Pause

This November, I have been invited to be on the Electric Island Concert as part of National Electro-Acoustic Month sponsored by the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS). I am honored and frightened. In college, the only class I dropped out of was the computer music class. I was confused by the code and frustrated at the sounds.

The producer said the only requirement is that works use electricity. I look for instruments with plugs and find a cassette tape recorder.

The cassette tape recorder finds itself replaced by clearer sounding, less cumbersome machines. It cries out to be saved from the scrap heap of forgotten appliances. I cry out that I will find a way to remember this electronic instrument from my childhood.

Excited by this disappearing instrument, I find ways to involve the audience. I'll record layer after layer using two cassette tape recorders borrowed from my friend Frank Phillips. One of them was used by his blind father. As I experiment, I realize that the pause button is my favorite. Who wouldn't want to suspend mortality?

I press pause and wait in the tension.

"Press play," the tape hisses as it strains to continue recording the past in the present archived for the future. One click is all it takes to return to the fragility of life.

I wait a bit longer. In this moment, I remember what has been left behind.



An October update: The cassette tape recorders from the 70s lack the "Pause" button. I have also changed the work to be for one cassette tape recorder and bowl of water. It is now called Mare Insularum.