Kill Ugly Radio Episode 08.16.11: Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine

This week we took a look at the cassette-only series Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine, a subscription series that offered a wide variety of artists and musicians, often curated by a different artist or group per release.

‘Tellus was created in 1983 at the Rum Runner Bar on Canal Street in New York City. Joseph Nechvatal, a visual artist, Claudia Gould, a curator and Carol Parkinson, a composer and staff member of Harvestworks/Studio PASS met to discuss the idea of a magazine on cassette which would feature interesting and challenging sound works. With the advent of the Walkman and the Boom Box, the editors perceived a need for an alternative to radio programming and the commercially available recordings on the market at that time.’ [from Harvestworks website]

Many notable artists appeared here, sometimes in mediums they were not known for. The range of disciplines run the gamut from spoken-word arts, piano composition and performance, guitar, music for experimental film, radio drama, experiments in musical intonation and more.

The series ran from 1983 to 1993, spanning 24 issues, finally culminating in vinyl and CD compilations. It was a veritable who’s who of avant garde music of the era, as well as many notable artists from the past making appearances.

It should be noted that mega-props go to the amazing Continuo for painstakingly ripping and documenting this wonderful series.


Play list (Artist-Title-Release)

Jody Harris – Mr. Control – Tellus #1 (1983)
Jerry Lindahl – The Indian Elephant – Tellus #1 (1983)
Sonic Youth – Scream – Tellus #1 (1983)
Mitch Corber – Reaganomics/Infinitessimus – Tellus #1 (1983)
The Scene Is Now – Bugged, Wigged Out – Tellus #2 (1984)
Tony Papa – Water Works – Tellus #2 (1984)

Gregory Whitehead – Only a Rash Wound – Tellus #3 (1984)
Wolfgang Staehle and Steve Pollack – Voice of the President – Tellus #3 (1984)
John Shirley and Sync 66 – Mating Probability Index – Tellus #3 (1984)
Brian Reinbolt – Switched Thing – Tellus #3 (1984)
Paul Dresher – Pygmy Vocal Music – Tellus #4 (1984)

Carol Parkinson – The Landlords Visit – Tellus #4 (1984)

Julie Wachtel – You Disappear Me – Tellus #5-6: Special Audio Visual Issue (1984)
Linda Fisher – episode from What Words Mean – Tellus #7 : The Word
Gregory Whitehead – Eva Can I Stab Bats In A Cave – Tellus #7 : The Word
Christian Marclay – Groove – Tellus #8: USA/Germany

Paul De Marinis – Eenie Meenie Chillie Beenie – Tellus #9 : Music with Memory

Lee Renaldo – The Bridge – Tellus #10: All Guitars! (1985)
Bond Bergland – Moonlight Ride – Tellus #10: All Guitars!
Jay Allison – The Neighborhood Freaks – Tellus #11: The Sound of Radio (1985)
Rick Harris – Is This Real’ (Excerpt) – Tellus #11: The Sound of Radio
Linda Fisher – Send Forth A Current – Tellus #12: Dance (1986)
Joseph Nechvatal – How To Kill – Tellus #13: Power Electronics (1986)
Harry Partch – O Frabjous Day! (The Jobberwack) – Tellus #14: Just Intonation (1986)
James Tenney – Septet for Electric Guitars – Tellus #14: Just Intonation

Ikue Mori, John Zorn, Lindsay Cooper , Fred Frith – Untitled @The Stephanie and Irving Stone Festival of Improvisors – Tellus #15: The Improvisors (1986)

David Garland with Cinnie Cole and Zeena Parkins – Play Within A Play – Tellus #16: Tango
Megan Roberts and Raymond Ghirardo – ATVO II (Excerpt) – Tellus #17: Video Arts Music (1987)
David Blair – Wax (or The Discovery of Television Among Bees) (Excerpt) – Tellus #17: Video Arts Music
Zui Jiu – Drunken Wine (1:32) Tellus #19: New Music China (1988)
R.I.P. Hayman Electronic Dirge (funeral music from Taiwan) (0:53)
Crawling With Tarts – Plowing And Tilling – Tellus #20: Media Myth (1988)
Violence and The Sacred – Teddy Bear Stinks Real Bad Now (Excerpt) – Tellus #20: Media Myth
Christian Boltanski – Reconstruction de Chansons Qui Ont Et Chant es Christian Boltanski -Tellus #20: Audio By Visual Artists (1988)

Alice Shields – Mass for the Dead (excerpt) – Tellus #22: False Phonemes (1988)

Abdel Samad – Le Coran Cheikh ‘Sourat Yassine’ – Tellus #23: Paul Bowles (1989)
Tomas Schmit – No. 13 from Sanitas-200 Theatre Pieces – Tellus #24 – Flux Tellus (1990)
George Brecht, James Tenney with George Maciunas – Entrance…- Tellus #24 – Flux Tellus (1990)

Joseph Nechvatal – Ego Masher – Tellus #1 (1983)


  1. Ahhhh, so very nice to hear this episode… that era of the 80’s cassette culture network was so very influential for me. Tellus was a name I knew well but for some reason didn’t get too often, stupidly. Great to hear what I missed. 😉 Thanks!

    (TradeMark G. of Sound Of Plaid)

  2. Glad you liked it, TradeMark!
    Researching the episode was illuminating for me as well; as I had only a cursory awareness of the series – having seen some of the cassettes over the years – but I also solved more than one mystery in things I had heard on the radio back in the day but had no idea what it they were.

    Thanks for the kind words!

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