8617 - posted VD-RADIO input (crude tape)

- miscellaneous callers - $6.00 - (60 minutes)



From: "OP" "U" issue - January-February '84 - us@

[the section relevant to posted VD-RADIO input (crude tape) is accentuated with a larger font size]

WIDEMOUTH TAPES (Box 382, Baltimore, MD, 21203, $6.50 apiece) A series of cassettes that attempt to place themselves on the cutting edge of the avant garde but more often than not fail. Of the seven tapes received, perhaps half might be of interest to some, but several were absolute trash. By far the most interesting is Swevingen/Floatings (& Other Works) by Dutch poet Great Monach. Four pieces are called Swevingen (lit. floatings) and were originally concrete or visual poems based on letters or syllables that are overlapped or connected. Not unlike Cage's readings which are reduced to chance selections of syllables and letters, they also include more unusual vocalizations fromed as the nexus between letters, such a rolled r's, "tz" or "ts" sounds, buzzing of the lips, etc. The other three works are also based on similar sounds but were intended to be heard as works from the outset. Scribble Music Sampler by Fanz Kamin comes with individually designed tape boxes that are a little like Rauschenberg or Schwitters assemblages. Several pieces are what Kamin refers to as performance poems with several readers in each. They have a contrapuntal texture that can be quite interesting. Some of these combine music which sounds like free form improvisations. Finally, there is a purely instrumental piece. A performance by the Theater Education Center at the 1979 Festival of Disappearing Art(s) is preserved on the tape Pablo and the New Mexicans. This is a stage work and the translation onto tape has its obvious weaknesses. Xa consists of the works of poets Doug Lang and Tina Darragh. Not being a critic of poetry, I will withhold judgment. The remaining tapes, including Tape Sent to VD Radio, masquerade under the guise of phone-art. If this junk is art or music, then Maynard G. Krebs was a real beat poet. Widemouth's catalog does contain some things that I wish they would have sent me instead, such as a tape of sound poetry by Beth Anderson and works by Alec Bernstein. It is curious that one small outfit would release some very interesting works side by side with dreadful garbage. Buyer beware, most of these tapes were lo-fi.--Dean Suzuki


[again, the most directly relevant responses are accentuated with a larger font size]


From: "OP" "V" issue - March-April '84 - us@


Having sent 10 Widemouth tapes to you sometime around the release of the Q issue, I wonder why as of the U issue nothing satisfactorily resembling a review of them has yet to appear.

After the first three were sent - DuoOaccident, Svexner Labs at M Harry Reese's, DRZ 4 "Bob"/DRZ 4 Wotan - there was a very slight mention of them in Castanets which was so superficial as to be more like a last minute paraphrase of the simplest information from Widemouth's most stripped down ad blurb than a review.

In the T issue, Castenets promised a review of more of them in the U issue - adding that they are bizarrely packed.

Finally, the U issue has reached me w/ Dean Suzuki's "reviews" in which the tapes are dealt w/ mainly as a unit rather than separately by individual titles and reviewers - this doesn't seem to me to be typical or fair OP practice. Only 6 of the tapes are mentioned by name - one name being applied to two tapes w/ no distinction made - and only two of the tapes are actually reviewed. One of the bizarre packaging tapes sent in has never been mentioned by name in either Castanets or Suzuki's "reviews". Suzuki expresses his regreats that works by Alec Bernstein haven't been sent to him instead of what was sent and yet #8605, a Bernstein piece which I sent, has yet to be reviewed.

Predictably, Suzuki likes the work in an already established genre, sound poetry, the most: Zwevingen/Floatings/and Other Works. Too bad the phone experiments aren't just watered down imitations of Eno - maybe then he'd think they're worth listening to.

The points that are most important for me to touch on at the moment, however, are his final comments. To quote: "The remaining tapes, including Tapes Sent to VD Radio, masquerade under the guise of phone-art. If this junk is art or music, then Maynard G. Krebs was a real beat poet." What I wonder is why he thinks that the tapes are masquerading as anything. In the case of the VD Radio Tapes comparison to folkways or postal interaction networking strikes me as appropriate insofar as the material presented is simply all of the material solicited and collected through and by an "underground" phone station - unjuried and unedited. The point, as is explicitly stated in the insert notes, is more sociological than musical - and the judgment of the aesthetic quality of the material is irrelevant. The first of the two VD Radio Tapes is culled mainly from teenagers who were encouraged via the phone, by people they'd never met, to make a recording of any kind - something most or all of them had never done before - and send it to VD Radio for broadcast. If it turned out to be mainly "bad" music, who am I to judge or reject it? To paraphrase someone at the beginning of Crass Records' Bullshit Detector, it doesn't matter if you have something to say, it doesn't matter if someone tells you that you're doing it wrong, just do it! It's the experience of doing it and the information derived from observing others doing it that matters.

The main tape neither mentioned by Castenets or Suzuki by name that I want to discuss now is my own: Accumulations/Great Moments in Odd Ball Sports. This was made mainly w/ the use of phones but not exclusively. It has no pretenses at being either art or music. In fact, as the entity who compiled it, I can accurately state that it was conceived of as usical residue from acts of mad scientism, d composing, sound thinking, t ho ugh t collecting, and as beenism - w/ none of the spacings being mistakes. I abhor the contextualizing of them as music and/or art! Nowhere on the insert notes is their any description beyond specifics about the making of and referent for each part - i.e.: nowhere is music or art mentioned. The recordings are mainly of experimental, sociological, historical, or informational importance. E.g.: there is an actual recording of a man describing seeing a co-worker's legs blown off, an actual tapping of a phone line repairman - of possibly remote use to "phone freaks", a mythical simulation of the beginning of the Neoist cultural conspiracy - listen to the Neoist anthem, Catastronics, on Yul Records from Montreal, for more information on Neoism, and residue relevant to the manifestation of desiring machine theory. Accumulation was made w/ the semi-unwitting participation of hundreds or thousands of people over a large area, again via the phone, - somewhat like a spatial/social extrapolation of Cage & Tudor's Variations IV - as quasi-documented on Everest Records - or of Cage & Hiller's HPSCHD. A main difference being that it was made w/out musical intent. Throughout its 45 minutes, its most obviously dominant sound is that which the phone company uses to tell one that one's phone is "off the hook" - a sound psychologically designed to be abrasively attention grabbing. Like the mundane conversation variations which interrupt it, it's used to increase the aural/conceptual endurance test aspect by challenging behavior modification conditioning.

These tapes were sent to OP not because Widemouth is trying to reinforce an image that they are music or art, but because OP seemed like one of the only forums open enough to even pay attention to thinks which try to exist in their own context. These tapes certainly don't "attempt to place themselves on the cutting edge of the avant garde" as Suzuki claims - only ignorant, unimaginative, idiotic, lazy, "intellectual", fast food historians still use such hack need [sic]* labels! At least he didn't call us Dadaists! - haha! It seems that the time elapsed between when the tapes were sent and when they were reviewed was spent trying to find someone into whose specialty they fit - but since they don't fit into anyone's specialty, the pedantic Dean Suzuki was settled for. Apparently, OP isn't the magazine to send anything truly unusual to.

Some of the Widemouth tapes are for those of you who have been searching for something different from aleatoric, art, rock, jazz, voodoo, funk, Tibetan Buddhist, snake charming, art muzak ambient, classical, country, pop, blues, sound effects, soundtracks, folk, animal recordings, sound poetry, electronic, musique concrete, and so forth and so on and on - as I am. If that is the case w/ you, dear reader, please send us your recordings - maybe we'll produce them.

Regarding the recording quality, comparison w/ folkways, postal interaction networking, and the Bullshit Detector again seems relevant. Should poor people without access to hi-fi equipment be discouraged from recording and disseminating? It seems to me that some things need to be distributed independent of fidelity criteria and that there is information intrinsic to lo-fi. Indeed, the lo-fi enahnces the conceptual obstacle course of the phone recordings - which have carefully avoided artiness and musicality in order to make them more difficult to accept for people who assume that sound is only worth listening to if it has pseudo-professional gloss.

Wdiemouth tapes are fairly diverse. Approximately 1/3 of them are phone-related; 1/3 are language centered [as in connected to the writer's movement of that name], sound poetry, and/or generally language related; and the remaining 1/3 include such things as music involving specially made instruments and religious anti-muzak (?) from the Church of the SubGenius. As far as I "know", much of this stuff is reasonably unique to Widemouth or other such very obscure labels. They're for jaded or naive outsiders, anarchists, nihilists, subgenii, neoists, and solipsists - not for academic normals and poseurs like most "alternative" radio station hosts looking for a new trend to leech their "hipness" from by association.

By way or further correction: Scribble Music Sampler is by Franz Kamin - not Fanz Kamin - a skilled aleatoric composer whose quirky performances have made him too difficult for the classification that leads to fame.

It's time for Widemouth to change again soon. Maybe its future lies in the frustration of expectations through one second recordings of the insertion of nose plugs. After all, I like novelty items. Maybe I'll try to induce a feeling of sensory deprivation that only I'll like.

- tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE for Widemouth Tapes

[* this bracketed insertion was by OP's editor - he apparently didn't realize that I was making a pun & thought I was too stupid to spell "hackneyed". No, John, I'm considerably more intelligent than that]


John Foster (the editor of OP) responds

to the above letter

From: "OP" "V" issue - March - April '84 - us@

Methinks you protesteth too much. You're pretty much right about the process though - Graham & other locals didn't know what to say, I didn't even have a working tape recorder (I bet I'd really have been "hack need" *), so I sent off a batch to dean, who I thought would appreicate them, with instructions to treat them as a series, spending the most time with those he enjoyed.-JF

[*By "hack need" I meant the hackneyed needs of a hack - in other words the cliché language defaults used by shallow critics - such as "avant-garde". I was specifically referring to Suzuki's falling back on irrelevant critical language rather than trying to sincerely THINK about what he was writing about. Apparantly, John Foster didn't understand this pun at all. Whu he thought it would be of some relevance to his not having a working tape recorder I don't 'know' - maybe I'm missing his pun, eh?]



["OP" solicited an article re Widemouth from me. As a result, the following 2 articles were written at my request by Pam Purdy & David Yaffe (2 Baltimore writers) as an overview of a selection of Widemouth tapes. Each of them was given about half of the tapes published as of that time to write something about. David's article was too long to print so I edited it by extracting all of the similies. The allusions to posted VD-RADIO input (crude tape) are accentuated with a larger font size]

From: "OP" "W" issue - May-June '84 - us@

Widemouth Tapes

by Pamela Purdy

"Hi! I'd like to read you this poem," Chris Mason says on the phone. "Well I don't think I want to hear it if it needs a reaction," says his first callee, hanging up. But some of his subjects are willing to give it a shot. They'll play the critic: to listen, to understand, to interpret. Says one, "And you can be locked up underground without being locked up. You know?"

Along with Patti Karl and "tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE," Chris Mason is one of the publishers of Widemouth Tapes: notes from underground, talking messages in acetate bottles.

Alec Bernstein makes "the music of dead trees" with driftwood and marimba in an abandoned quarry near Penobscot Bay. This is the sound of the tree that falls in the forest.

"Is anybody out there?" asks one of the callers on It's not 9 o'clock!, a collection of items related to the lifetime of a particular number on the BUTN (Baltimore Underground Telephone Network). "Why is it always busy, but nobody ever talks?" another caller complains. And also the voice of a network critic: "That tape really sucked...Any asshole could put something like that together."

Voices in the air, Mr. Christian sparring with callers about teenage sex. VD Radio solicited tapes on their telephone network and got "urban folk music" from kids who grew up around a stereophonic campfire: disco, Top 40, and jazz-rock fusion, plus an elaborate collage of movie soundtracks, musical comedy, pop songs, newscasts, and other fairy tales. Also philosophy: "We are all aliens, and we will always be aliens to ourselves and to others as long as we shut our minds to the inevitable death of culture in a plastic society...."

Doctors for "Bob," from the Dallas-based Church of the SubGenius, celebrate the golf tips of Arnold Palmer and dream of a golfer head laundry [launching], "a fabulous, fun-drenched heaven on earth." DC's Doug Lang is stuck on Kim Novak, and New York's Charles Bernstein makes poetry from dialogue in On the Waterfront, Lang recites a litany of jazz musicians, and Bernstein, ever more hysterical, counts to 100.

Why these particular obsessions? It's not hard to understand Gayle Hanson's preoccupation with the rootlessness of an adopted child ("{for Mom} whoever you are?") or Beth Anderson's "Ode" to her father, an auctioneer, Anderson composes poetic music from a tobacco auctioneer's chant.

Great Monach is inspired by the love songs of the rhinoceros ("Foneron 79-5") and constructs her Zwevingen from "concatenations of letters which overlap." Her infatuation with the rhinoceros was shared by Ionesco, who concocted his first play from the (to him) meaningless sentences in an English phrasebook: "I think you are in league with the butcher."

Words mean what we say they do. Say otherwise, and reality becomes a banana peel. Tina Darragh is fascinated with chants that depend on the "call words" at the top of dictionary pages. Sometimes she reads backwards, sounding like a stroke victim. Can we say what a stroke victim means? No more than an auctioneer, but we don't doubt that they mean something. It's just that we lack the Cliff's Notes, the skeleton key.

"I too say text is about itself, and world is text," writes Charles Stein in theforestforthetrees, the April 1982 version of a poem 45 minutes long. "Reality is conventional. People sort of 'hang out,' trying to get together about how things are." He describes his work, an enormous undertaking, as "little bits of writing chipped from the cave. Obsessed."

To own a Widemouth Tape is to share another's obsession. Kirby Malone and Marshall Reese recite work that sounds from a distance like the barking of dogs. Ups close it resolves into fragments of their lives, their obsessions.

You can stand back and judge or jump in and drown. Or you can hang up without listening.


What are Widemouth Tapes Like?

8602-With ruth in Mind-Anselm Hollo

8606-At the Festival of Disappearing Art(s)-Mitchell Pressman & Alec Bernstein

like a trash can; like an oriental gong; like a pianissimo NY subway; piano-like; tone-like; like other instruments; like a melody; like ducks and other birds; electronically grating squawks; wood-like; like a surprised voice; like double-takes; like "Do tell!"; like way in background some soul record vocals; like acceleration or lift-off of something; like a railroad; like Stravinsky Rite of Spring or the like; like hits on wood: as in the woods.

8608-On His Own/The Other Side of Steve Benson-Steve Benson/Cris Cheek

Songlike; like after-the-fact expressive gestures; like tones of voice of a second order; like an architect's rough preliminary sketch of an ontology; like that of a cash register; like Benson in studying language; like Benson; like Benson.

8609-12-Testes-3 Broadcast Tapes-Testes-3

like Dial-a-Prayer; like Dial-an-Anomoly; like an auditory Allen Funt "Candid Mouthpiece"; like NY subway; like a racquetball hit hard; like being able to hear capitalism; like a voice imitating a jewsharp; elctro-bassoon-like; like explosions; like from notes of touch-tone phone.

8614-Pablo & the New Mexicans-TEC in FDA at WPA

like a hysteric's torment or a Good Humor truck; like those on 2-way radio; like Widemouth's; like a power drill or a vacuum cleaner.


like two bows; like several actors chiming in viewing it differently; like bell tone between that of wood & metal; like approaching traffic; like basso radio static; like grinding wheels; gunshot-like; machine-like; like outer space conceits; like wobble warble: what this creature does for a trill; train whistle-like; like drumstick dancing, ricocheting across a washboard of tuned glasses; like baby mermaids alarmed; like a bubble machine reving up mysteriously wavered as if from a distance; like petty elephant trumpeting at length with variety - with a complex burden of what to say; like protests; like creaky start-stop bird calls; like animated dialog; like the talk of a high soprano with tapes mouth but she wants to make her point; like epic film; like bowed bass string notes; somewhat "Happening"-like; group talk-like; like the radio; like a legal document; like a slightly slowed recording; like dogs baying; march-like; like people cheerily singing together something they know in the background as at a party; like distant hammer blows & dog barks; like the expectant tension & clarity of the urban outdoors; pile-drive-like; conch-shell-like; like machines.

8616-Public Language-Andrews & Bernstein & DiPalma & Gottlieb & Seaton & Sherry & Weiner

like being what it claims; like maybe edited of phrases which were excerpted from longer conventionally meaningful texts; largely dream-like; like unexpected (from a waking "rational" viewpoint) images in dreams; "like Magellan waiting for the first European woman to take off her clothes"; like a somewhat impassioned academic philosopher or a preacher in one of the more intellectual congregations; like AC betweenamong the suggestions of all its statements; like pig(eon)-Latin; like an image almost out of focus rather than marginally out or drifitng in & out.

8622-Scribble Music Sampler-Franz Kamin

Color & design sense are partly reminiscent of Russian futurism. That's what my example's like; like series of unrelated words, perhaps selected from newspaper headlines, read as phrases; like a yawn; like certain Turkish oboes.

8625-Accumulation/Great Moments in Odd-ball Sports-tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE

like spice; like Grand Central Station; like harsh noises in machine persona rock & roll; like ocean breakers' surges; like my own intracranial/emotional overlay tape; melodic-like; like this; like high soprano humpback whale, a sort of Pekinese breed humpback whale; like a voluntary or optional reveille-if-you-want-to.


-David Yaffe (as edited by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE)


to V.C. home page - to S.P.C.S.M.E.F home page - to N.A.A.M.C.P. home page

to A Mere Outline for One Aspect of a Book on Mystery Catalysts, Guerrilla Playfare, booed usic, Mad Scientist Didactions, Acts of As-Beenism, So-Called Whatevers, Psychopathfinding, Uncerts, Air Dressing, Practicing Promotextuality, Imp Activism, etc..

to Widémouth Tapes home page - to Widémouth Tapes Catalog - to Usic Essays home page

Last Updated:

The reviews are not necessarily copied verbatim from the original. Usually, small apparent typos are corrected & obsolete addresses are removed. In some cases, I may choose to leave misspellings, misinformation, etc intact to demonstrate how sloppy the reviewer is. Of course, there may be times when the original packaging was confusing (deliberately or otherwise) which may effect the reviewer's comprehension. The more recent the tapes are, the less likely this is to be the case. Most of the recent tapes provide fairly extensive liner notes. In some cases, reviewers whose native language isn't English may be writing in English anyway for the sake of 'internationalizing' their reviews. Obviously, this may lead to what strikes native English speakers as 'bad' English. Hopefully, equally obviously, this should not be interpreted as a lack of intelligence in the writing. Editorial notes may be inserted into the reviews in [brackets]. In many instances, I (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE) replied to reviews that I disagreed with strongly. These replies are included here. In some cases, I may add additional retrospective comments.