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Re: Steam-powered looping

Hi Jim-- 

Thank you very much for taking the time to expand on some details
of one- and two-deck tape looping.  I really appreciate it, and next time
I see a decent reel-to-reel deck (to pair with my current one) come
available, I'll think twice about passing it up!  Since you did give me
permission to post your e-mail on the list, I'm gonna do it because others
here may find it interesting and helpful.  Thanks again!  

-Ken Fletcher

On Fri, 21 Nov 1997, Bailey, Jim <baileyj@donmspcn.cmail.southam.ca> 

:::I don't know if you've had any other replies besides the one from Bret, 
:::I thought I'd mention a few things that might be somewhat useful, 
:::worked with both kinds of loops for 20+ years (and still doing so!).
:::As for the closed-loop, single deck version, unless you can disable the 
:::erase head, this is really only good for creating a static loop (i.e. 
:::that doesn't change) for a background to other sounds. With the erase 
:::disabled, however, you run the risk of sounds building up until they 
:::undifferentiated goop. Another major sticking point (literally and 
:::figuratively), is that splice. It does tend to sepatate after a while, 
:::caution should be exercised.
:::Regarding the two-deck method:
:::(heavy sarcasm mode ON)You want to know about this and DON'T have Eno's 
:::_Discreet Music_? NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY!!! Rectify this situation 
:::ONCE!(heavy sarcasm mode OFF) The reason I mention this, is not only 
:::it is one of the best examples of the genre, but also because the liner 
:::notes contain a diagram of the set-up which is clear enough even on the 
:::miniaturized CD version.
:::   Bret's description was accurate enough, so I won't repeat any of 
:::but one thing to keep in mind is that no two decks will run at the same 
:::speed (a feature which Steve Reich took advantage of in some of his 
:::tape pieces). This means that you will have one of two situations 
:::when the tape is running: If the faster deck is feeding, the tape will 
:::between the decks until there is a large pile on the floor which could 
:::problems later; conversely, if the slower deck is feeding, it could 
:::the tape to stretch (although with most good quality machines this 
:::be a problem - at least I haven't found it so). If you want to get 
:::fancy, it is possible to control the speed of one machine so that it 
:::perfectly with the other, although Revox is the only maker I know of 
:::provides such an option (outsice of professional machines, of course), 
:::is probably one of the main reasons Fripp and Eno used them. The 
:::of speed matching, besides overcoming the above problems, is that there 
:::less distortion of the signal on playback as well as other anomalies 
:::seem to sneak in, and so the repetitions are cleaner and can last 
:longer. I 
:::don't have any of that nifty shit, however, just a couple of Tandbergs, 
:::it's a bit tricky, but also gives some wondeous and unexpected results, 
:::precisely the reason why I prefer this system.
:::   Depending on whether the input signal is mono or stereo, one may 
:want to 
:::swap the channels on the return path to the record deck, so that left 
:::to right and vice versa. This can be especially effective for mono 
:::and can be done using the pan controls on a mixer, or simply by 
:reversing a 
:::pair of patch cables.
:::   To prove how adaptable the system is, I even did some loops using an 
:::ultra-cheap Sears portable machine for the playback. Very interesting 
:::results. As for your concerns about damage to the deck from the 
:::free-spinning reel, it doesn't seem to have had a noticable effect on 
:::machines, although I suppose it could wear out the hub brakes a bit 
:::than normal. My advice? Definitely go for it if you can snag another 
:::Although I'm sending this to you as personal mail, feel free to post it 
:::the list if you like. BTW, sorry about the lack of a formal opening, 
:but I 
:::realized that I'd forgotten to save your name along with the address.
:::Good luck, and happy looping!
:::Jim Bailey