Sheer Joy Of Noise

a lifetime of tape recordings

About the Archive

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THE NORM SCOTT RECORDING ARCHIVE: A BRIEF HISTORY

Me, my tape collection, Moogerpuss Jones, and Queen Latifah.



It all started on April 11, 1976. I was only 3 years old, and my dad made the recording. It consisted of giggles, songs, and a barely-intelligible story about Henry and His Post Hole Digger.

Two years later, I went along with my dad to his office while he did some light carpentry work. To those who know me as the mindful, focused guy I am today, it may come as a surprise that I was once a very garrulous and hyperactive child! To help keep me entertained, my dad sat me down in front of his office tape recorder, gave me a brief tutorial, and my first tape, "Norman's Jokes", was born. I was hooked.

By 6th or 7th grade, I had accumulated about 60 tapes or so. I was afraid that I would misplace some of them, so I adopted a numbering system and a corresponding log, for tracking purposes. Every few years, I would update the log. I'm still doing this.

I recorded pretty much everything: visits from relatives, family dinners, walks around the neighborhood, musings about current events, as well as songs, radio shows, commercials, and quite a few silly phrases and noises. The basic concept of recording everything came very naturally, and I did it generally without really thinking about it. There were always mixed reactions; some people would ham it up, others would clam up, and some would respond with indignant hostility. Mainly, though, the subjects of my recordings generally seemed confused. Probably the most frequent question I got was: "Why are you doing that?" As a child, I really didn't have a good answer for that.

I had various up and down periods of recording. 4th and 5th grade was a prolific era, as was Junior High. Then, a significant dip during high school, and a gradual fading away to almost nothing during the early and mid 90's.

Sometime around 1997, something sort of magical happened. I had almost forgotten about my little collection of tapes, and one day, I came across the box full of them. I looked at them, and suddenly, I got it. At the age of 25, the answer to the question "Why are you doing that?" became powerful and self-evident. This "answer" is far too multi-faceted to sum up right here and now, but part of the intention of this blog is to answer this question, over time, through musings/essays and of course the Ultimate Primary Source: excerpts from the tapes.

After this revelation, I re-embarked upon the recording mission, this time with a bit more conscious intention. The rest is history, as they say. I've since expanded into other media for field recording; mini-cassette, 1/4" reel-to-reel tape, CD, direct-to-disk .wav and .mp3 files, minidisc, ADAT, and handheld digital recorders.

Honestly, though, nothing beats an old-fashioned compact cassette recorder; the buttons, the whirring and humming, the gritty hiss & pops & battery powered sonic artifacts, the visceral spontaneous "start-stop" of analogue recording... and, of course, the little object that you can pop out of the recorder, grip in your hand and say: "This is something that happened".
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Written by normscott

April 7th, 2010 at 6:26 pm

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