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Gregg Kowalsky


Tape Chants

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june 8, 2009

From Gregg Kowalsky: After my first album for kranky, I was eager to adapt a new method of composing and performing as a way to distance myself from the digital realm. I felt limited by the unlimited possibilities of digital production, and I had spent the previous 5 years composing with the computer as my main instrument. In an effort to push myself I spent two years experimenting with tape loops, cassette players and recorders, analog synths, sine oscillators, mixer feedback, contact mics and various acoustic sound sources.

Through these experiments I developed a series entitled Tape Chants, which is made up of performances and compositions using tapes as the main source material, as well as the mono speakers of various cassette players for the piece's amplification. All of the cassettes are tuned to each other using the pitch control and halfspeed playback devices located on the Sony TCM 200DV cassette recorder. All of the compositions are constructed with tuned sinewaves as the starting point and the pieces are built using sources such as shruti box, percussion, gongs, etc.

The live performances of Tape Chants begin with the placement of the 6-10 cassette recorders and boomboxes around the performance space. The piece is begun by adjusting the amplitudes of the individual tape players. I walk around the space listening to the overall mix and slowly adjust the volume on the playersŐ to create a live lo-fi surround sound mix. Depending on where each member of the audience is located, they will hear the piece slightly differently than the person next to them. Psychoacoustic phenomena play a large role in the performance due to the different spaces the piece is performed in. The live set fits somewhere between sound installation and performance.

During the construction of the studio version of Tape Chants, I was interested in adding rhythmic textures to the once static drone compositions. This is a newer approach which I have been focusing on, finding new ways and means to break up the static drone.

The recorded version of Tape Chants does not try to replicate the surround sound component of the live performances, but there is a variety of different acoustic spaces located in the source material. Many of the same cassettes that were used in the several editions of the series were used to record this album.

Tape Chants follows Gregg's Through the Cardial Window album released in early 2006 on kranky.

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Gregg Kowalsky

Tape Chants



  1. Invocation
  2. I-IV
  3. V
  4. VI-VII
  5. VIII
  6. IX
  7. X-XI