I believe in mixtapes. Not mix CDs that DJs put out and call “mixtapes,” I mean an actual analogue cassette tape of 30, 60, 90, or 120 minutes. I will admit here that I do make mix CDs; they are convenient and take much less time to create. You don’t have to calculate out the lengths of all of the songs that you want to include to make sure that one won’t get awkwardly cut off at the end of side A or side B, because there’s only one side of a CD and the computer does it for you. The amount of time it takes, the math, and the fact that no one really listens to tapes anymore are the reasons that making mixtapes is a dying art. It would be less dead if we weren’t so caught up with all of our mp3s and people had more tape players, but alas.
Back in the day, like the 80’s, mixtapes were a thriving art. Making mixtapes was the only way you COULD make a mix for someone; there weren’t computers with the technology to copy and burn tracks off of the newly-invented CD-rom. During the 70’s and 80’s, people taped songs off of their vinyl records. It was staticy and low-quality and beautiful.
There is a website called Tiny Mix Tapes. They are one of those sites that seems sort of indie-snobby, but they do have one lovely section in which you can request a type of mixtape and one of the volunteers might generate a track list for you. People get really creative with their requests, and some of the most recently generated tapes include: “We have tricked a homophobic future investment banker into thinking my male friend desperately wants him. Now we need a tape to continue the ruse, and to accompany the cupcakes we’re putting on his doorstep.” And, “I’m not sorry that I bit you. I’m sorry I might not have the chance to do it again.” And my favorite, “Songs for when you realize that dancing around naked to daft punk is not the best idea when your room-mate buys a new video camera.” Granted, many of the people who generate these mixtapes kind of mess up and don’t put on enough material for a 90 minute tape (which is the general length of a tape), but every once and awhile you will run across someone who has made a Side A and a Side B and who is thinking about cassettes like you are.
People talk about the amount of time that it takes to make a tape as if it’s a bad thing; but I argue that this is a good thing. For one thing, it slows you down in our fast-paced world and gives you a second to be relaxed. Next, when you give a mixtape to someone, they know that you had to sit down for whatever amount of time the tape is. Think about it: you’re trying to show someone that you like them. What’s going to make them feel more special, a CD that you made in ten or fifteen minutes, or a tape that you had to think out and then sit through the recording process of?
That said I only make tapes for special occasions, such as someone’s mom getting cancer, or someone moving away. You can make happy tapes, like “I-have-a-crush-on-you” tapes, although I am normally quite wary of making these, because you don’t want to put all of that time and effort into a tape for a crush that isn’t worth it (since 7th grade, I’ve only made two crush-tapes; one boy rejected me, the other made me a tape as well). And tapes don’t only have to be for other people. I have four “Party Mixtapes” and one especially for dancing around in my underwear.
I believe in slowing down, in really thinking, in making someone feel more special. I believe in hisses and pops, and in love; I believe in mixtapes.
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