the dreaming tree

in restless dreams i walk alone…

The Death of the Mix-Tape December 5, 2009

I love music… I’ve loved music my whole life. As an infant I slept best when surrounded by the sounds of The Beatles, or Bob Seger, or even Black Sabbath (when my father got his way.) My grandpa taught me how to dance to the music of Glenn Miller and Artie Shaw. The first non-Sesame Street song I ever learned to sing was “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. When I was 9 years old, if my mother wasn’t home,  I’d put Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits on the Stereo and dance around the living room singing at the top of my lungs, pretending that I was Stevie Nicks. And so on, and so forth… Someone once told me that you could learn far more about a person by perusing their cd collection than you would over the course of a 3-hour conversation. I believe this to be true…

Because I love music so much, I love to share it with other people… hence – the mix-tape. Before the days of cd burners and mp3 players, there was the lost art of the mix-tape. Now, if you think that putting together a playlist and burning it onto a cd for your buddy to listen to, or compiling a nice playlist for your MySpace page is the same thing as making an old-school mix-tape, you’re wrong. The end result may be the same, but for me, it was always about the process.

The last time I made a mix-tape, I was 15 years old… A computer with a  cd-burner was a relatively new thing – I didn’t have one… and the few kids at school who did were the ones making cds for all of the other kids and charging them $5 a pop. My friend Jason’s birthday was coming up, and as is often the case with me, I wanted to give him the gift of music – songs that I thought he would like, that I was pretty sure he’d never heard before. So I set about the arduous task of making him a classic “Alison” mix-tape. Unlike burning a cd – which only takes a few minutes – putting together a tape was sometimes a days-long process. I sat down on my bedroom floor with my cd-player, all 400+ of my cds, a notebook, and a pen. I’d listen to hundreds of songs, and make a list of the ones that I wanted to put on the tape, then put them all in the right order… Couldn’t have 2 songs by the same band back to back… that was just sacrilegious. Then came the hard part – actually recording the songs onto a tape. a 90-minute cassette usually took 2 hours to record… all of the pausing and switching cds between each song… It was a pain in the ass – but one that I welcomed… A labor of love. And then, to finish it off, I wrote every song on the little sleeve inside the cassette case, and put together a tiny little collage with pictures and magazine clippings for the “cover.”

Now, it seems, the art of the mix-tape is all but dead. I mean, sure – If I wanted to make an old-school mix-tape, I could. But what would I play it in? Certainly not my car… or my bedroom, which doesn’t even have a stereo – just big speakers hooked into my computer… So now I make playlists… Like the one below, the one that you’re probably listening to right now. It’s the closest thing to a mix-tape that I have to offer… Interestingly enough, that little playlist took me over 2 hours to compile… I guess I just miss  the process.

So enjoy – this is what my “mix-tape” would look like if I were to make one today…

~The Sparkler

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