Reel to Reel

Reel to Reel features 4 domestic reel to reel machines, 2 of my Grandmother’s from the 60s, my mother’s, also from the 60s  and the one I bought in 1977. A continuous loop runs all around the four machines creating delayed playback of recordings and the user can build up layers by superimposing recordings and generating feedback using the mic.



I thought it was normal to have a Nannie that recorded stuff all the time. Back in the sixties we would visit on a Sunday and sing songs into her mic. The ROBUK and the ELIZABETHAN were hers.

My mother followed in her footsteps and bought the Garrard. This was very pretty in it’s day but is looking a bit worse for wear now. It came with cassettes to hold the small reels of tape and was a for-runner of the cassettes invented by Phillips in 1962 but that I remember hitting the mass markets at the beginning of the 70s.

I bought my first reel to reel in 1972 for £12. It was a large domestic machine and I blasted its valves mercilessly, using it as a substitute guitar amp amongst other things. I bought the Akai in 1977 as my main hi-fi tape machine.

Development of Reel to Reel

I have been thinking about an installation using these machines for years. When the TIME SHOW was proposed it seemed obvious to make some kind of delay machine using the recorders. The ELIZABETHAN has a button on the front called ‘Superimpose’ which literally turns off the erase head so you can record over the existing recording without erasing all evidence of the original. This button was used to develop the ideas used in the final setup. It stopped working, mysteriously, after one of my sons had had a go at it, so I modified the AKAI to be able to turn off it’s erase head. This is better as the AKAI has three heads and so can play back the sound that has just been recorded a fraction of a second after as the tape moves from the record head to the playback head. (With a two head machine, the record head and playback head are the same so you can’t monitor your recording).

I originally proposed to have all sorts of cabled feedback loops in the system but decided that using the mic in proximity to the speakers was a much simpler, obvious and effective performance tool.

The user simply uses the mic to input any sound they like/have to hand, and then uses the switch to turn the layering on and off.