Friday, 22 May 2009
Recently my wife asked me to recreate the first mixtape I had made her in an iTunes playlist for her iPod. Could I recreate a mixtape I had made nearly six years ago for her? Yeah, I could do that. Had she asked me to take out the trash, or to get my clothes off the floor and into the hamper, I probably would have said "in a minute," then forgotten about it.
But creating a playlist for her was something I was willing to do immediately. (Now I know six years ago the digital revolution was well under way, but I was a romantic of sorts and made her a mixtape on a cassette she could play in her old Nissan's tapedeck.)
It didn't take me very long to put the playlist together, seeing as how I had most of the tracks on my own iPod. I simply exported the tracks from my iTunes library and imported them to hers. Viola! A perfect digital replica of an analog cassette mixtape. But there was something unsatisfying about this. It was too easy. I thought about the time it took to create the original and all the thought that went into it. I couldn't just drag and drop then reorder and be done with it.
There was an art to making a mixtape... the specific order of the tracks was crucial to the delivery of the message of the mixtape as a whole. Choosing the right bands and even the tempo of the tracks was a skill learned over time. Back in the day making mixtapes for a road trip, that one month "going together" anniversary, for a buddy that moved out to the west coast to let him know what music was jumping on the east coast.... and of course for the house parties, all required a great deal of thought. There was no "instant" skipping of tracks like on an iPod. There was something cool and romantic about the idea of a mixtape. Now making a mix was hard, it required a good read of the person for whom you made the mix for. And sure having all your music at your fingertips on your iPod is great but listening to a mixtape that was made personally for you was a special experience.
That first song was crucial in trying to convince them to listen to the rest of your masterpiece. After that the trick was to ensure good flow from one song to another. Over the next 60 or 90 minutes (depending on your tape choice) you were telling a story of sorts. When you felt the pop of the play button realigning itself with the others, you knew your journey had come to an end.
Maybe I'm just being nostalgic, but I liked the idea that when you gave a friend or your crush a mixtape it would, over the next few weeks and months, become the soundtrack to their lives.