5 October 2011
The Ernie Althoff cassette archive
A unique slice of Australia's experimental music history is being reissued online in the early cassette releases of Melbourne composer and instrument builder, Ernie Althoff. From 1985 to 1992, Althoff released four album-length cassettes, now all sold out. Shame File Music is progressively reissuing Althoff's cassette back catalogue and making the recordings freely available as the Ernie Althoff Cassette Archive.
Ernie Althoff grew up in Geelong, Victoria, and began experimenting with varispeed cassette tape recorders as instruments in the mid-1970s. Introduced to the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre (CHCMC) in 1978, Althoff cut his compositional and performer teeth at this seminal venue, performing with the likes of Ron Nagorcka and Warren Burt, whilst developing his own ideas about music.
Initially, Althoff concentrated on the domestic tape recorder as his 'virtuoso instrument', and, in late 1970s and 1980s, developed a range of performance techniques for tape recorder (see: http://www.rainerlinz.net/NMA/articles/Ferric-oxide.html).
His CHCMC experience helped shape Althoff as a strong performer acutely sensitive to the acoustic and aesthetic properties of a performance space and able to shape his performance appropriately. Althoff is also one of those rare experimental music performers who understands that a conceptually and intellectually rigorous performance is not mutually exclusive to an entertaining one. Both his performances and recordings are often tempered with a wry humour that adds to the music.
Althoff is best known today for his instrument-building. He built his first 'music machine' in 1980, which opened new vistas for him to explore the chance-based composition that had been central to his earlier tape recorder performances.
By the mid-1980s, he was exhibiting his machines on their own as self-playing instruments. Over the past three decades, he has created a variety of music machines that range from self-playing to those played by Althoff in performance or recording environments. His machines have been powered by turntables, cassette motors and solar energy, and are often built from simple everyday items such as tin cans or toys.
Althoff has been a regular contributor to the Melbourne experimental music community for over three decades, creating sound-based installations, giving lectures, and performing solo or in collaboration.
The four cassettes reissued online for the archive document Althoff's interests in media-specific composition and performance from this period, along with the sonic results of his unique music machines. Each online reissue is accompanied by the original liner notes and cover art, reviews, photos and sketches of the music machines used, along with Althoff's current thoughts on each release.
Access the Ernie Althoff Cassette Archive at Shame File Music. Each release is freely available to download/stream, or can be ordered on CDR.
Ferric-oxide Archaeology - a survey of audio cassette player manipulation techniques in live performance, 1977- 91: Ernie Althoff (http://www.rainerlinz.net)
Shame File Music (http://www.shamefilemusic.com/)
© Australian Music Centre (2011) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
Clinton Green is a Melbourne writer, performer and researcher with an interest on the history of Australian experimental music.
Be the first to share add your thoughts and opinions in response to this article.
You must login to post a comment.