The website Lateral Addition, edited by Eric Laska, specializes in sound art works. An entry that stuck in my head is "Popular Songs A," a cassette tape by NY artist Christopher Knowles. As writer Lauren DiGiulio explains it,
...in “Popular Songs A,” Knowles introduces a series of short excerpts from Billboard’s Top 20 songs of fourteen different years from 1957 to 1971. The songs are recorded from the Top 20 countdown series on WCBS-FM, an oldies radio station in New York City that offered a programmed countdown of classic hits in the early 1980s. He made this work on fourteen different days throughout the winter and spring of 1984, and each of the recordings is comprised of songs that were popular on the same day of the referenced year. This temporal layering, in which we hear Knowles in 1984 introducing songs from the previous decades, creates a folding effect that draws sonic connections across moments in mid-twentieth century popular music. Here, Knowles takes us on a tour of this formative period in music history, showing us the differences between the smooth soul lyricism of the late ‘50s, the funk-rock beats of the ‘60s, and the psychedelic poetry of the early ‘70s as we hear cropped excerpts of “Pretty Girls Everywhere” by Eugene Church & the Fellows from 1958, “Dance to the Music” by Sly & the Family Stone from 1968, and “Toast and Marmalade for Tea” by Tin Tin from 1971. As listeners, we are invited to tune in to the soundtrack of Knowles’s everyday world, and to shift effortlessly with him across these carefully measured distances.
The song snippets are no more than a few seconds each and punctuated by generous amounts of crackling tape noise. What stays with you, however, are Knowles' amateurish yet incantatory introductions to each group of songs. He is speaking into his cassette recorder in 1984 as if he had an actual audience, which he does, now, 32 years later. Here's an example of one of his spiels, that I transcribed, delivered in an accent that my Southern-born ears can't place to any particular NY borough:
Well now, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for listening to the popular songs of 1965, 19 years ago today. So, Wednesday, March thirty-first, 1965, 19 years ago today. So thank you very much for listening to the popular songs of 1965, 19 years ago today. So Wednesday March thirty-first, 1965, 19 years ago today, so thank you very much for enjoining it [sic]. [Tape noise] So, that was 1965. [Tape pause] Well, now, ladies and gentlemen, now you listen to the popular songs of 1962, 22 years ago today. So, Sunday, April first, 1962, 22 years ago today. So now listen to the popular songs of 1962, 22 years ago today. So, Sunday, April first, 1962, 22 years ago today. So now, you listen up!
These Beckett-like intros, and the time folding effect of listening in 2016 to a crunchy tape made in 1984 of aggressively-spliced musical madeleines from 1957-1971, put the "art" into this sound experiment.