A cassette tape is simply a physical container for music. On every tape exists someone’s dreams, their pain, their love, their art. Labored and rehearsed, recorded and retouched, captured into a tangible pocket-sized form. Varying in audio content, the shape of a cassette is consistent: the way it feels, the sound it makes when you shake it, drop it, or rewind it. It was a literal vessel connecting the music with the audience, the sole object we could interact with. Through the repetition of playing a tape again and again, the affection, memories, and emotions associated with that tape are unconsciously projected onto these physical forms.
Today most everyone has long abandoned their physical music collections for concise digital versions, sprawling collections that take no physical form besides a speck inside a hard drive. With that shift, this intimate experience is lost. No visual or tactile association is created. There is no object between music and its audience; the art goes directly from producer to consumer without ever taking three-dimensional shape.
Like many, the image of the cassette tape is burned into my memory and it echoes constantly, just like the music it once carried. Memories of that music are projected onto these repeating forms. Memories of my past, of myself, are mentally projected just the same. This reflection of memories isn’t that of a mirror, it’s weathered and shows its age.
This is not meant to celebrate a sweeping nostalgia for the past, however, as nostalgia can be dangerous in its relationship with racism and sexism. This is intended to spark personal memories through the stacks of art, shelved and left to collect dust. The form carrying the art becomes obsolete and, through the shuffle of time and technological transition, the art and the audience’s interaction is often lost. The artists’ work and identities are discarded because their shape is no longer current. The emphasis becomes not simply the lost content but the form itself, the sheer weight of a collection, once revered, now considered a physical burden. Abandoned forms of one type of art are reclaimed to produce another. From such salvaging, an environment is created for recollection and reflection, whether solemn or celebratory, all ignited by the simple, anonymous, loaded relic that is a cassette tape.