Commentary
8:00 am
Tue October 4, 2011

Musical Space: Mix Tape

Cassettes may have largely gone the way of parachute pants but their spirit lives on.

Mix Tape

It was my brother’s birthday the other day and I had no idea what he would want, until I remembered how much we both like music. So I made him a mix tape.

OK, so I didn’t really use a cassette - I just messaged him a list of YouTube links on Facebook, mostly indie rock things that he might not have heard before - but the concept is the same: it was an ordered list of songs chosen by a person tailored for another person.

So, remember cassettes? They were big in the ‘70s; even more so in the ‘80s with the introduction of the Walkman. Cheap and easy to use, they were the original medium for peer-to-peer music file sharing. More than that; they were a way for someone to reach someone else.

Case in point: my friend Richy was a mix-tape master. Born a whole 10 months before me, his musicological knowledge was much better than mine. Richy made for me a whole series of tapes, teaching me about glam-rock, British art-rock, and proto-punk along with slightly older stuff like Jimi Hendrix and Jethro Tull. What he was really teaching me, though, was that music could be mixed, manipulated and experimented with. Music could have a deep aesthetic meaning, It was something to be listened to closely and critically. And, it could affect people. I can honestly say that those tapes shaped me more than the entirety of my graduate studies in music.

By the way, my birthday is coming up, just so you know.

Music “Dancing Madly Backwards (On A Sea of Air)” by Captain Beyond from the album Captain Beyond

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