In August, 1963, the first compact cassette recorder was launched at the Funkaustellung (Radio Exhibition) in Germany. To celebrate its sixtieth anniversary, BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction begins a month of programming dedicated to the history and legacy of the cassette: Casseptember.

Making possible the documentation of local and underground scenes and genres, the cassette paved the way for lo-fi aesthetics and DIY music, helping to shape and influence some of the most popular pop, rock, classical and alternative artists of the day. Featuring contributions from the likes of Cosey Fanni Tutti, Vashti Bunyan and Aki Onda, as well as archival audio and newly commissioned cassette recordings, Late Junction’s Casseptember season will explore how the arrival of the cassette was a watershed moment in the democratisation of audio culture.

The season will consider why the cassette tape has experienced such a profound comeback, with many labels and independent artists creating highly sought after cassette-only releases during an era of digital intangibility following the rise of streaming and online listening.

Finally, Casseptember will also shine a light on how cassette tapes have been used to preserve musical heritage and cultural memory. In conversation with the founders of Syrian Cassette Archives, Mark Gergis and Yamen Mekdad, the duo will reflect on Syria’s rich musical history and how cassettes transformed the ability of Syrians to record and distribute their music. They discuss with Verity Sharp how they are preserving, researching and sharing these stories during a time when much of the country’s recorded repertoire is under threat from the effects of war and displacement.

Casseptember continues on BBC Radio 3 Late Junction from Friday 1 September to Friday 29 September. The season will also be supported by BBC Radio 3 Breakfast  (Mon 4 September – Friday 8 September) who will be including listener requests of favourite classical cassette tracks, as well as J to Z and the New Music Show, which will both feature special plays of cassette songs.

Friday 1 September

Late Junction: Introducing Casseptember!

23:00 – 01:00

In this first programme, Verity Sharp is joined by Marc Masters – music journalist and author of High Bias: The Distorted History of the Cassette Tape (out in October 2023) – who offers an overview of the tape’s colourful history arguing that it never really went away. Plus Verity speaks to cult folk-singer and songwriter Vashti Bunyan who shares her romantic memories of the cassette tape.

Friday 08 September

Late Junction: Casseptember – Aki Onda and Cosey Fanni Tutti

23:00 – 01:00

Japanese composer and sound artist Aki Onda shares his specially-commissioned Casseptember creations. For Late Junction, he digs into his huge tape archive to rework recordings made during the formative years of his cassette practice, collaging sound snippets he made in New York’s East Village in the early 2000s. Plus, the pioneering performance artist, musician and writer Cosey Fanni Tutti shares some of her own most treasured cassette memories, from using them in her work as a striptease dancer in the late ‘70s through to making cassettes as part of Throbbing Gristle.

Friday 15 September

Late Junction: Casseptember – Goldblum

23:00 – 01:00

Verity Sharp continues a month-long celebration of cassette culture with a unique commission from Dutch duo Goldblum. Founded in 2020, the brainchild of Marijn Verbiesen and Michiel Klein, Goldblum crafts lo-fi sound collages, based predominantly around tape loops with the addition of keyboards, sounds gleaned from a variety of objects and vocals. There are also reflections from Ghanian highlife artist Ata Kak who became world-famous after his self-released cassette Obaa Sima was discovered by Brian Shimkovitz almost 25 years after it was originally released. 

Friday 22 September

Late Junction: Casseptember -Syrian Cassette Archives

23:00 – 01:00

The rise of the cassette medium in Syria transformed the country’s musical landscape, providing a platform for many musicians across the country that had not previously had the ability to record or distribute their work. Founders of Syrian Cassette Archives, Mark Gergis and Yamen Mekdad discuss how the project has grown in scope and breadth over the years with many more cassettes received from contributors and collaborators. They also play some of the archival footage salvaged from the archives, including live concerts, studio albums, and more, with special focus on the regional Dabke and Shaabi folk-pop music, performed at weddings, parties and festivities.

Friday 29 September

Late Junction: Casseptember – Shelf Life II

23:00 – 01:00

Jennifer Lucy Allan hosts the final episode of BBC Radio 3’s month-long celebration of cassette culture. Investigating her own cassette collection, Allan finds electroacoustic experiments from Indonesia by the likes of Minus Equals Plus as well as blues from Bin Idris, whose 2013 tape came packed in a guitar string sleeve with a unique guitar string inside. She also finds lo-fi pop from Bobby Would from a tape encased in a fishnet, and keening bagpipes from Glasgow musician and inventor Donald WG Lindsay. Mabu Li of the label Dusty Ballz also speaks on the ‘cut-out generation’ in 1990s China, and composer Maxwell Sterling reminisces on his early tape experiences listening to Kraftwerk in the bath.