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Current Version (version 3, 5 Jan 2011, 17:47)
"Early Cassette Works" was constructed over the years 1990 - 1995 as a means of overcoming recording obstacles. At the time, Gordon had no access to even the most rudimentary recording equipment. His "studio" so to speak consisted of a broken dual cassette deck that would, with a bit of finagling, play two tapes at once. The pieces were constructed one layer at a time, then bouncing two layers together, and so on and so on until the work was completed. This presented obvious stumbling blocks: first and foremost, one could not "play along" with the previous layer while recording a new one. Instead, changes were timed to the numerical counter on the tapedeck, with the hopes that when putting all the pieces together they'd sync properly. Gordon adjusted his compositional style to accomodate this - instead of interlocking lines and strict counterpoint, the goal was for what Cage once called "Korean Unison" - in which attacks would be close, but not exactly together, leading to a shimmering effect. Changes would occur over long stretches instead of suddenly. The second problem was, of course, that no further edits could be done after recording - individual parts needed to have their volume, pan, etc set in stone before moving on to the next layer. The third problem was, of course, multiple levels of tape hiss that would build up over up to sixteen layers. Because of this last factor it wasn't until many years later, when noise reduction technology became available to the masses, that these pieces were finally released.
But in addition the limitations, it presented opportunities: All sounds were produced on guitar, with a variety of effects. Because the deck had a "high speed" dubbing option, parts could be sped up or slowed down by a factor of two - by making the initial recording or mixing down at varying speeds.
These ideas - the lack of unison and counterpoint, and the very slow, gradual development of themes, the acceptance (and embrace) of randomness - ingrained themselves into Gordon's style for many years to come, even after he afforded himself more modern recording equipment. It's an interesting peek into his formative years, and the development of one artist's compositional method.