On Cassettes and nostalgia ☆

| April 27, 2010

I have stumbled upon two articles recently that discuss the place that the cassette holds in contemporary culture and music, one from Pitchfork and one from The Times. I personally have a deep affinity for cassettes and magnetic tape, partly for it’s lo-fi sound and partly for it’s literal impermanence. You can purchase vinyl records from 60 years ago that are still playable, but a cassette from even a decade ago may be irreparably damaged due to it’s simple existence and the deterioration of magnetic tape.  I also enjoy cassette labels because they provide a unique object in the mp3 age, and more often than not provide music that you cannot get on any other medium.

What is interesting about this interest in cassettes is that it seems to represent a media generational nostalgic cycle where media that is two generation’s removed becomes more authentic and the nostalgia for such media creates a new artistic identity for that specific medium. The rise of the CD coincided with the larger expanse of vinyl collection and  vinyl nostalgia for example. The CD made the cassette seem far inferior but the LP more authentic.  I first became aware of cassette only labels in the early 2000’s around the time of the mp3’s mass ascendency. The medium of choice was again shifting, making the CD seem outdated and the cassette seem authentic. I wonder what would cause a sense of nostalgia for the mp3 age? Streaming music libraries in the cloud perhaps?

In conclusion this short post is just to illuminate some brief thoughts I have had recently about the role of nostalgia in creating authenticity for specific forms of media, and to begin my own discussion of cassettes and tape, mediums for which I have deep affection.