Click. Drag. Click. Drag. – here is the sound of a quick rummage through iTunes and a shoddily compiled playlist, the lazy plunge into one’s database of sound. Envision a mix consisting of, perhaps, a few songs that embody the creator’s musical tastes, and then the heavy remainder ripped from an online store. They are the melodies meant to impress the receiver of the CD, though the creator may have no connection to them. No! Reject it! We’ll have none of that.
I believe in the splendor of the mixtape, in crossbreeding Vivaldi etudes with indie arpeggios. I need noise from stacks of cassettes, mash-ups compiled only from songs with gas mileage money to their names. I believe in the pre-printed playlist lines that accompany the clear rectangular case, ready for glued-down decorations – drawn or cut out. I hold strong in its mobility and lack of delicacy, its ability to be completely enveloped in a hand without fear of marring its contents. There is no need to blow on it and wipe clean its imperfections, because it is already filled with so much breath.
I have faith in sides A and B, dated differently because the thought process concerning the mix took over a day to complete – a passage from an evening, through the night, and into the following morning; or from one sitting, moments spent away for meditation, and a homecoming. In my experience, one is still liable to end up with blood-deficient buttocks either way.
The cassettes themselves echo the variety of those who own and trade them. Some mask the rise and fall of the tunes in opaque casing; several show them willingly in hopes of being looked upon. Others brag flamboyantly, surrounding what’s inside with neon greens and stars… probably compensating for the Celine Dion they’re filled with. But, due to that tape’s design, the balance of glory is maintained.
In itself the mixtape is a relationship, a heart, unraveling till it reaches the very core, and in doing so encompasses the reel ahead in its riffing devotion. Each time it is revisited, the process begins again – Side B’s harmonizing rejoinder.
I believe in the satisfying slide and lockdown of a tape into its player, which alone is a melody. I believe in its ability to thicken the air, and in doing so, ferry the feathered words whispered when we love each other and sway them suspended. Then, our lofty speech becomes bookmarks of road trip conversations, no need for reiterated explanation, just a return. All the while it serenades us with the stretches of life that we gave over to its creation; the tape gives us back to ourselves like its black ribbons, ever revolving forward and back.