The Mixtape: A Lost Art?

Mixtapes were an act of desperate necessity. When I began driving, “my” car didn’t have a CD player and I didn’t have a discman much less a discman-to-tape-player convertor (I hated those). So, if I wanted to listen to any of the albums I had at home I would have to throw them onto cassettes. After my first two or so stumblings into this process I realized I could make things so much more exciting by mixing up tracks from different albums onto tapes and, thus, I entered the world of the mixtape!

With practice, I realized that building a mixtape was like creating a set list. I had to carefully consider the selection and order of songs so as not to burn out from any particular song attribute. Tempos, genres, genders, subjects and eras had to be thoughtfully spaced out. By the time I graduated high school I had a car with a CD player and music-editing software which allowed me to create cleaner seques between songs and cut out parts of tracks I wasn’t particularly fond of. I also began giving each mix a theme, lending a unique personality (for example I had a mix CD that had my favorite lines and music from Clue the movie between tracks).

The planning and executing of this entire process took anywhere from two hours to a week but it was a labor of love. Listening back to my mixes (now converted into iTunes albums), I really appreciate all the creativity and intelligence that went into these labors of love. And yet, I no longer have the desire to compile a mix.

With my purchase of an 80GB iPod, I now have access to all of my music at once no matter where I am, completely eliminating the original reason for mixtape creation. The random shuffle mode generates instant variety if I so desire. In fact, the only real piece that I can’t immediately reproduce using an iPod is the creativity behind the song selection. Sure this is a critical element in a mixtape, but I wonder if complete randomness (finally available!) can be just as fun a substitute?

It seems the closest counterpart in today’s music scene is to create a … mixplaylist? The truth is I can see how that is still a viable option for song selection creativity, but I just don’t see how it carries the same relevancy. The excitement of creating a mix CD or mixtape doesn’t seem to carry over since listening to a mixplaylist is so similar to listening to a random playlist on an iPod. The mix CD and mixtape were special because they were going to be given special listening times – in a car or on the go – not reserved for regular albums.

With all that said, I’m considering giving the mixplaylist a chance. I’ve been going through my old mixtapes recently and have a little idea of what I would like to do if I were to create a new one. If this project is fully realized I’ll report back the results to you, dear reader!

  • Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 at 12:18 | #1

    I just finished my latest mix – mix-CD #22 … which never made it to the CD burning process. I save them in iTunes as artist: Stever Mixes, album: 22 (# of mix cd), year: 2008 (year it was finished.) They’re usually made up of songs I from artists I only like 1 or 2 songs from, that way it eliminates the reason to have a specific section of my library for “The La’s” when all I have is their one song (“There She Goes.”) Only problem is that to find it I have to search the search-box… but that’s fine. DohBlog

  • Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 at 12:29 | #2

    Yes, but did you do any segues from song to song? Or change any of the song around (remove verses or solos you don’t like/cut things short)? And did you add any non-songs (movie clips, speech, etc.) in between song?

  • Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 at 12:47 | #3

    I’m not sure what is so different about making a play list. I know lots of people that make play lists for specific activities… be it working out, or driving, or a party mix. You can do all of the same stuff you did before, it’s just…easier.

  • Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 at 14:24 | #4

    Yes I add all that stuff in between just like a regular ol’ mix. Examples from the latest are Jim Gaffigan’s “Hot Pocket” bit and Beetlejuice rapping

  • Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 at 14:25 | #5

    whoops, that link is the extended (read bad) version. this is actually the link

  • Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 at 16:34 | #6

    More exciting news? That this post has received 5 comments thus far or that this post has received 3?

  • Zepmoon
    Thursday, March 27th, 2008 at 16:13 | #7

    I have just one thing to say about Mixed Tapes:

    Filler – truly a lost art that was critical when dealing with finite tape length.

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