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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 
so again.


Richard Zvonar, PhD
(818) 788-2202