Sunday, June 04, 2006

I am the poor man's iPod

I fear the death of the legitimate mix.

I’ve gotten over the nearly forgotten phenomenon of the mix tape, largely due to the fact I own no cassette tape player anymore. I have a record player, a CD player, an 8-track player, but no tape player. I’m largely okay with this. Still, mix tapes were the way to go for too long a time. Yeah, they were some great way to express the way you felt about some nubile young thing (lots of love! lots of hearts!), but it was the makeup of the tape itself that I liked. With the inconvenience of rewinding and forwarding, the one receiving said mix was more likely to listen to it all the way through without skipping around, as all mixes should be heard anyway. It was an art form, after all, and needed to be received that way.

There were exceptions, of course. Like, say, the time I made a romantical mix for my little sis and her new husband to be listened to on their honeymoon, then interspersing every few sappy love songs with the happily working Oompah Loompas. That brought welled-up tears of joy to my eyes.

I used to dream about the day technology would allow me to record from CD to CD. I felt in my gut that it would happen, but sharing this with others usually revealed some nonbelievers. It was like trying to convince the early folks on the globe that the earth was really round. But it finally occurred and, all at once, my world changed some. I bought the first contraption I could get my hands on, a Philips CD recorder, to the tune of about $700 at Circuit City. The price mattered little to me. I had a new invention that I could create new, improved mixes on. And that crisp sound quality! Amazing! Really, it was.

I still use it fairly regularly. I can’t do it right on my computer, though I suppose some can and do. I have to hear songs in real time, lest the flow of the playlist come out wrong. Anybody can throw a random string of songs onto a disc and pretend it’s one, but, most of the time, it isn’t. It’s, well, pretend. It’s choppy and hard to listen to. And, by the way, three songs in a row by the same artist or band just isn’t supposed to happen. I don’t think I’m the only one that pretends I’m a DJ, nixing some songs for others, searching out old dusty favorites and offering them as happy surprises, stuff of that nature. Sometimes I have to throw out a first draft altogether – and even a second on occasion – if it doesn’t gel right. But I’ve made so many, those days are more or less behind me.

Now that we are fast becoming an iPod generation, ever prone to stick our entire collections on a wallet-sized jukebox, then setting it on shuffle, we don’t much need mixes anymore. Or so we think. Because I’m without an iPod at this point in my life, I’m pretty much living in the dinosaur age. I pull out albums on disc and listen to them all the way through and life is still good. I make mixes for people and am happy with the end results; it’s my way to share and I feed on it. I am the poor man’s version of an iPod, preferring to use my mind to make a compilation over technology that’ll do the same. I’m a dying variety, I realize, but I’m pretty sure I’ll stick with it. Right up until the point people don’t have CD players anymore.

As long as things like the International Mixtape Project exist, I’m a little bit more okay with how things are going. I’m brand-new to it, but I like the idea of making a mix, sending it out into the world (that might be stretching it, as my first stab went to Michigan) and receiving one from somebody else I don’t know … every single month. You’re even encouraged to contact the person, thank them and comment on the mix, which is more than some of my own friends have ever done when I’ve gifted them with a compilation. Hop on board and try it. Plenty others are and, the more people stick to it, the longer the torch burns, so to speak.

Just made a mix for my friend Zina. It’s been a long time coming, as she sent me one, what, a month or two ago? Still, I love nothing more than to trade mixes with her. She gets it. Ever receive a mix that’s really awful? There are many things that make one bad – and bad taste is just one of them – but I won’t go into all of the gory details right now. Still, I think I’ve received so many bad mixes, I’m able to appreciate Zina’s art (and it is art, considering the cases themselves are frame-worthy) all the more. You can listen to one of her compilations and actually hear the thought that went into it. And it makes me dance inside. And outside. And all over my condo sometimes. It used to make me jealous, but I’ve moved on to emulating her genius. I’m just glad someone like her exists. I sure wish more did.


eped said...

I have mixed feelings about how the mix tape has transmogrified into cd form. I think I'm pretty ok with it as long as we make them with as much thought and love as you and Zina do. it's about more than clicking, dragging, burning and sharpie. you know.
I finally read 'high fidelity' a few months ago. glad to see the mix tape cannonized in this way (and a shout out to Emily, doing the same on Wednesday nights)

that IMP seems intriguing, and that poem-a-day sounds pretty good too. hmmmm, new-summer resolutions?

Dainon said...

You must note that the Mix Tape name was mine, but I let her use it once she landed a show. I'm fairly certain her show would STILL be nameless if I hadn't have done so, so it's all about doing a good turn.

Hey, I still play the mixes you put together for me fairly frequently. Gotta love the Calypso. It's what summers were made for ... or, well, pretty much any other time of the year, in my opinion.

If you take a stab at IMP, lemme know, eh?

ram said...

oh they're there. and yeah, sometimes the creative act of blending a set of tracks is utterly more rewarding than the response you get. Of course, sometimes you'll be pleasantly surprised at the ripples your sharing creates. Just last weekend I was pleased to hear DeVotchKa at the wedding of a friend I hadn't seen in years. I was even more surprised to learn that the person who put them on the tracklist was introduced to the band by a mutual friend I'd shared DeVotchKa with. And the circle continues.

aisy said...

i knew i should have been worried with making you a mix cd. ah well, the stress if over with.

i had to listen to teary songs for a bit to really get the feel of it. i'll have to send you my thoughts when my brain isn't so fried. summa was supa-fun.

ZLB said...

thanks for the compliment D, like mr. ram says its the joy of blending the tracks, and with you I know the effort is appreciated. I usually have several drafts, and listen to the completed mix several times before sending it out. I realize reading these comments though that I owe English and Kelly a real mix, thus far I've only really made you guys 'music sharing disks' as a means of introducing and sharing new music (replete with the gross errors of more than one track by the same artist, the click and drag mentality, and paper stapled covers), I've not yet made you a real mix and shall surely remedy that this summer.
I still have copies of mix tapes made painstakingly in highschool with elaborate cases, my friend Ash and I made a multi-volume collection over the years of our friendship.
Oh one more thing, this weekend on a road trip we were listening to my friend's ipod, and I thought it was on shuffle. The songs were so great and fit so well together that I became susupicious and finally asked, turns out it was a mix he'd made for a friend. Ipods may house mixes, but they will never trump the human DJ.

Dainon said...

Ram, I think that, once all ears in this earth have heard the DeVotchKa, your work here will be done. I just learned tonight how nice Una Volta sounds in the cool of evening in a convertible. Sounds pretty yuppie of me to admit to that, but it was a fat slice of nice.

Aisy, I certainly can't hold everyone to my high expectations. I don't. I'm just pleasantly surprised when the number of good moves outweigh the bad. That said, you done did good. Thank you.

"Ipods may house mixes, but they will never trump the human DJ." You speak pleasing words of truth, my friend. I will rest better with a nugget like that one to take me to my dreams. I mean that.

ZLB said...

The age of ipods/itune shuffle reminds me of the heady and too quick onslaught of the online card catalog. Yes the online version is more compact, in some ways simpler, more accessible, etc., but who can replace the human connections of categorizing and filing also those little cards (sometimes it takes much longer to find things on the computer because the computer just can't make the leaps that are so obvious to our minds). And who can replicate the value of a card marked with the residue of human use: a patina of fingerprints, or torn corners that signify an uncommonly good book, or the little drole note or bit of advice scribbled in the tidy script of a librarian on the side. . . sigh. Don't get me started on all that, I think the comparison is pretty obvious. So, before you send all your antiquated mix tapes/cds floating into the sky with ballons, or burn them in a blazing inferno (both real ways that card catalogs perished), remember the fellow in France who bought the entire Harvard card catalogue and houses it in several storage units in France, not able to let go of the unspeakable value of the human connection. Viva la mix.

k8 said...

i love my ipod so much but i still think i love a good mix more. in fact, i spent about four hours on Memorial Day making a bunch of summer mixes for folks and sending them out by the USPS. People sure do love getting free tunes in the mail.

ewesa said...

I recently exchanged mix cds with a guy, and it was interesting, it actually changed my perceptions of him as a person. I thought for sure I wouldn't like what he put on there, thinking I knew his musical tastes to be bad (falling on the side of artists like marc anthony). he does like marc anthony (!), but there was none of that on there, and more than a few songs I didn't know but loved. a majority of them were great. it was surprising and good!

k8 said...

you know what dainon-you've set forth a challenge. i am working on a GREAT mix CD for you. Get ready.

Dainon said...

Zina, no mixes will be burned in a heap. But those few who carry their torches high will keep (wait for it) burning. It's how it should be. You lost me with alla that crazy card catalog talk, tho. What do you take me for, a guybrarian?

As for you, Plewe, mixes do change people, even if it is just in perceptions. I've had more than a few compilations allow me to recalibrate my initial thoughts of them as a person. It actually goes both ways, but I like to focus on the positive. I'm into positivity these days.

Challenges? Really, k8? You've never let me down. You've always brought you A game to the field. Have I ever told you how many of those songs have made it onto the SLC airwaves courtesy of myself and a little community radio station? Lots. I'm just a conduit and you are my supplier. I appreciate the thought you put into all of it, truly.

k8 said...

i swear i wasn't compliment fishing but thanks for the kind words. i pretty much bought my laptop just so i could make mixes for people. but i still want to try to make one for you that doesn't rely so heavily on new stuff-maybe one that just has a theme and it'll be OK if you already know some of them.

p.s. i joined IMP. I'm so excited!