Desert Ambulance

San Francisco Tape Music Center

Desert Ambulance by Ramon Sender and Tony Martin; performed by Pauline Oliveros

October 17 1988, Victoria Theater, San Francisco

The San Francisco Tape Music Center was important to the west coast in a number of significant ways. High ideals were carried through by a group like-minded artists; it wasn't just individual initiative, but serious collaborative action that allowed things to happen. The Tape Music Center was proof that music here could be created completely outside academic and commercial circles. It demonstrated, too, that ambitious concepts and projects could be realized on a shoestring, that innovative music depended more on the vitality of the ideas than on big budgets and fancy tools.

One of the most striking pieces performed at the Tape Music Center was Ramón Sender's Desert Ambulance. The first performance took place on February 3, 1964. It is a piece for live accordion player, electronic tape and projections. Since the accordion player must play in the dark because of the projections, the "score" is on tape and is listened to during the performance through earphones. The tape the audience hears was made from sounds produced on the Chamberlain Musicmaster, a keyboard instrument similar to an electronic organ in appearance, but had inside it multiple tape loops containing pre-recorded material of all kinds of instrumental and vocal sounds as well as sound effects.

– Charles Boone