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Telematic Tape: Notes on Maryanne Amacher's City-Links (1967–1980)


Reel-to-reel recordings and 15 kilocycle telelinks converge in Maryanne Amacher's telematic installation series City-Links (1967–81). As long-duration recordings of urban sites, City-Links queries the musicality of ambient sound on tape, a question of critical importance to many composers of the period. But as expressly telematic tape, City-Links embeds these recordings within a transforming US telecommunications industry where expanded long-distance dialing relied on the high-tech labour and gendered discipline of telephone operators, enrolling tapes’ ambient sounding in broader questions about the technological mediation of gender, listening and long-distance embodiment during City-Links late 1960s and 1970s span. An extended reconstruction of one City-Links's tape's tactile qualities interprets this complex interimplication as a kind of telematic ‘weave’, with a spatiotemporal warp shuttling between the weft of environmental sounds and their technical traces.

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Many thanks to Clara Latham, Julie Beth Napolin, Andrea Bohlman, Peter McMurray, Jason Stanyek, Julian Johnson, and one anonymous reviewer for feedback and comments that have improved this essay. I am also grateful to audiences at the American Music (2013); American Comparative Literature Association, ‘Sites of Sound’ Seminar (2014); ‘Hearing Landscape Critically’ Conference at Harvard University (2015); ‘Tape: An Archaeology of the 20th Century’, American Musicological Society (2015); and ‘Creativity, Cognition and Critique’ Center for Critical Theory at UC Irvine (2016) that have dialogued with aspects of this project throughout its (ongoing) development. Any errors are, of course, my own.
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Twentieth-Century Music
  • ISSN: 1478-5722
  • EISSN: 1478-5730
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