All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015


I was delighted to receive a copy of this limited edition book of essays on the dead British screenwriter Nigel Kneale edited by Sukhdev Sandhu. Sukhdev has asked me to contribute a track to the accompanying album he was putting together as well as a one day symposium in New York: "A Cathode Ray Seance"

Kneale is probably best known outside a relatively small circle of afficionados as the creator of the mysterious scientific genius  Quatermass.  But he was truly a great - of the stature and influence of Dennis Potter -  I would say.  

If you are interested, for starters check out: his 1950s adaptation of Orwell's "1984" for the BBC (incredibly shot live in a single take and the program which made Peter Cushing a star);  the terrifying play "The Stone Tape";  the freakishly haunting TV show "Beasts" and of course the Quatermass films themselves.

I provided a "Theme for the Experimental Rocket Group':
"The Experimental Rocket Group was founded by Kneale's Quatermass but if they had been a band, what would they have sounded like?  It is always delightfully strange to write for an imaginary past -  especially when that past concerns an imaginary future.  So this little piece is intended to be one of the ways Now might have been imagined to have sounded Then.."

But the main delight for me in receiving the album is that it comes on a limited-edition CASSETTE

Hurrah!  That is the first time we have had music on actual tape.

Long Live Dead Formats.


Spilly Jane said...

I never thought I'd see the day (ok, well maybe I DID,) when cassettes would carry a certain hip cachet - which they now do, of course. More forms of media are dying - and at a faster rate! than ever before.

I actually studied "dead media" while at Library school. Looking back, that was my favourite class in an otherwise boring programme. The trick is, of course, preserving the old formats (which is pricey and time-consuming,) or migrating the information from those formats into one that is easier to access (even MORE pricey and MORE time-consuming.)

But there is a certain romance, isn't there, to the box that can never be opened; the message that can never be read; edifice that has crumbled into rubble and dust. We sigh and say "I wonder.." Add the cassette tape to that list! Unless you still have a tape player, of course - do you?

clerkenwell kid said...

Well, fortunately, I do - plus a Studer reel to reel. I oscillate between thinking these things are the last guttering of a dying candle, a perverse and anachronistic pleasure or a still valuable object alternative to the weightlessness of digital culture.

I like letter press for the same reason

Culture is getting progressively lighter. It is quite conceivable that every song recorded, every photograph taken, every film made, every book and letter written, even every painting could be collected and distributed on a memory stick.

That is absolutely amazing - but also makes it much easier to throw away.

Unknown said...

It's also possible that the digital era may be known as the lost era due to the destruction in various ways of the original copies held by publishers (nuclear devices, earthquakes, deleted to recover storage (see Patrick Troughton era Dr Who or rather don't as a lot of atpes were wiped).
The old physical copies held by the 1000s are safer (cloud based storage isn't necessarily secure as some companies don't keep backups). I still haven't made backups of most of my bootleg tapes.
Don't think The Stone Tape was a childrens play, are you getting confused with Children of the Stones which was a series rather than a single tv play.

clerkenwell kid said...

Absolutely right about the Stone Tape which was for grown ups, I was thinking of "Escape into Night" based on the book Marianne's dream'.

I think that you are absolutely right about holding onto the cds.

There is a whole other area to this though.
The production of physical artefact gives an appropriate weight to the content. It is an argument I have had many times with labels. Fortunately I had it written into my contract. Whilst I understand their argument - the statistics of physical sales do not justify the cost - I believe they underestimate the psychological necessity of a physical record of the content, for the artist and for themselves - the people who 'work' the record. I also believe (although this is a matter of faith) that it is also necessary for the listener who only downlaods, even illegally, that the real thing is in fact out there somewhere.

A world where Nick Drake's Pink Moon only exists as zip file of mp3s and a jpeg?

I think not!

Unknown said...

Perhaps a music equivalent of the folio society though that would lead to a somewhat stilted selection of available material limited to perceived classics or , having noted the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy in a somewhat weighty victorian library style edition in a recent folio society advert, ludicrously pretentious releases of Kylie albums. The cd and cassette by surplanting the larger more sturdy vinyl releases may have contributed to the death of the album sleeve as an artwork. Is there a modern equivalent of the likes of Barney Bubbles ?

clerkenwell kid said...

A musical Folio society? That is a such great idea.
We make special covers still - through Antique eat - for those who want them and for us. We will always do that

There are modern Barney Bubbles around - I think of Catherine Anyango as such - but less opportunities. (Vinyl is back btw)

The Real Tamsin said...

Marianne Dreams was one of my favorites as a child, but I can remember my mother saying I was terrified of it when they did a radio adaptation of it, but I think that was before I was old enough to read it by myself. Wasn't there a film called 'Paper House' based on it that was released fairly recently?

Despite much of my life being online I still can't bring myself to buy my music digitally (or books for that matter). Whilst I still end up listening to it digitally, I still like to have the physical CDs as backup. Data is so volatile.

Online stuff I try to make sure that I keep a copy online somewhere as well as those at home, on the grounds that it's unlikely that both versions will be destroyed simultaneously - if they are, I think there are probably more pressing problems to be worrying about.

Whilst cloud based services don't keep backups - the size of something such as flickr make it not really feasible to back it up, what tends to happen is that the data is duplicated so that even if one hard disk fails you still have a copy of the data.

clerkenwell kid said...

Yeah - I love paper. I have a big collection of paper ephemera. I am actually not that bothered about CDS - unless they have lovely covers but you are dead right about the volatility thing.

But there is another thing and maybe people can help. I want to get a little square format printer that can make high quality print outs of digital photos. I love hipstamatic and instagram and all that but what use are lovely images stuck on a hard drive or somewhere out amongst trillions of others on the cloud? I want 'em in my hand, on the wall, to send 'em out.

Same deal with music really, it is great to have these huge collections of amazing stuff - but do we actually listen to it?! My friend Don only plays vinyl (old and new) in his flat now (iPod when out)

The Real Tamsin said...

I'm lucky enough that I get to print my photos through work for free, but we don't have a square format at the moment.

There are a host of people who will print them for you:

The internet suggests you should be looking at a Canon Selphy printer as there is a square format paper for this.

I'm a bit iffy about camera phone photos as they're not particularly high quality so you can't do big prints of them and the whole filter thing makes the photo much have much less info in it. Doesn't stop me playing with Hipstamatic but I see it as a much more transient thing, like snapshots rather that proper photos.

clerkenwell kid said...

Good tips Tamsin, Thanks
Yes, I am sure it's a transient thing - we will start to long to bring back some Ken Loach reality soon

Unknown said...

You can print on square photo paper if your printer supports custom sizes. My mg6250 does for instance and that was only £140.
This site lists some square photo paper manufacturers and sells them .

Unknown said...

Will stick with cds as have storage space issues and the suspicion that one day the floor will give way and I will be buried under 2000 mixed lps/12" singles(first time I saw The Master and the Margarita at the Barbican an old lady informed me that I reminded her of Barry Humphries when she knew him , on a radio interview he said he expected the young men in the flat below his to die when his book collection fell on them ).
Already had London book of the dead and Live at the end of the world in digipack when I saw the special editions at the Arctic Circle do at Kings Place regrettably.

clerkenwell kid said...

I like music to weigh something. Recordings have got progressively lighter over the years - now they needn't weigh anything at all. (Does a digital file have any mass?).

Alex Kolkowski's been making new wax cylinders - mind you he can get a noise out of anything

Unknown said...

nothing beats the metal discs in some of the musical boxes for weight

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