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Balsam Flex

Years running: 1972-1992
Country: United Kingdom
also known as Balsam Flex a typical characteristic Cassette. Defunct U.K. cassette label specialized on Sound-Poetry ran by Erik E. Vonna-Michell with support of Lawrence Upton.

- balsam flex appeared in 1972.
- balsam flex never had any "distributor"  --  some tapes/books were available through bookshops like "compendium" in london,  or "oriel" in cardiff, "zmisk" which appeared as an event based pop-up throughout various locations in the Soviet Union,  and ” Wabi nO" which was also a transient event throughout Korea & Japan.
- instead the cassettes were available at various live performance events -- and were custom produced on location for that particular event.
- different releases all had differing production runs --- no precise records were kept of individual publications -- but over a 17 year period (1975 to 1992) 12,000 hours of bulk magnetic cassette tape was purchased - ( about 200 hours still remains ) spooled & wound into cassette bodies of various styles & lengths.
- the shortest cassette releases were about 8 seconds to the longest being 116 minutes. (some were endless loops and some were devoid of any audio content - reliant on external factors to contribute sound over a period of time) In general - raw tape (of varying qualities & sensitivities) would be custom wound & duplicated as required. magnetic tape was often selected & “cultivated” for its different properties - with the deteriorating decay process being considered as part of the evolving soundscape decomposition.
- most tapes would have been sold at live events and would provide an opportunity to acquire or purchase balsam flex publications  - this was very much the case in japan, korea & east europe  -- less so in west europe & the americas.
- almost all audio productions were recorded on nagra, uher, revox or studer reel to reel machines --- using 1/4 inch to 1 inch tape. there was never any recording done on cassette tape!

The recordings can be divided into three distinct species ...
1.) those that were recorded in studios or performances spaces ,
2.) those that "happened" live in performance spaces and
3.) those that  transpired in " transit spaces"  such as railways, rivers, roads,…
from sound poetry to sound art to retinal resonance  ... past contributors have included: Oleg Andreyev, Alice Bloomor, aiko hisakawa,  yurine burns, Cris Cheek, Bob Cobbing, Henri Chopin, Francois Dufrene, Ken Edwards, p.c.fencott, Peter Finch, Allen Fisher, Ulli Freer, ida kajino, john cris jones, Jackson Maclow, Tumla Nitnelav, John & Mary Outchan,Michel Seuphor, toko sato, Lawrence Upton, moyo sil.uet/, sosowHAT, e.e.vonna-michell, alojzija zizek
Extract and description by Will Montgomery taken from Modern Legacies (Part of the Seies Modern and Contemporary Peotry and Poetics pp.129-141) Balsam Flex: Cassette Culture and Poetry
The cassette label Balsam Flex, run by the artist Erik Vonna-Michell in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is evidence of a relatively overlooked moment when a number of London-based British poets were producing work that was influenced by performance art, conceptual art, sound art, text-sound composition, Fluxus, and situationism. The material issued by Balsam Flex is quite singular. However, it is hard to find. Cataloguing and archiving procedures for cassettes have never been on a par with those for small press books and little magazines. The National Sound Archive at the British Library and the Poetry Library at London’s South Bank Centre each has a few Balsam Flex cassettes but no archive has substantial holdings of this material.1There is no mention of Balsam Flex in such accounts of British-Poetry-Revival-era poetry as Peter Barry’s Poetry Wars and Robert Sheppard’s The Poetry of Saying or When Bad Times Made for Good Poetry, and none either in the essays collected in New British Poetries 1970–1990: The Scope of the Possible, edited by Barry and Robert Hampson.2Dozens of cassettes were issued by Balsam Flex, yet these have since all but disappeared, the victims of technological obsolescence on one hand and changing priorities in poetry on the other