Monday, June 30, 2008

Anatomy of a Mix Tape: Introduction

It's a goal ever elusive in the world of music: the album with no filler. Where every song is equally enjoyable to listen to, yet different enough that you actually want to listen to all of them, one after another. Mae did it with The Everglow. The Shins followed suit with Wincing the Night Away. The Beatles came close a few times, and several bands have efforts that are almost there, but not quite. So, an idea dawned on me as I was listening to Coldplay's Viva la Vida again and really wanting to hurry up and get to "Violet Hill". What if I just made a CD like that for myself? Throw it in the drive, maybe randomize it so I wouldn't get tired of the same sequence of music, and never have a track I wanted to skip over.

Opening up iTunes, I made a new playlist then started dragging in good songs as I thought of them. I decided to add another restriction: not only did I not want two songs from the same album, I didn't want two songs from the same artist. I figure that I like enough different bands that that would be a feasible goal. I got to about fifteen songs, realized that CD-Rs can hold about twenty, and threw in a few more for good measure. Now, this is supposed to be a CD that contains exactly zero filler, but I did put in songs as I thought of them—that might lead to an unintentional bias toward wanting to listen to the first few songs. So for the sake of fairness, I hit shuffle a few times to randomize the order. Only after I hit burn, watched it for a few minutes, and saw it get halfway through "Jacksonville" by Sufjan Stevens did I realize what this project had turned into.

Holy Mother of God, I'd created a mix tape.

Granted, the intention was more "hall of fame" than "mix", and nobody's actually made tapes for the past decade. Between that and the attempt at guitar playing, Samantha's right—I'm getting too hipster for my own good. Tangential update on the guitar: I know eight chords now, and after learning a few more (notably B major and a minor), I'll be able to play the entire collective works of Neutral Milk Hotel. That prospect delights me to no end.

One definite omission from this CD is anything classical—it would just be too weird to come out of the Shins and into Vivaldi. I could do (and may well end up doing) something similar with classical, and it would probably involve lots of baroque, some Dvorak, something from Carmina Burana, and a bit of Copland and Gershwin to round it off. But that's a project for another day. Oh, classical music side note: the reason I mention Dvorak and Gershwin specifically (besides the fact that I like them) is that there's going to be an ASO show featuring those composers in November. The program is Gershwin's Cuban Overture and Dvorak's Ninth Symphony (one of my favorite classical pieces ever), and I'm definitely interested in going to that.

So in the end, how did my come-to-find-out-it's-a-mix-tape turn out? Actually pretty well, I think. I'm going to post a quick rundown of each of the songs in the coming days, and an analysis of a few interesting trends I noticed at the very end. If nothing else, it'll give a good insight into at least the popular side of my musical taste.

Currently listening: "Winning A Battle, Losing The War", Kings of Convenience

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