Four Telemetry Tapes are the last pieces of truly organized sound that I did - though they’re almost entirely “electronic”: three rewired audio test generators, played by twisting dials and knobs. The original idea came from recordings of early satellites, starting with Sputnik: the messages they sent back to earth, “telemetry,” were, to my ears, in the form of loops, slowly and subtly changing over transmission times. I constructed a lot of these loops, and started to mix them - and managed to create an early form of what became New Age music: restful, but, to me, dull.
So, as I had with Drone, I threw out the score (but kept the title) and began to improvise, trying to find out how far I could push those three generators. The loops would have been much easier, as it turned out: almost every note had to be cut into shape, on tape: attacks, sustains, decays - my “envelopes” were hand-made with a razor blade and a steel straight-edge, and so much splicing tape that the original tape is often entirely white. The tapes were finished just about the time that the first “personal” synthesizers became available, along with sequencers - and all that work was instantly made obsolete. But it was fun to do, fun to push those primitive means so far into what became the immediate future.
Except for three notes on a guitar, the sound sources were entirely three test generators, rewired into instability. The fast tone-strings in the second Tape were made by cutting quarter-inch tape into miniscule pieces and splicing them together - so I might have twenty or forty splices in a foot of tape. The third Tape is, primarily, two generators set to beat against each other. The fourth Tape is a form of “loops” (which was the “telemetry” idea I began with) and is about everything I could get those three, poor generators to do (one died during the composition).