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Re: LOOPING CAPITOL OF THE UNIVERSE: San Luis Obispo vs. Santa Cruz
Having just driven the Great Loop from Los Angeles to San Francisco,
passing through both Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo along the way, I
was "out of the loop" during this discussion. However, in my usual
didactic manner I want to bring up a few historical points concerning
the genesis of looping as we know it, arguing that San Francisco was
probably the wellspring (though probably not the current hotbed).
Although people had been making tape loops and using tape delay and
overdubbing techniques before her, Pauline Oliveros can rightly be
credited as a foremost practitioner of live tape delay performance in
the late 1950s and early 1960s. She got her first tape recorder in
1953 and was soon using it in unusual ways. Pauline started threading
tape between two decks to get long delays (thereby anticipating Eno
by more than a decade and very likely giving him the idea).
P.O. wasn't alone in this, of course. Since the scene that grew out
of the S.F. Conservatory new music concerts and evolved into the San
Francisco Tape Center was inherently collaborative, musical ideas and
techniques flowed quickly through the community. Terry Riley was also
a major figure in this group, and his use of tape delay and
repetitive musical patterns was probably a formative influence on
many contemporary loopers (I'll credit both him and Pauline with my
first use of tape delay in 1975 - in Santa Cruz!).
Terry in turn had an influence on Steve Reich, who was also working
at the Tape Center. The tape loop-based pieces "It's Gonna Rain"
(1965) and "Come Out" (1966) opened the door to Reich's later
pattern/repetition/phasing pieces for instruments.
Evolving alongside tape techniques was Don Buchla's modular
synthesizer, and it is interesting to remember that the analog step
sequencer was introduced as part of the Buchla 100 system, in
response to Mort Subotnick's musical needs.
It's also important to note that during this seminal period the Bay
Area (and indeed other places along the West Coast) we also centers
of great interest in world music. Gamelan, African drumming, and
other non-western musics were being studied and performed in
universities and such specialized schools and music centers as the
Ali Akbar College of Music and the Center for World Music. The cyclic
and contrapuntal character of many of these musics were essential
influences on developing loopism.
I arrived in the Bay Area in 1974 and started doing electroacoustic
music when I moved to Santa Cruz the following year. All of the
musical influences mentioned above were heavily "in the air" and were
effectively part of a new music commmon practice. A few
composer-performers such as Ingram Marshall, Henry Kaiser, the
Electric Weasel Ensemble (including Don Buchla and Allen Strange),
and later on Paul Dresher, were performing with delay and loop
systems. By that time Pauline was at U.C. San Diego, the Tape Center
was well established at Mills, Gordon Mumma was at U.C. Santa Cruz,
Daniel Lentz was in Santa Barbara. There was a free flow of live
electronic music up and down the state, and clearly this is becoming
Richard Zvonar, PhD