Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Life's Soundtrack, Unshuffled 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Much has been written about the "allure of the mixtape," a concept that encompasses everything from that oxide-shedding C-90 collection of crush songs you taped off the radio in middle school, to mp3 blogs (and memes like the Friday Random Ten) to podcasts and "battling iPod" amateur DJ club contests.

Pulling a 20-year old audiocassette from a forgotten, dusty box in the hall closet can be a bittersweet time capsule of remembrance; next to scents, songs are the surest primal pathways to total recall. While digital mixes may be too recent a phenomenon to be effective in conjuring past lives, a single press of a cassette "play" button has unparalleled power to pull ancient scenes from the longest-neglected of neural pathways.

Many mixers use this artform in the interest of compiling the biggest, baddest, most obscure "bet you never heard this one" playlists, but mixtapes aren't solely the realm of amateur audio collagework. It can be argued that most non-orchestral film soundtracks are "mixtapes" after a fashion.

Perhaps therein lies the key to the mixtape's popularity, in the fact one can now easily create a multitude of personalized "soundtracks" for all sorts of people, places, and situations. We create mixtapes/playlists for the morning commute, for a dinner party, for trainrides and for trips down memory lane. The creative streak in most of us drives the mix-urge, but then again, we're not necessarily averse to having someone or something stir the soup once the basic ingredients have been collected: voilà! Shuffle! However, I'm not convinced that the advent of digital audio gadgetry sounded the death knell of the bonafide mixtape. The art of the mix, I believe, lies in the careful selection and sequencing of tracks - not in the laborious trial-and-error process of dubbing from radio or album to tape, although some might say the toil sweetens the results.

After all, if all of life's a stage, who wouldn't want their show to be accompanied a selection of perfect songs?

More: Tiny Mix Tapes
The Art of the Mix
WIRED: Sonic Youth's Thursaton Moore on the Power of the Mix Tape
Salon.com: PC's Killed the Mixtape Star [subscr. or daypass req.]
Slate.com: "The Madonna Code"