Paper Cone Music

Paper Cone Music
A group performance for paper cones, turntables and sound effects library records, to be performed by four or more players.

Using rolled up paper cones and sewing needles as a stylus to create primitive gramophone horns, the performers play sound effects records, attempting to play each record simultaneously from as many different points as they can. Each cone is closely miked up and the output is fed into a mixer. The mechanism of the turntable itself is also miked up using contact microphones. Each performer is in control of their own mix. Together they gradually build up a live soundscape from dead recordings of locations and events that were captured and imprinted on vinyl decades ago. The low frequency rumble and circular sound patterns of the mechanism and the scratchy, tinny, gramophone like sound of the paper cones make the listener acutely aware of the medium of the vinyl record itself and the associated history and nostalgia for this increasingly anachronistic format. Additionally, it highlights the fact that these mass produced sound effects library records themselves are also unintentional capsules of the past.

Paper Cone Music was a FON Air micro-commission for the Octopus Collective. Performed by Mark Vernon with the Piel View Hackers group at the Octopus Collective Headquarters, Barrow-in-Furness, November, 2012.

A re-worked version of this piece blending together advance rehearsals and other experiments with the live performance appears as a unique, one of a kind, 12” record as part of the foam collection – an archive of commissioned dub plates featuring artists sound works as one-off, 12” records presented in a touring exhibition.

The Leicester Tape Recording Club

The past is often said to be a foreign country. This programme features audio postcards from some of the inhabitants. The Leicester Tape Recording Club was a club for tape recording enthusiasts active in the sixties and seventies.

Like a latter day Mass Observation, amateur radio producers and documentary makers sometimes unintentionally captured the minutiae of a now surreal suburbia. A forgotten world of bri-nylon, briar pipes and tank-tops met an arcane society who spoke of tape-speeds and soldering irons. These programmes takes a nostalgic and humorous look at the club and its members.

Ex-members memories wow and flutter like their disintegrating reel-to-reel recordings. This is a story not just of a club but a community, a community of hobbyists, amateurs and charming personalities who captured otherwise long extinct phenomena like ‘The Golden Wonder Boy’. Memories are made of hiss…

“They’d Got It all Taped For Me – SAYS MR. LEICESTER”
News article – Leicester Mercury, Tuesday, January 6th, 1959:

“Leicester Pen Pals Keep in Touch – By Tape”
News article, publication unknown, 1959

A four-part series about The Leicester Tape Recording Club, ‘Imagination Unlimited’, was aired on Resonance FM in 2008. Condensed versions of the series were broadcast across the RADIA network, on NE1 as part of the AV festival, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and as part of Sonic Arts Network’s Brighton Expo 2008.

Immediate Recall

Recording of a live sound piece performed as part of the The Interzone exhibition at Glasgow School of Art. The piece combines various forms of tuned white noise with a live ultrasound feed of the performers own heartbeat and excerpts from a series of psychological audio perception experiments investigating immediate recall and word identification played from the original found reel to reel tapes.

Friday 30th November, 2012, The Mack Museum, Glasgow School of Art.

A re-worked version of this live recording was also broadcast as part of the series Data for the Doubtful on Resonance 104.4FM in 2013.

Vestiarium Scoticum

Aeolus / meagre resource – mere018 (2003)

A Scottish themed CD collaboration with Zoë Irvine produced for Burns night 2003. Field recordings and samples were taken from a wide variety of sources including tacky Scottish souvenir and novelty records from charity shops, found tapes of Burns night readings and football chants. The CD also features Edwin Morgan as the dance caller.

Vestiarium Scoticum was produced as a limited edition of 50 tartan CD’s with hand made tartan pockets in a variety of tartans (Aeolus / mere 018). It was first broadcast on Resonance 104.4 FM on Burns night, 25th January, 2003.

Nottingham Co-operative Tape Recording Club

Following the Derby Tape Club programme on Radio 4 several former tape club members got in touch including Patrick Everest from the Nottingham Co-operative Tape Recording Club. He shared with me a number of vintage productions by the Nottingham club some of which had been originally intended for radio but unfortunately never quite made it to the airwaves. Consequently they were broadcast in their entirety on Resonance FM in 2005 – nearly thirty years after they were first produced. The audio example here is a sound collage composed using material from several of these pieces.

Things That Were Missed in the Clamour for Calm

3Leaves / 3L032 CD (2015)

“Whatever is not full makes noise. Whatever is full is quiet.” The Buddha.

Things That Were Missed in the Clamour for Calm is a composed soundscape created from field recordings made in Sri Lanka in 2013. The work was the result of a six-week residency at Sura Medura, Hikkaduwa on the South West coast of the country. The CD is released by the Hungarian label 3Leaves and includes a beautiful 12-page colour booklet in a black die-cut card sleeve designed by Ákos Garai.

Radio versions of the piece have appeared on Resonance FM and as a special edition of Framework:Afield.


“It’s as though Vernon himself were hallucinating about Sri Lanka, and passing his strange visions into the sound.”
Ed Pinsent, Sound Projector

“This is the noise we want.”
A Closer Listen

“It’s as if through some magic stroke, Vernon is able to get humans and animals to act in unison to create a wonderful musical composition.”
Hal Harmon, Musique Machine

“… a fascinating psycho-musico-geographical composition.”

Reviews in Full

Lend An Ear, Leave A Word

Audio Archaeology series Vol.1: Lisbon
Kye Records / KYE044 LP (2016)

The pieces composed for this album combine field recordings of contemporary Lisbon with found tape recordings from the past; reel-to-reel tapes, micro-cassettes and Dictaphones collected from the Feira de Ladra market, a popular and lively flea market in the Alfama district.

Each tape recording is an audio snapshot of a specific time; a family album in sound, a musical performance, a compilation of treasured music or even just the fun of playing around with a tape recorder captured for posterity. Every thoughtless edit or push of the record button teleports us to a different time and place. The musical material extracted from the tapes is also an evocative signifier that locates it within a specific era. The interesting thing is how the tapes accumulate different strata of time even within a single side. There are consecutive chronological recordings but also sequences with unexpected breakthroughs where the user has carelessly fast forwarded through the tape randomly ‘dropping-in’ new recordings. These accidental edits create instantaneous new collages of sounds and voices. I have endeavoured to retain the essence of these unintentional edits and unexpected outbursts in the pieces I have assembled here. The noisy whir and clicking of the various tape mechanisms is evident on many of the found recordings. As the material is sped up and slowed down it acts as an internal clock, a continuous, steady marker of time, almost like the second hand of a timepiece

All of the pieces contained here within explore one particular environment – the city of Lisbon. Field recordings by their very nature are time-based but the introduction of found tapes into the mix expands the timescale of these studies from just the short period spent in the city making recordings, backwards to possibly forty or more years in the past. It is a portrait in time and place, an archaeology of sound. The result of the audio flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shores of low commerce in the flea markets of Lisbon.

‘Lend an ear, leave a word’ arrives in a full color matte stock sleeve with insert and download card. Mastered by Jason Lescalleet in an edition of 400 copies. Artwork courtesy of ‘A Sense of Someplace‘.


“…a beautiful work of sonic archaeology… uncanny and often moving.”
Stewart Smith, The Wire.

“…easily bridges that world of field recordings with the world of ‘music’…the level of storytelling, interaction and creative use of his sound material is very high…”
Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly.

“…creates near-hallucinatory experiences, surreal dream-scapes, and a general sense of having entered the looking-glass world, full of unknown languages spoken by alien creatures, performing actions which can’t be understood.”
Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector

Reviews in Full

130 in 1 – more adventures with electronic circuits

This radio programme allows us to eavesdrop as a father and his 10-year-old son bond over a succession of increasingly fiddly electronic experiments – at the behest of the manual they connect wires, transistors, capacitors and diodes to create an array of weird and wonderful crackles, beeps, buzzes and other electronic noises. Harking back to the bygone days of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in feel, variations on these sounds form the basis of the musical score that underpins the piece, playfully oscillating between real and imaginary spaces. As improbable as it seems, the outwardly dull schematics and diagrams open the doorway to a world of fun, exploration and the joy of discovery.

Father and Son: Andrew and William Deakin
Voice of the manual: Anne Marie Copestake

All sounds (except the bubbles) were generated from the Maxitronix 130 in 1 Electronic Lab Kit.

This programme was first presented in London at the Sound Bank launch and has since been aired on Resonance 104.4FM, Basic FM, Soundart Radio and across the Radia network. It was also included in ‘The Last Days of Analogue’, an online art project documenting the demise of analogue technology.

‘130 In 1’ was a Sound Bank commission produced by Mark Vernon for ‘In the Dark Radio’.

The Derby Tape Recording Club

Programme note: “A few years ago radio producer Mark Vernon bought a hoard of old reel-to-reel audio tapes in a car boot sale in Derby, as a job lot with an elderly and very heavy tape recorder. Coaxing the old machine back to life, he realised he had rescued the jettisoned archive of the Derby Tape Club – a group of amateurs who made, played and swapped recordings in the 1960s and 70s, when domestic tape-recording was in its infancy and before the audio cassette had conquered the world. A radiophonic elegy to an anonymous group of people and their forgotten enthusiasm: domestic tape recording and amateur radio in the 1960s and 70s.”

The Derby Tape Club started out as a six-part series of one-hour programmes on Resonance FM in 2002. The programmes were haphazardly constructed from a ramshackle archive of disintegrating open reel tapes bought from a car boot sale in Derby. A thirty-minute version was commissioned as a programme for BBC Radio 4 by Loftus Productions in 2003.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Monday 1st March 2004, 8.30 pm

Wide General Vicinity

This limited edition cassette only release features excerpts from radio broadcasts made by Radio Tuesday in Glasgow during June 1999.

Featured artists include: Ian Balch, Anna McClauchlan, Rob Kennedy & Jessica Worral, Anne-Marie Copestake, Tom O’Sullivan & Joanne Tatham, Glitch, Scott Simpson, Daniel Jewesbury, James McLardy, David Fulford, Tony Swain, Crystal Collins, Cattivo, Scott Myles, Duncan Hamilton, Hayley & Sue Tompkins and Lucy McKenzie.

The audio excerpt is from ‘See you on the other side’ by Scott Myles – a voice-activated dictaphone captures him talking in his sleep.