Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Mix You Make

I'm sorry for not posting in a while. I was caught up by your thoughts re: "Music to Shop By," and I got paralyzed, having much too much to say on the topic of mix tapes.
The first mix tape I got was from my friend Bob, who had, back when we were new friends early in college, promised to make a cassette copy of a Pearl Jam b-sides CD he'd gotten. I badgered him for weeks about the copy--dude, how long does it take to copy the EP?--until he finally said, "You can't hurry these things! Making tapes is an art."
I must've gotten mix tapes from other people prior to that, but I just thought of them as samplers. As in, "Here's some music that you might like. I put it all on one tape for your convenience." But Bob made me rethink mix tapes. There was an art to it? Cool.
That first mix tape is still in my shelves somewhere, but I have to say that Bob has made many, many cool mix tapes since then. We were inseparable friends throughout college, so he made tapes that I've come to think as soundtracks playing over the mild dramas of those years. When he moved back with his family after college (his dad was working in Vietnam), we would send tapes to each other along with our letters, and the mixes were partly music he'd discovered and wanted me to hear, partly songs that were "Well, this is what's happening to me now," and partly "So this is what I think you must feel like, so here's a song for you."
Bob's since moved back to the Philippines, and we haven't traded mixes in a while. But I've made mix tapes (and CDs) for other people since then, some of whom were mix virgins before then, and who have since taken it up as a full-blown preoccupation. ;) If there's something I hate about my job, though, it's the way it intimidates people from making mixes for me. I'd make a CD for a new friend, then I'd hear how much s/he likes it, but when I ask when I should expect mine, they beg off. If I had a peso for every time I've heard, "I can't--you're a music guru! It's intimidating!"well...I'd have four or five pesos. But still. (Wow, I'm a music guru!)
Thankfully, it doesn't take people too long to figure out that I'm really not intimidating, or that I'm not too much of a music guru, either,  so they eventually get over it and hand me their homemade CDs, sometimes complete with their own cover art. Recently, I've had an extraordinary run of good mixes, due largely to the fact that my friends and I went through a period of personal upheavals that began last February. Mostly turbulence of the romantic sort, which as you know, always makes for good mixes.
Different people, different styles. Conch's mix was a mostly calm, intuitive compilation of songs, with one or two blades hidden in the middle to rend your heart when you least expect it. Thor gave me a narrative mix that was sad, emotional, and also--because that's how we deal with things in real life--with a lot of wry humor. Margie's was fun, which is a weird thing to say about something that dealt with some difficult times. But her mix was a good jumble of musical styles and moods; it felt, I guess, not like the other mixes where I felt I was sitting down with my friends and hearing them tell me about their lives, but I felt like I was watching a movie of her life, and this was the soundtrack to it.
All of the mixes were cathartic for us; the difference in styles is just our different ways of dealing with personal crises. We're all in recovery now, thank God,  if not completely there yet. February was a long month that lasted all the way to June, and despite all the good music it's given us, I don't feel any regret saying goodbye to it. We're now working on our July mixes, which if nothing else, will be full of hopeful songs.

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