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Filed under: Art
Tags: interview, california, cassette tape

Listening to a Tape - A - Interview with Charles Rice Goff III and Robert Silverman

Sometimes a few raindrops fall. One of the cats is pregnant. The tape is a 20th century relict; its inlay is a yellow copy-paper with a map of USSR-ian Europe on it, titles and info in neat small black characters emanate an illusion of relief. The cassette itself is one you'd buy in a store, TDK, MAXELL, FUJI or SONY. There's more brands of course, but this one is a transparent TDK with triangles of gaffer tape stuck on it. Herd of the Ether Space - Beyond the Confessions of Hiss.

Confessions of Hiss

The memory goes back more then thirty years. We are in Oakland, Bay Area, California. Start 1981, finish 1989. Those are the two years united in Confessions of Hiss. In between there was Reagan and Mr. Gorbatsjov-tear-down-this-wall. A Polish pope travelled around the world and kissed concrete everywhere he went. Television. News. USA Today at the supermarket, together with six kilo's of raw meat. Cans of Beer, Cooks. Barbecue Party, t-shirt, flipflops, cappie, belly, a few jokes. Aerobic pink and Aerobic green.

I was in Oakland a few years ago. I was most impressed by the empty factory halls, now in the middle of clean air. Big massive letters spelled out A M E R I C A N S T E E L. There was a lot of pride in it, and triumph. Triumph of Capitalism turned into Triumph of a Dream. The pride was still palpable in the streets. Epochs are hardly made by the politics or the iconic image of a president of the USA. Oakland's streets must have been full of people going to work. Decades must have passed. In those decades shoes and trousers, shirts of the working man changed just a bit in style. Dust is from all times, as is the sunshine hitting hard when Summer comes. Ventilator making its rounds under the ceiling. Getting horny after work, bottle of beer at the lips, scrutinising the waitress.

Paradise is in a film studio. Zombies and private eyes, too. All falls down, heroin's heroes play a guitar solo. The leading actress faints. Rehearsing voices keep on echoing in a film set cave. De Sica's Bicycle Thieves is played in a backyard cinema. Going home in an old convertible. Living in a big house and in a small house, changing housemates. There is that sofa again, carried to the front porch, sit on it, drink beer from a can, play guitar and hear the neighbours and crickets and factories join with their yelling and tv-sets and fm radio and the distant hum. Sunset. The Pacific Ocean is just a car ride away.

Robert: Past and present merge. Dimensions intersect for an instant. In this fraction of a second, everything is possible, and everything is timeless. Analog and digital press together. I’m digital and Charles is analog. The two of us communicate to each other via anticipated sounds. Ronald Regan claims cold war victory. We know better. Salute the flag or bury it. Your choice.

Charles: The Robert Silverman- C.Goff III improvised recordings that blend together in this piece were recorded on June 7th, 1981 and November 2nd, 1989. The span of these recordings coincides almost exactly with the beginning and ending of an eight year romance that moulded my personal life in many ways. She was present at the 1981 session, held at Robert's residence. The recording was done in a large room with large windows which overlooked Berkeley's Tilden Park.

As the romantic story goes, my lover and I met as idealistic young adults; she left me years later for a life adherent to the ideals of classic Marxism. Synchronistically enough, the 1989 Silverman/Goff recording which is blended into "Confessions Of Hiss" is coloured with samples of broadcast news stories about the Cold War of Soviets vs. Americans, so-called "Communism" vs. so-called "Democracy."

Much of this tape's broadcast news centers around the 1949 trial of Alger Hiss for being a Communist and a Soviet spy. Amazingly, the 1989 recording was made exactly a week before the biggest symbol of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, was torn down.

Where did you find the cold war broadcast samples?

Charles: Robert had brought a record of Edward R. Murrow news reports to incorporate into the session. As we grooved to Murrow’s historic reports about the Cold War and the building of the Berlin Wall, people in Germany were actually beginning to chip away at the Berlin Wall, which was finally breached a week later on November 9th, 1989.

How did you come across the 1949 trial of Alger Hiss. What can you tell about him?

Charles: The Alger Hiss story was reported on the Edward R. Murrow album. Hiss's trial is an important bit of American History. It was an early (pre-McCarthy-ism) component of the Republican Party's anti-Communist crusade. The Congressional hearing that eventually led to Hiss being convicted in a federal court of being both a Communist and a Soviet spy was headed up by Congressman Richard Nixon. The attention that Nixon got from this hearing led his to being elected as a Senator, a Vice President (twice), and a President (twice) over the course of the next twenty four years. If you watch the video that Chris Camacho did for the piece: "Confessions Of Hiss," it portrays E.R. Murrow, Nixon, and Hiss.

As Far as the Eye Could See the Lord Sayeth unto Abraham

A decade rests in between the starting and vanishing point of this track. It was a decade when nuclear weapons were pointed at the cold war zones. The earth was a basket full of fireworks. One spark was enough to make it disappear. This knowledge was pumped into everyone's consciousness on a daily base. That was what made the 80s doomed. But to whom?

Once again the walk goes in a different direction, towards a history that drips through the façades of the shops and houses in San Francisco. Calligraphy coughs up another time, so do redwood forests and the view on the harbour, the misthorns of the ship or the distant howl of the Amtrak train. People arrived just before and after the turn of the century, all excited, all moving like mad to make a living. The tramp trail still finishes on Mission.

Look into this song and you look at speeded up masses in black and white images from the early age of the movies. A man with a bowler hat, dressed like a pimp looks into the camera, to the left, smiles, says something we don't hear, the next shot we look at the woman with the beard, a contortionist or a dancing bear. Life takes colour and a marching band arrives from around the corner, dressed like Roman soldiers; a preacher remains unimpressed, continues his sermon.

We are also back with American Steel and the howling sounds of iron being cut, the big plates smashed against each other, the infernal beauty of destruction and re-creation. Walk, sit in an old car, public transport, so many people on the streets, so many colours on a sunny day, so many snippets of conversation, honks, sirenes, yells, the awareness of the trance-inducing rhythm of walking, the stand still on the pivot of space and time, and all and all and all just keeps spinning round like an endless introduction to some country song by a young guy who Od-eed on heroin. It rains in the desert.

Robert: 1981 was the year of dreams and oblivion for me. I chased the tail of the dragon and puffed mightily. Anguish is palpable in the music. Time is out of joint. Ensoniq 13-bit sampling was my salvation back then. Death is not easy to process. I found ecstasy in the face of agony – in the conflict of sound.

Charles: "As Far As The Eye Can See" is a legitimate metaphor for how this entire cassette album has been observed and re-observed by the world since its inception. At first the tape was transported thousands of miles from my California recording studio in response to a request that it be included in a catalog for a Norwegian tape label. As far as I can tell, however, this tape label quickly faded into non-existence before a single copy of the tape was distributed.

Nevertheless, Taped Rugs Productions promoted it to broadcasters and other artists all over the world, and it did get some broadcast airplay as far as the eye can see, on various American and European radio programs. I actually have a tape recording which was sent to me in 1991 by a broadcaster from the French (Bordeaux) "Ensemble Vide" radio show, which features the "sermon" portion of this piece. In 2009, I digitised "Beyond The Confessions Of Hiss" and posted it as a free stream/download at the wonderful, non-profit, online library of archive.org. There it became available to anyone as far as the eye can see who has access to internet technology and is located in the range of a transmitter antenna.

.In 2010, one of the hundreds of listeners to this album, Chris Camacho from far off Florida, was inspired enough by the opening piece to create an incredible video to illustrate it (without any encouragement, nor even any awareness, on my part).

In 2014, the actual grandson of one of the witnesses whose testimony helped convict Alger Hiss in 1949 (amazing he stumbled on this!), watched and commented on Chris Camacho's video from somewhere beyond where my eyes can see. The legacy of this cassette album now contains your poetic observations as well. I can only imagine that this legacy will continue to stretch as far as the eye can see for many years to come.