Posts Tagged ‘mix tapes’

State of the lost art

23 December 2012

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”?

Think of it as a lost art

4 April 2010

It was much different when you had to work with cassettes:

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 an iPod. There’s no blood, sweat and tears involved in making them.

There would be albums strewn about the room. There would be painful minutes spent starting and stopping and restarting a song in an attempt to hit the record button at just the right time so as to eliminate the clunks and hisses. But even if you didn’t time it so perfectly as to not have even a millisecond of space between “Don’t Cry” and “Jamie’s Crying” it was ok. That hiss became part of the mix. Upon the third listen, that sound would no longer be a piece of imperfection, but part of the flow of the tape; the two seconds of dead air was a metaphor for the silence in your relationship.

This latter is important: we cherish the imperfections.

The Troggs’ immortal “Wild Thing,” issued by two labels in the States (Atco and Fontana) because no one was quite sure who actually owned the US rights to it at the time, contains a very noticeable board click right before the beginning of the last section. Reg Presley croons “You moooove me,” and the sound fades away: you can count your way into the next guitar blast, but before you get there, somebody hits a switch, and it’s easily audible. Admittedly, “Wild Thing” is pretty noisy on its own, but if that board click is missing, you’ll know it.

Clip from “Wild Thing” [mp3]

At least one reissue producer took pains to “clean up” that record, and he excised the board click entirely. The results were Not Good.

Still, good transitions are worth trying for. The greatest segue ever, I have believed for some time, would be from Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” into Badfinger’s “Day After Day,” and it has to be timed just right. Modern-day DJs can hit this beat without even breathing hard, but it takes a little longer for us old Luddites, even with spiffy software at our disposal.

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