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Patch Notes: Atomised Listening

Paul Cousins presents a multi-channel, interactive installation in which the listener becomes the performer.

Paul Cousins is a composer and sound artist from London who uses vintage reel-to-reel tape machines and effects to loop and reshape his electronic productions. “I like using sequential stages to create music, and I’m interested in how technological limitations can change the creative process,” he tells Fact. Cousins was one of the first contributors to our Patch Notes series back in 2020, and in this performance he returns with a performance of his new installation, Atomised Listening.

Atomised Listening is the idea of music being seemingly disconnected moments rather than a unified composition, a concept by Theodor Adorno,” Cousins explains. “Using tape machines, I wanted to create a multi-channel, asynchronous work along these lines that is participatory. With this installation, the tape loops are the ‘atoms’  and the listener becomes the performer, actively engaging in the experience. The composition evolves until the next user interacts with the work, using the mixing desk.”

In Atomised Listening, Cousins aims to explore our relationship with obsolete technology by repurposing the original function of the tape machine. “1/4″ tape has a certain character, and often contains imperfections that I’m interested in highlighting,” Cousins says. “It’s inspiring to hear a recording format’s influence on a composition, and I enjoy leaning into the limitations of tape rather than searching for subjective perfection.”

Atomised Listening was recorded at The Cause in London, using five Akai reel-to-reel machines from the 1960s and ’70s, a Roland Space Echo RE-201 and a TEAC M-30 mixing desk. “I needed five to create this installation, plus another five as backup,” Cousins explains. “Finding and servicing the machines was quite a long process.”

Follow Cousins on Instagram and find his debut album, Vanishing Artefacts, at Bandcamp.


Written & Produced by Paul Cousins
Directed by Ed Harber
Thanks to Oscar Coakley & Bruce, and Stuart Glen at The Cause

Read next: The Vinyl Factory celebrates art and sound with immersive exhibition at 180 Studios

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