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The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant-Garde Hardcover – July 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


“An outlandish episode on nearly every page of this book. . . . A probing account.”
(Los Angeles Times 2008-07-27)

“The excitement of exploration and the delight in fortuitous accident come through in the many firstperson accounts and interviews which make up the bulk of David W. Bernstein's marvellous account of the Center.”
(Times Literary Supplement (TLS) 2008-11-07)

“[An] extremely accessible and often inspiring book . . . . Comprehensive [and] fascinating.”
(Stephen Vitiello Modern Painters 2008-10-01)

“Provides the first comprehensive history of the Tape Music Center . . . . The collision of historically incompatible characters is hard to believe: It is a Kevin Bacon game . . . of avant-garde and pop culture in the ‘60s.”
(Cory Arcangel Artforum 2008-10-01)

“A rich and multilayered history. . . . [Sheds] light on a little-discussed corner of 1960s counterculture in the United States.”
(Journal Of The Society For American Music (Jsam) 2010-07-13)

“From its handsome design to its wealth of vibrant photos, [this book] stands apart from the usual academic press fare, which is fitting considering its subject. . . . A document of ballsy innovation and gutsy invention.”
(Skyscraper 2009-04-01)

“Lively . . . [It} not only deflates the notion of New York as the center of experimental music innovation in the second half of the 20th century, but testifies to the ingenuity and invention of a ragtag band of composers, musicians, dancers, visual artists, and explorers.”
(The Score 2009-04-29)

From the Inside Flap

"Who knew, prior to this lovingly detailed account, that five musical discontents could construct what amounted to a cultural particle accelerator in a small San Franciscan house? This book allows readers a window onto the confluence of artistry, innovation, drugs, sexuality, poverty, resourcefulness and, most importantly, the sense of fun that permeated the air during those years."—Richard Henderson, critic for The Wire magazine

"As I devoured this vibrantly detailed history of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in the 1960s, I found myself wishing repeatedly that I'd been born a couple of decades earlier, so I could have been present for a string of historic events: the debut of the Don Buchla synthesizer, the premiere of Terry Riley's In C, Ramon Sender's Tropical Fish Opera, Pauline Oliveros's multimedia concert at the Trips Festival. The heroes of the Center were in the business of realizing unimagined possibilities, and they did much to shape the legendary culture of San Francisco in the later sixties."—Alex Ross

"Hats off to David Bernstein for flooding a dark corner of recent musical history with new light, as warm as it is brilliant."—Richard Taruskin, author of The Oxford History of Western Music

"This high-voltage oral history takes us straight back to the West Coast epicenter of experimental music in the early 1960s, where synthesizers and tape loops met light shows and LSD, and Merry Pranksters hung with the masters of minimalism. Reading it is like visiting a foreign country and realizing you were born there."—Fred Turner, author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520248929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520248922
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 7.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #657,365 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By York Brun Luethje on April 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
,The San Francisco Tape Music Center' is a collection of essays and interviews about the first electronic music studio on the west coast. At the time, there were only a few of these institutions worldwide and fierce differences of opinion and methodology between them. In Paris, for example, were Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry who came up with `musique concrète' which consisted of the montage of natural sounds on tape. This approach was anathema to the people around Karlheinz Stockhausen in Cologne, who also used tape but insisted on only utilizing electronically generated sounds.

To the initiators in San Francisco, Ramon Sender, Pauline Oliveros and Morton Subotnick, these factional disputes appeared meaningless so the chose the ecumenical name `Tape Music' as tape was the medium common to all these endeavours. Happily for us, they kept this unorthodox approach to produce a series of momentous works.

Since all of the main protagonists get to tell their story and there is also a comprehensive introductory essay by editor David Bernstein we have some overlap in the main narrative (after all, the period in question were roughly the six years from 1960 to 1966). I find the structure fitting to the subject matter as one of the main techniques used by these composers was repetition, in particular the tape loop. In repeating the main story over and over, every time with some modification and different point of view we arrive at a much more substantial story than one straight essay could have provided.

To someone interested in the technical aspects it is astounding how basic the equipment was initially. Some tape recorders and noise-making stuff, mainly car parts that were then recorded and edited.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alex on January 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
The description says that you receive a DVD, and the copy at my local library has a DVD. But the copy I just got from SuperBookDeals did NOT have a DVD. Apparently, the DVD is not included in the 2nd printing which isn't mentioned by Amazon. I feel cheated.
As for the book, it has some very interesting chapters and some that are somewhat tiresome. It's loaded with historical facts and stories that would be of interest to anyone who loves electronic music from some of the pioneers of the genre. I would rate this as a 5 star if the DVD was included.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is a valuable addition to the history of Experimental and Electronic Music, though I found it slightly dry in places.
What really stood out for me was the accompanying DVD, which provides very high quality documentation of a sort of 'reunion' concert. Watching it I wished I'd been at the show, and I was delighted to have such a good resource to recommend to my students. The DVD also allowed me to hear pieces I had previously only read about, as some of the performances/tape pieces included are difficult or impossible to find elsewhere.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A wonderful examination of an important period in electronic and electroacoustic music. All of the people involved are pioneers and have had a major influence in musical composition, recording and thinking. Comes with a DVD performance of Pauline Oliveros.
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