Monday, July 5, 2010

Make Me a Mixtape

“You remind me that I'm never going to be twenty-two
listening to the alarm waking up south of North Avenue
my skin is going to wonder what I'm doing now.
So write me a letter,
tell me where you are
how to get there
and how long that it takes to tape me some songs.
Make me a mixtape
something old and something new
something I said or that we did
that reminds me of you
Make me a mixtape that makes me yours.
Don't leave out Husker Du.
Put something on that The Cars did in 1982.
It makes me yours.”

The Promise Ring, 2000

I have always made mix tapes. It has been going on for even longer than I’ve been buying music. They used to come along fast and furious. I could whip them out for myself, friends, co-workers, classmates relatives, and every once in awhile, for a girlfriend or a hopeful girlfriend. I’m not sure why, other than my near psychotic need to share my love of music. What better way is there than sharing the actual music? I’ve tried writing about music, but that’s an entirely different beast and one that never (especially with my limited abilities) quite paints the right picture. I still do my annual top albums list, but I certainly have grown tired of using the same old adjectives to describe the music I love for no real reason.

The mixes don’t happen very often anymore. Somehow, it has mostly consolidated. I now make a couple of CDs during the year and send them out to a small core audience (a slowly growing one) of old friends, instead of sending each person their own. It is less personal, but the inspiration to make a mix CD does not occur as often as it used to. However, when the urge strikes, that psychosis returns. I obsess over every detail of the mix. I’ve been wondering what that drive is all about. But I really don’t know, other than the love of music and the communal aspects that can be derived from it. It could be that it’s simply a pleasant distraction. Something for my busy and mostly negative thoughts to focus on that isn’t destructive.

Recently, I’ve been wrestling through the annual summer mix. I’ve put together random mixes of potential songs (up to about 140) onto several CDs to listen to in my car. Wherever I drive, I am focused on what sounds best, what goes best with others. I have also been taking requests from those the mix is intended. I am confounded at times at the challenge that is presented when I receive requests of such varying styles and often vagueness. The main intention is to offer up the newest music that is upbeat and good for summertime. But I also love the idea of piecing together the puzzle of songs that are written on scrap paper and floating in my head. The next challenge is always the toughest. How to whittle 70-80 songs into a manageable 20 or so that find some kind of coherent flow? The flow is the key. Each segue way may only make sense to me in the end, but, believe me, there is always a reason for them.

Having just completed the latest installment of the summer mix, I feel relieved and relaxed. I am ready to sit back and enjoy the music and let the obsession of what goes best with what to float away. I hope that as I hand them out to my friends that it will lead to fun moments and future memories. And in the end, the mix will be forgotten, but the times we had with it as the soundtrack may be lasting.