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The Art of the Mixtape


It's something I began to notice last year, I was at Staples in order buy supplies for my annual Christmas mix CD extravaganza, but something was wrong. Staples didn't have my go to brand of blank discs that I had used for years, the music CD-R discs made by Sony. After picking up the cases and paper insert blanks, I then swung by Walgreens, who always had the Sony discs in stock. They too were out of them, and that's when I realized that perhaps Sony had ceased to manufacture the blank discs for music.

I was saddened to see my favorite brand of blank discs seemingly unavailable. Instead, I found a set of music blanks made by Memorex. The Memorex discs worked fine, but it still made me think about something that is a sad fact of our increasingly digital world. The shrinking art of the mixtape. Call it what you want, a mixtape made on an actual cassette tape, or a mix disc made on a CD, but as we all fall in love with sharing Spotify playlists with one another, there's something to be said for the idea of never being able to share a physical CD you made for someone with that person. A mix CD is a work of art, it's an expression of our hearts and our souls in 80 minutes or less.

I love making mix CDs, if I have anything that is a craft hobby, the mix CD is it. Music is such an important part of my heart and my soul, on a level so deep that I sometimes can't fathom people who don't understand that. There are three types of mix CDs I make: personal, themed, and Christmas. The Christmas mix is my annual big bash, blow up spectacular. I make crazy art work for each one, and it's a very select group of people who get a CD each year. I only give them to people whom I care about, and think will genuinely enjoy the tunes. Most of the recipients are part of my inner circle.

The themed CDs are the fun ones I make for the heck of it, and sometimes for special occasions. In honor of a friend's wedding I made a collection called “Inappropriate Wedding Songs” which was soon followed by the--not due to one happening--collection “Inappropriate Funeral Songs.” Sometimes I'll make random themed CDs just for fun, only to give to a few friends. An example of that would be my 60s bachelor themed collection “Single Man on Campus.”

The personal CDs are just that. The CDs I make for specific people, for specific reasons. A CD of motivational songs to get a friend though a hard time, a collection of love songs, or, usually, a CD I make as the first attempt to tell someone I find them attractive. I've even made them for myself, songs about break ups and bad relationships is one that comes to mind. It was cheerfully titled “Songs for Heartbreak and Misery at Three AM.” The personal CDs are ones I put a great deal of thought in.

A mix CD is an act of love and caring. Sharing a collection of music that you've spent hours working on, curating, playing over and over to make sure it's just right, is a kind of intimacy. The fact you made art work for this thing, that you thought about if someone would like every single track you collected for that disc. There's a beauty in that. A beauty that I hope is never lost. What's the more romantic of the following? “Hi! What's your Spotify user name?” two days later you send them a playlist that they might never actually look at. Or: “Hi. I made you this CD, I hope you like it” then you hand them this tangible object you've been working on for days. I think the latter is far nicer than the former. A beautiful way to connect with other people, and sharing a tiny part of your soul with them too.

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