Elsewhere on this blog Lord Litter detailed how as our indie music scene moved from cassettes to CDRs to online we started losing intimacy, that in-depth communication gave way to a more business-like approach, and that people became data instead of friends and collaborators and comrades. In the Cassette Days we all used to write long detailed letters. I think that Lord Litter is right to a great extent.
When CDRs arrived things changed!
Two of my best friends from the 1990s Cassette Underground, Brian Noring and Jay T. Yamamoto, had both been very active releasing their own distinctive cassettes. They both seemed to start losing interest when everybody started doing CDRs in the early 2000s. By around 2002-2003 they had both stopped.
Me personally, I do not think that CDRs are inherently bad. I use CDRs these days to distribute hard copies of my audio art because they are much less expensive to mail than cassettes because I can mail them via Letter Rate instead of Package postal rate. The difference is astounding. It costs $13 to mail one cassette (or CD in a thick case) from USA to an international destination. I can mail one CDR in a plastic slipcase inside an envelope for only about $3.50 to destinations in Europe.
As for the lack of long letters, yes I too hardly ever write long letters any more, it's true! But here is the thing: my audio collage works are loaded with my spoken personal thoughts, ideas and reflections, along with sounds from my daily life. I make the audio art itself as personal as possible. When you listen to a 75-minute dictaphone assemblage by me it is like you are spending five hours with me because there are four layers of sounds happening simultaneously. The listener can immerse themselves in the experience and listen closely to all of the details on headphones, or just put my CDR playing in the background as they go about their own daily activities in such a way that the two combine for an even richer experience.
It is NOT impossible to forge friendships in today's online music world.
A few years ago a fellow in Sweden named Per-Arne Hognert started buying numerous downloads from my Bandcamp sites. I want to mention that I make my Bandcamp albums as personal as possible. They are often loaded with photos, liner note booklets, and printable cassette and CD cover files. Plus, I always try to write an email thanking each customer for purchasing the download. One customer was amazed that I would take the trouble to write and thank him for purchasing a $1 download. Any way, Per-Arne and I started exchanging emails, and we soon thereafter started collaborating on audio projects! I now consider P-A one of my best friends and associates, and you can find several collabs with him on my website. To this date he has purchased about 300 downloads of my music as well as many many hard copies on cassette and CDR. He truly has supported my projects creatively and financially in a way that reminds me of the devotion that many of us felt back in the 80s.
I made another great lifelong friend in Rafael González via online interactions. Rafael originally made his first cassette recordings back in 1986, back in the Glory Days of Cassette Culture. But we did not know each other until the 2010s when Rafa started contributing to my online compilation projects such as the multi-volume International Email Audio Art Project. Over the last several years we have collaborated on numerous audio and visual art projects, and have forged a deep friendship. We communicate nearly every day through personal messaging. As has so often been the case since 1981 my best friends in this world live in locations hundreds and often thousands of miles away.
As Don Campau recently pointed out perhaps the most important aspect of Hometaper Culture is Communication. And I'll add to that Friendship and Fun, both of which of course go along with Communication.
So, in my opinion we need to keep on looking for ways to move forward while doing our best to remain true to our ideals. I'm not sure that we can ever re-gain that original Cassette Culture feeling. It's 2018, not 1986. But we can do our best within the current technological situation to make our art as personal as possible and to hold on to that spirit of independence, joy of creation for the love of creation, and we can feel fortunate that we can continue to create!
For me it is important to create/record every day. I carry a dictaphone with me everywhere every day. This way of moving through the world, ever ready to capture sounds, to direct my attention toward the phenomena of my daily life, serves to transform my daily reality. The mundane details of daily life become bigger events. Every moment is precious and filled with adventure!