maggi Payne
  • Old works from classic practitioners of the genre: Varèse, Xenakis, Ligeti, Ussachevsky
  • A “celebrity” piece, this time from The Fireman — which consists of Youth (bassist from Killing Joke) and Paul McCartney. No, I don’t mean some other Paul McCartney. They’ve got a pop album out now but apparently did two electronica/trance albums earlier.

Note that the artists won’t actually be there, except probably the local ones. Most are too far away, too busy, or too dead.

You can see the SF Weekly make fun of the event here. (I think that’s supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, as if to say, “We’re on your side.” Needed a lighter touch.) More reasonable writeups of past shows are here and here.

The festival runs Jan. 30, Jan. 31, and Feb. 1 at CellSpace in San Francisco.