audio cassette

Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine

Launched from the Lower East Side, Manhattan in 1983 as a subscription only bimonthly publication, the Tellus cassette series took full advantage of the popular cassette medium to promote cutting-edge downtown music, documenting the New York scene and advancing experimental composers of the time – the first 2 issues being devoted to NY artists from the downtown no wave scene. The series was financially supported along the years by funding from the New York State Council of the Arts, Colab and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tellus was created in 1983 at the Rum Runner Bar on Canal Street in New York City. Joseph Nechvatal, a visual artist, Claudia Gould, a curator and Carol Parkinson, a composer and staff member of Harvestworks/Studio PASS met to discuss the idea of a magazine on cassette which would feature interesting and challenging sound works. With the advent of the Walkman and the Boom Box, the editors perceived a need for an alternative to radio programming and the commercially available recordings on the market at that time.
(from Harvestworks website )

The Tellus Project

Tellus publishers (digital artist and art music composer Joseph Nechvatal, curator and now director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia Claudia Gould and composer Carol Parkinson, director of Harvestworks from 1987 on) never considered running an underground culture audio publication, rather envisaging the compact cassette medium as a no wave fluxus art form in itself. This was quite a unique point of view at a time (the early 1980s), when many self-released cassettes blossomed through mail order and trade between audio artists, mail art folks and hardcore punk bands who were promoting a mostly minimalism punk inspired DIY technique of more-or-less anti-art nihilism. But Nechvatal and Parkinson had met in the mid-1970s dancing as a performance art / minimal art dance trio (with Cid Collins) influenced by the post Merce Cunningham postmodern dance/choreography of Lucinda Childs, Deborah Hay, Yvonne Rainer and Carolee Schneemann (with whom they toured Europe in 1978). And they continued to see each other in the art music milieu of the rigorous downtown minimal music scene as they worked for the Dia Art Foundation as assistants to La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela and Pandit Pran Nath. So by contrast to a lax attitude, the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine never indulged in rank amateurism. Their audio releases were always tightly focused, well researched and aptly curated.

Curatorial Policy

Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine was in activity for the ten years of 1983-1993, thus witnessing and participating in the digital revolution taking place in new media arts. Some points of comparison can be established with the Toronto based MusicWorks Journal cassette series - launched 1978. And with the ROIR cassette-only releases of various musical styles (from Flipper to Lee Perry to Einsturzende Neubauten) that was launched 1981.

Tellus published audio art, new music, poetry and drama, exploring musical spheres as diverse as avant-garde composition, post-industrial music, NY no wave, Fluxus sounds, noise music, heirs to Harry Partch, avant rock, sound poetry, radio plays, tango, electroacoustic music, sound collage etc.

The series included some landmark sound works now regarded as historical: Louise Lawler’s ‘Birdcalls’ (Tellus #5-6), Christian Marclay's ‘Groove’ (Tellus #8), Lee Ranaldo's ‘The Bridge’ (Tellus #10) and Alison Knowles's ‘Nivea Cream Piece’ (Tellus #24); among others.

Tellus championed the audio work of women and gay artists, something that was very much needed at the time in the machismo-tinged experimental music scene. Their curatorial policy was efficient, as well, as the editorial trio sometimes asked outside specialists to compile a program in their own field. This policy insured state-of-the-art programming.

Distribution and Production

From the start, the founding members deliberately aimed at raising the profile of cassette culture releases, sending Tellus issues by mail to US public libraries, university galleries and various art museums. In addition the Tellus team helped launch the Harvestworks Artist-In-Residence Program which was set up to help promote independent artists’ projects and provide them with a professional sound recording facility: namely Studio PASS

Legacy and Appreciation

  • Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine has been mentioned as an inspiration to the opening of the Sound Art Museum in Rome (2007).
  • An exhibition was held at Printed Matter in New York City devoted to current American cassette culture entitled "Leaderless: Underground Cassette Culture Now" (May 12th -26th 2007) that referred to the influence of Tellus.

The Tellus Archives

In November-December 2007 the blogger of reassessed aural delicacies Continuo and avantgarde resource Ubuweb decided to create an exhaustive on-line archive for the Tellus audio recordings - now as free mp3 files - thus launching a renewed interest in the Tellus series.

Tellus Cassetography

Tellus #1
Cassette, 1983.
Curated by Claudia Gould, Joseph Nechvatal, Carol Parkinson. Cover art by Walter Robinson.
With Jody Harris, Jerry Lindahl, Sonic Youth, Brenda Hutchinson, Live Skull, Tom Lopez/ZBS Productions, Rat at rat r, Bradley Eros, Bruce Tovsky, Gretchen Langheld, Mitch Corber, Barbara Ess (with Barbara Barg), Joseph Nechvatal, Verge Piersoi, Tron Von Hollywood with Raina Jane Sherry, David Linton, Rhys Chatham.

Tellus #2
Cassette, 1984.
Curated by Claudia Gould, Joseph Nechvatal, Carol Parkinson. Cover art by Jane Dickson.
With Kiki Smith, John Fekner, Vernita Nemec, The Scene Is Now, Tony Papa, Cardboard Air Band, Peter Nechvatal, Charlie Morrow, Alex Noyes, Ikkoh Mine, David Rosenbloom, Carol Parkinson, David Garland, John Fekner, Mitch Corber, Jamie Daglish and George Elliot, Dr. Telecom, Charlie Noyes, Holly Huges+Sally A. White+Maureen Angelos+Jill Kirschen+Janee Pipik, Ron Kuivala.

Tellus #3
Cassette, 1984.
Curated by Claudia Gould, Joseph Nechvatal, Carol Parkinson. Cover art by Erik Kualszik.
With Kirby Malone, Jim Farmer, Christopher Knowles, Disband, Chain Gang, Gregory Whltehead, Daniel Shklalr, Bruce Tovaky, Wolfgang Staehle and Steve Pollack, Isaac Jackson, Cardboard Air Band, John Shirley and Sync 66, Tim Schellenbeum, The Tlnklers, Boom, Brian Reinbolt, Wharton Tiers.

Tellus #4 Piano
Cassette, 1984.
Curated by Claudia Gould, Joseph Nechvatal, Carol Parkinson. Cover art by Joseph Nechvatal.
With Julius Eastman, David Weinstein, Michael Byron, Paul Dresher, Carol Parkinson, Ellen Fullman, John Morton.

Tellus #5 & 6 Double Audio Visual Issue
Cassette, 1984.
Curated by Claudia Gould, Joseph Nechvatal, Carol Parkinson. Special boxed double issue.
With Louise Lawler, Paul McMahon and Nancy Chun, Julie Harrison, Richard Prince, Julie Wachtel, Perry Hoberman, Ericka Beckman, David Wojnarowicz and Doug Bressler, Paul McMahon and Nancy Chun, Raimund Kummer, Barbara Barg and Barbara Ess, Kathryn High, Bite Like A Kitty, Anne Turyn, Michael Smith, Rhys Chatham.

Tellus #7 The Word I
Cassette, 1984.
Curated by Gregory Whitehead. Cover art by Peter Nagy.
With Linda Fisher, Michael Peppe, Wiska Radiewicz, John Miller, Terry Wilson, Lynne Tillman, Victor Poison-Tete, Jean-Paul Curtay, Claire Picher, Patrick McGrath, Molly Elder, Michael Gira, Gregory Whitehead, Nicolas Nowack, Cid Collins Walker, Richard Kostelanetz, Paul Bob Town, Nameless Stone Productions.

Tellus #8 USA/Germany
Cassette, 1985.
Curated by Carlo McCormick. Cover art by Debbie Davis.
With Konk, Joshua Fried, Details At Eleven, Cargo Cult, Destructo, His Masters Voice, Rat at rat r, Yellow Grave, Live Skull, Elliott Sharp, Fast Forward, Christian Marclay, Club of Rome (aka Asmus Tietchens), Saurekeller, Galerie Global, Nicolas Nowack.

Tellus #9 Music with Memory
Cassette, 1985.
Curated by John Driscoll. Cover art by Carol Parkinson.
With Nicolas Collins, John Driscoll, Brenda Hutchinson, Ron Kuivila, Paul De Marinis.

Tellus #10 All Guitars!
Cassette, 1985.
Curated by Live Skull founding member Tom Paine. Cover art by Jane Bauman.
With Lee Ranaldo, Arto Lindsay and Toni Nogueira, Janice Sloane, Butthole Surfers, New Detroit Inc., Bob Mould, Bond Bergland, Joseph Nechvatal, Elliot Sharp, David Llnton, Jules Baptiste, Tim Schellenbaum, Bump, Rudolph Gray, Hahn Rowe, John Myra, Lydia Lunch and Lucy Hamilton, Sue Manel, Bliss BargeId, Andrew Nahem, Sandra Seymour, Run Nigger Run, Thurston Moore, Mark C. and Marnie Greenholz, Glenn Branca, James Vidos, Angela Babln and Joe Dizney, Frankenjerry.

Tellus #11 The Sound of Radio
Cassette, 1985.
Curated by Karen Frillmann & Karen Pearlman. Cover art by Steven Frailey.
With Jay Allison, Adam Cornford & Daniel Crafts, Susan Stone, The New York IPS, M’lou Zahner Ollswang, Ginna Allison, Marjorie van Halteren, Lou Giansante, Karen McPherson, Barrett Golding, Rick Harris, Janice Bell & Portia Franklin, Melanie Berzon, Edward Haber, Steve Jones, Helen Thorington, Ginger Miles, Karen Frillmann.

Tellus #12 Dance
Cassette, 1986.
Curated by Gretchen Langheld & Bruce Tovsky. Cover art by Barbara Ess.
With Bill Obrecht, A. Leroy, R. McQuire, Carol Parkinson, Linda Fisher, Lenny Pickett, Anita Feldman+Michael Kowalski, J.A. Deane, Gretchen Langheld, Bruce Tovsky, Brooks Williams, Jim Farmer, Hearn Gadbois, Liquid Liquid, Al Diaz, David Linton.

Tellus #13 Power Electronics
Cassette, 1986.
Curated by Joseph Nechvatal. Cover art by Joseph Nechvatal.
With Maybe Mental, Merzbow, Amor Fati, If, Bwana, Rhys Chatham, Psyclones, Blackhouse, Joseph Nechvatal, Master/slave Relationship, Maybe Mental, Architects Office, Controlled Bleeding, Mojo, Coup de Grâce, Le Syndicat, Mitch Corber, F/i.

Tellus #14 Just Intonation
Cassette, 1986.
Curated by the Just Intonation Network. Cover art by James Nares.
With Harry Partch, Ralph David Hill, Carola B. Anderson, David Hykes, Lou Harrison, Jon Catler, David Canright, David B. Doty, John Bischoff,+Jim Norton+Tim Perkis, Ben Johnston, Erling Wold, Susan Norris, James Tenney, Larry Polansky, Alexis Alrich, Jody Diamond.

Tellus #15 The Improvisors
Cassette, 1986.
Cover art by Scott Richter.
With live ‘improvisions’ by Chris Cochrane, Anthony Coleman, Carol Emanuel, Tom Cora, Bill Frisell, Bobby Previte, Lindsay Cooper, Fred Frith, Irene Schweizer, Christian Marclay, Bill Horvitz, David Weinstein, Denman Maroney, Samm Bennett, Jim Staley, Ikue Mori, John Zorn.

Tellus #16 Tango
Cassette, 1986.
Contributing editor Gerald Lindhal. Cover art by Russell Buckingham.
With Carlos Gardel, David Garland, Chris DeBlasio, Keeler, Brenda Hutchinson & Gerald Lindhal, Alan Tomlinson, Elodie Lauten, Jo Basile & Orchestra, Robert Scheff, Molly Elder, Matthew Nash, Jo Basile & Orchestra, Christopher Berg, Fast Forward, Mader.

Tellus #17 Video Art Music
Cassette, 1987.
Curated by Peer Bode. Cover art by Peer Bode.
With Woody Vasulka, Peter Chamberlain, Richard Kostelanetz, Shelley Hirsch, Joe D’Agostino, Julie Harrison, Kjell Bjorgeengen, Sorrel Hays, Eric Ross, Megan Roberts, Jean-Paul Curtay.

Tellus #18 Experimental Theater
Cassette, 1988.
Curated by Claudia Gould and Carol Parkinson. Cover art by Mike Kelly.
With Spalding Gray, Ann Magnuson with Vulcan Death Grip, Mike Kelly with Sonic Youth, Jerri Allyn, Ann Magnuson & Lydia Lunch.

Tellus #19 New Music China
Cassette, 1988.
Curated R.I.P. Hayman. Cover art by Zhang Wei, calligraphy by Huang Pao Lian.
With Ji Gong, Wang Li, Zhang Xing, Tiao Ba Tiao Ba, Zui Jiu, Hao Yuchi, Electronic Dirge, Xian Percussion Ensemble, Miao Love Chant, Liu Dehal, Gong Yi, Fred Houn, Chen Yi, Ge Gan Ru, Zhou Long, Wu Wen Guang, Tan Dun, R.I.P. Hayman, Jing Jing Luo.

Tellus #20 Media Myth
Cassette, 1988.
Curated by Joseph Nechvatal. Cover art by Steven Parrino.
With Randy Greif, Pierre Perret, The Psychic Workshop, Social Interiors, If, Bwana, Crawling With Tarts, Violence and The Sacred, Art Interface, Minoy, Nicolas Collins, Silent But Deadly, JPM Studios, Joseph Nechvatal, A Place To Pray, Maurice Methot, Michael Chocholak, Dance.

Tellus #21 Audio By Visual Artists
Cassette, 1988.
Curated by Claudia Gould, Joseph Nechvatal, Carol Parkinson. Cover art by Cindy Sherman.
With Joseph Beuys, Maurice Lemaître, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Raoul Hausmann, Antonio Russolo, Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, Lawrence Weiner, George Brecht, Patrick Ireland, Richard Huelsenbeck, Arrigo Lora-Totino & Fogliati, Jean Dubuffet, Mimmo Rotella, Joan Jonas, Christian Boltanski, Ian Murray, Terry Fox, Jonathan Borofsky, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Richard Prince with Robert Gober, Martin Kippenberger, Jack Goldstein, John Armleder, Terry Allen, Gretchen Bender, Y Pants, Ed Tomney, Susan Hiller.

Tellus #22 False Phonemes
Cassette, 1988.
Curated by Ellen Zweig. Cover art by Matt Mullican.
With Remko Scha, Larry Wendt, Brian Reinbolt, Mark Rudolph, Alice Shields, Paul De Marinis, Paul Lansky, Jon English/Jim Pomeroy, Ron Kuivila, John Cage

Tellus #23 The Voices of Paul Bowles
Cassette, 1989.
Curated by Stephen Frailey. Cover photograph by Antonin Kratochvil.
Audioportrait incl. Paul Bowles early compositions ‘Music for a Farce’, ‘Interlude and Prelude # 2’, and moroccan field recordings.

Tellus #24 FluxTellus
Cassette, 1990.
Curated by Fluxus archivist Barbara Moore. Cover art by Peter Moore. Including a 16 page accordion fold-out booklet with Moore’s essay “The Sound Of Music”.
Featuring early sound work by George Brecht, Philip Corner, Dick Higgins, Joe Jones, Alison Knowles, Takehisa Kosugi, George Maciunas, Jackson Mac Low, Larry Miller, Tomas Schmit, Robert Watts and Emmett Williams. The cassette case includes a sound art work by Takako Saito.

Tellus #25 Siteless Sounds
Compact Disc, 1991.
Cover art by David Wojnarowicz.
Contains ‘political and personal views as expressed through new audiotext works” by David Wojnarowicz and Ben Neill, Shelley Hirsch, David Moss, Constance Dulong, Brenda Hutchinson, Gregory Whitehead and a collaboration with Jacki Apple, Linda Albertano, Keith Antar Mason and Akailah Nayo Oliver.

Tellus #26 Jewel Box
Compact Disc, 1992.
Curated by Brian Karl. Cover art by Kiki Smith.
With Anne LeBaron, Laetitia Sonami, Sussan Deihim, Bun-Ching Lam, Catherine Jauniaux & Ikue Mori, Sapphire, Mary Ellen Childs, Michelle Kinney.

Tellus #27 Mini-mall
Compact Disc, 1993.
With Brenda Hutchinson, Jin Hi Kiim, and Pauline Oliveros with Fanny Green.

Tellus Tools
Double-LP (TE-LP01), 2001.
Curated by Taketo Shimada. Cover art by Christian Marclay.
Including selections from previous issues: Isaac Jackson, Alan Tomlinson, Joe Jones, Christian Marclay, Ken Montgomery, Catherine Jauniaux, Ikue Mori, David Linton, Gregory Whitehead, The League Of Automatic Music Composers, Maurice Lemaire, Jerry Lindahl, Tim Schellenbaum & Jack Goldstein.

Cover art galery



  • Robert Palmer Pop Life: Electric Guitars, The New York Times, September 25th, 1985
  • Jon Pareles on cassette underground, The New York Times, May 11, 1987
  • Barbara Moore The Sound Of Music, essay printed in Tellus #24 FluxTellus, 1990
  • Robin James ed. Cassette Mythos, Autonomedia, 1992
  • David Toop Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds, Serpents Tail ed., 1995
  • Simon Emmerson Music, Electronic Media and Culture, Ashgate Publishing Co., 2000
  • Essays by Claudia Gould, Carol Parkinson, Joseph Nechvatal, Carlo McCormick, Brian Karl, Gen Ken Montgomery, Barbara Moore and Taketo Shimada included in TellusTools liner notes, Harvestworks ed., 2001
  • Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner Women Composers and Music Technology in the United States, Ashgate Publishing Co, 2006
  • Carlo McCormick, "The Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene, 1974–1984", Princeton University Press, 2006
  • Alan W. Moore, Artists' Collectives: Focus on New York, 1975-2000 in Collectivism After Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination after 1945, Blake Stimson & Gregory Sholette, (eds) University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2007, pp. 193-221

Online articles

External links


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