Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Long Forgotten Art of the Mix Tape Pt 2

Around about the year 2000, I was signed up to a e-mailing list (remember those?) for followers of a band I liked at the time.  A member of the mailing list asked for interested people to swap mix tapes with him.  I took the bait and signed on, just to see what would happen.

I sent the first one to this guy.  It was all Australian music - recent stuff on side A, classics on Side B.  He sent one back with an interesting mix but all stuff that was being played on national station Triple J at the time.  I asked a few times for feedback on the first one I sent, and about all I got in return was something like "I've heard most of those songs before.  I really wanna hear some stuff that I've never heard before".

I didn't really get a feel for the kind of music this guy liked.  I really wanted him to give me a clearer indication of whether he liked Side A or Side B of my original tape more, and his tape seemed fairly homogeneous in terms of style and age of music. In general, for the follow up I had very little to go on.

I decided to pick examples of music from the furthest reaches of my collection, where no two songs were alike and the genre would change rapidly from one song to the next without warning.  It was designed to show off the length and breadth of my collection; to give him an example of the direction our compilation conversations could go in.  What you ended up with amounts to something like "The Music Appreciation Lesson From Hell".

Starting with late 1960s funk, we went through 16th Century lute music, surf, Delta Blues, Avant-Jazz, Reggae, Hardcore Punk, Jazz Fusion, African-Funk, Indian Classical, Avant Garde Mouth Music, Prog Rock, Icy Synth explorations, Hick country, 1930s British Pop, Latin Rock and more.

I used a 120 minute cassette.  I recorded all the selections to two Minidiscs (one for each side of the tape), and made the necessary fades, edits and sequence changes on the disks before recording them to tape.  I carefully annotated each song in a letter and sent it off in the post....

...this was the tape that killed the deal.  I never heard back from him.  Either it never reached him, or he listened to it once and freaked out so badly that he would never get in touch again for fear of another insanity-laced sonic barrage.  I've since lost the annotations, but I kept the Mini-discs and later, circa 2005, added bonus tracks and burnt them to CD for my own listening pleasure.

The one thing that we can be sure is that my music collection in 2000 is pretty tame compared to what it is now.  Still, I think it's a pretty impressive feat to make such an eclectic collection and to have it frighten the hell out of people...well, I don't know that for sure, but it sounds good, so I'll stick to it.  I'm sure Henry Rollins would approve.

Here for your appraisal is an online version of that Mix Tape.

Some tracks appear in alternate versions, such as "Survival" by Osibisa, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly and "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson.  One song that originally appears on the tape "El Cielo" by Sky (The band featuring classical guitarist John Williams and Herbie Flowers) doesn't exist on any of the streaming services that I can find, so I have substituted it for a bonus track that I added to my CD copy "Kreuzspiel for Oboe, Bass Clarinet, Piano and Percussion" by Karlheinz Stockhausen.


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