The Tragic and Fatal Art of Making a Mixtape


There is an age-old mixtape code that does not allow for much recopying. The tape you make for one person should not be given to another. This does not stop these tapes from being recopied if they are good, usually by the receiver of said tape without the knowledge of the author, carrying on the tradition of musical choices and adding more variety to one's musical taste. Tapes can throw a monkey wrench into the works and introduce an interesting theme that needs to be carried on, or a genre that has not been explored. One of these types of thematic tapes turned me on to power pop, and more recently music blogs have taken over some of the work of mixtapes, introducing me to older rock and country stuff that I would have missed.
            Mixtape etiquette also assumes that the tape will be a labor of love. Now mixed CDs or playlists do not have to be listened to as they are made. Those old mixtapes required that the creator would have to listen to each song as they recorded it, in effect being the first person who listens to it, yet not knowing how it would sound on tape unless they listened to the recorded copy again. It was so fun to pick the songs if you were giving the tape away or listen to them years later, marveling at what you had decided to include. Or, for that matter, thinking about what other choices you could have made. Why include one song instead of another? Does the tape have more than one song by an artist? Is there a scheme to how the songs are ordered, or is it just tangential? These were all important questions to work out while crafting the mix.
            Tapes were often very autobiographical, considering the mood of the creator, what they were listening to at the time, who they were making the tape for, if they had gone through any serious life shit while making the tape. Much like a record collection, mixtapes can include a surprising variety of last minute choices, whims, and obsessive considerations. They can include songs covering an obsessive theme, but also can include favorite songs, those that make the creator think of others. The possibilities are endless. Just like when analyzing a record collection, a musicologist could plow through a mixtape and figure out the favorite genres and themes of the creator. If the creator is a music junkie, those genres and themes can be all over the map, sometimes mannered, sometimes schizophrenic, and sometimes problematic.

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