State of the lost art

As of about ten years ago, I’d done 333 mixtapes. (As you can see, I’m not making a whole lot of progress converting them to CD.) Michele Catalano writes in Forbes that the comparative technological ease of making one’s own CDs has cost us something:

The art — and make no mistake about it, it is an art — of making a mix tape is one lost on a generation that only has to drag and drop to complete a mix. There’s no love or passion involved in moving digital songs from one folder to another. Those “mixes” are just playlists held prison inside a device. There’s no blood, sweat and tears involved in making them.

There was a certain ritual to making a perfect mix tape, one that could take hours to finish. Maybe even days, depending on how much you wanted to impress the recipient. While the songs had to have a common theme (“I hate you and hope you die” was as common a theme as “I would like to get to first base with you”), it wasn’t good enough to just take a bunch of love songs and throw them on a tape. It was about so much more than grouping some tunes together. They had to segue. They had to flow into one another. Each song needed to be a continuation of the one before it, as if all these disparate bands got together and recorded a concept album based solely on your feelings for the guy who sits in front of you in English class.

I do actually put that amount of work into a CD, mostly to improve the flow, although the fact that I haven’t done one all year should tell you something right there. And earlier this week I found in a box a fairly late tape (#326) labeled “Nothing in Common,” which turned out to be a random collection of Seventies stuff — though I will happily defend its production, if only for exploiting the sheer variety of Seventies tunes: where else will you hear the Bee Gees’ “Love You Inside Out” and T. Rex’s “Metal Guru”?

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