In the more
tech-driven era, the art of telling stories has stretched to different peaks
from video and online books to mp3 collections and podcasting. But for one
project, taking things a bit old-school to the online era has become an
--- Tales On Tape started taking in material created and recorded by individuals on cassette recordings, and loading them onto a website for people to listen in and take part in by contributing themselves. Showing off the artistic side in both the story itself and the audio format it has been presented in. I got a chance to chat with the two minds behind the project about how it got started, the work you can find on the site, the future of the project and many other topics that came to mind. And be sure to check out their display at Sam Weller's in two weeks time from March 16th-21st in the Fiction Section to submit to it yourself!
Henry Jones & Daniel Hess
Gavin: Hey guys. First off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Henry: Henry Jones, currently living in
Daniel: Daniel Hess. Greyhound bus route through
Gavin: For those who don't know, what is Tales On Tape?
Henry: It’s a collective project where individuals are asked to write fictional stories and record them on cassette. It’s an attempt of redefining how tape can tell stories. And by having this collective project, the magnetic tape becomes the middle ground between participants and project creators. The participation in the project is for individuals to take time to be creative for themselves. The end product that the tape conveys is it’s ephermality and materiality, which is celebrated by fictional stories resting on top of it.
Daniel: Yes, right, the stories are nice and beautiful, but really only a layer of the project as an entity. What do the stories mean? What was the energy which produced them? Every bit of organized matter had intent and energy behind it and here tales on tape wants to connect people through a meditative journey. Tape is the middle ground, a frame work to move within. It's binding! Literally. It's empirical nature validates yours and reality's existence.
Gavin: Where did the idea come from for this kind of project?
Henry: I'd say that the narrative armature of the project is that everyone has a story to tell, a good one for a matter of the fact. Everyone is a genius in their own right and has infinite amount of creativity, they just have to step out of their routine shoes to explore that realm. You could say that I misread Roland Barthes' Death Of The Author. And why not tell stories on tape, which was originally made for dictating. You’re asked to treat the tape as paper, where you explore your ideas, and write a story by the end. So going back on celebrating tape, why not utilize it for what its original intention?
Daniel: Henry came to me really. I am not precisely sure what the original premise of the project was, considering it's evolution, but I know that I was on board within the first sentence. Yes! Everyone does have an incredible story within them. This was how I interpreted the idea when we started expanding it. You travel and are exposed to these illuminated people populating every inch of the planet and realize that these bodies are overflowing with life and energy and you want to tap into that. To be able to bring their collected experiences into existence.
Gavin: Did you choose tape for the quality in sound, or more for originality?
Daniel: It was a medium which I think both of us had no idea about really. At 24 I missed the age of tape, which I would now consider a benefit seeing that it gives me the license to explore it more than if I had had a personal notion tied to it. As the project has expanded, tape really has fit incredibly well.
Henry: I would agree with Dan, and on top of all that, its inconsistency and materiality. Cassette tapes were originally coated by ferric oxide which is the same formula as rust. And, although the tape is inconsistent, there’s a dichotomy of sterile sound with a warmth that you get from tape, which is absent from digital recordings.
Gavin: What kind of criteria do you have set up for submissions?
Daniel: It is rather loose. We are encouraging fictional creations, yet are not limited to them. We really want them on tape obviously and have been trying different ideas to address that in a shrinking world of tape. We really want the project to act as a source of inspiration and want to bring as many people as possible out onto this tape platform.
Henry: The submissions should be 5-10 minute stories recorded on cassette with a written document of the story if possible, that really sums it. Its weighs much more on the individual’s approach.
Gavin: Is there any set structure for stories, or is it more free form based in telling?
Daniel: We were expecting narrative stories, by the mere implications of the word “story”, yet have been getting beautiful adaptations of the idea. It is really interesting to see how individuals understand this and how it fits into a larger identity. Again, the structure is very thin and we are more interested in the human creation than a certain output.
Henry: Its what the participant wants to interpret it as. If you listen to audiobooks, there an array of arrangement on how the narrator goes about the story. There’s also other ways that stories are told: sound, noise, silence, and etc. It all tells a story. The length of a cassette tape is to explore and experiment with.
Gavin: What were some of the first submissions you received?
Henry: The ones that come to mind at the moment is of a friend who gave of us a story of when he was stranded on the salt flats in
Gavin: Is there an end goal you're looking to achieve with it, or is it more of an ongoing project?
Henry: When its done its done. I think the both of us will know when its time to display all of the stories or to let the project going. The end goal is the exhibit, but I don’t see any reason why people should stop sending stories to the P.O. Box or to their friends, or even strangers.
Daniel: Right. Our experiences within this frame will come to an end, certainly. The effected creation will still exist in one form or another though, allowing for a continued ripple in the pond. Perhaps Henry and myself will become so enchanted with tape, it will be the only medium with which we communicate.
Gavin: Will you do anything with the submissions down the road, like release them as an album?
Henry: We are planning to actually do an exhibition next year, which we are working on now. But there are going to be recording booths to display some of the stories up to this point, and allow people to record in public spaces. There will be one in
Daniel: Nothing outside the parameters of the project. The submissions will materialize as Henry said, through a exhibition in various forms. As opposed to the model of releasing an album (creator-audience), I think the project wants to act more as a mirror. I see now a warped mirror akin to those within a carnival fun house, where attention is drawn to the form of the mirror in as much as it warps the content being reflected, but the content being reflected (the living stories) are the substance.
Gavin: How frequently do you update the site and when can we expect the next one?
Daniel: As far as the next update, you will just have to keep checking.
Gavin: Do you believe the art of storytelling is fading or finding new life in the digital age?
Henry: I'd say that it is expanding into new realms and renditions with the digital age. We shouldn’t necessarily dispose of past technological advancements, but utilize them in new ways. Storytelling never will go away, its one of the core attributes of how we communicate with one another, just as I am telling you a story about how I think storytelling isn’t fading away.
Daniel: These things can never fade. I think that just the opposite is happening as more and more people have access to technology which allows them to create and exchange their creations. With every generation of technology it seems the playing field becomes more and more lateral in terms of distribution and consumption. The curators as a top down model are being faded out and we are being plugged directly into the energy of exchange. The story is taking the form of streaming video and blogs, giving more individuals a voice. It is almost as if we are heading straight back to a tribal setting of equality where nothing distorts the connection between our illuminated subjectivity and our ability to share it. We all have a literal voice, be empowered with it.
Gavin: Aside from this, what other projects are you both working on?
Daniel: I have a hopeless habit of being infinitely inspired and taking on an insane amount projects because of this. This project has really brought me back to the love of sound, yet in a completely different filter than I had understood it before. As of late I have been consumed by radio programs such as Radiolab and This American Life and have been exploring narrative through the medium of sound. Also, graffiti gardens are my next endeavor.
Henry: I've started working on found footage video collages, which are combining found footage with my own videos. If all goes well, there would be a display in May. But I also tend create far too many projects for myself. And the tragic part is that I tend to rationalize it and incorporate it into Tales On Tape. I haven’t decided if that is productive or counterproductive.
Gavin: A lot of the projects you do take information and turn it into a new forum. With that said, where do you see us in the next five years in distributing that info?
Daniel: I think the idea of distribution is falling out and we are moving towards a more open model.
Gavin: What else can we expect from the site and both of you the rest of the year?
Daniel: With the effect of the recording booths, the site is going to be much more active and dynamic. Personally I am excited; The acceleration with the project at this stage and between Henry and myself is really electric.
Henry: And as previously mentioned, there will be public recording booths in SL and NY, and we will be distributing public tapes at various locations in both cities. The public tapes will have a short recording on them, and the rest is for people to write stories on.
Gavin: Is there anything else you'd like to promote or plug?
Daniel: The Bloomsbury Group.