The Lost Art of The Mix-Tape

I’m going to date myself here and tell you, I’m a child of the 80’s. There were many great things about the 80’s and none of them include mall bangs, wearing two pairs of socks at the same time or biker shorts. The list of good things is long, but at the top of it for me is the mixed-tape.

For those of you youngins that read this blog, a mixed-tape is one of those marvels that is a lost art. Nowadays, you can make a playlist 500 songs deep with a general theme and then hit shuffle for the perfect blend of songs anytime.

A mix for moods – Blue, happy, angry, love, fun. A mix for occasions – running, driving, cleaning, sunshine, rain, party. A mix for people – Mom, Dad, Kid one, two or three.

But this all began with the mixed-tape. So what makes the mixed-tape such an art form?

First, you had to have the right equipment. Either a tape to tape or eventually a CD to tape and then eventually you could make a mixed-CD. Second, you didn’t have a hundred songs to get your point across. On a tape, five to six, sometimes seven per side if you got the long playing tapes. Twenty or twenty-two on a CD. You had to not only find the songs with the right sentiment and lyrics, but also you had to consider the length of each song and how they fit together to maximize the amount of songs.

You weren’t just making a statement, you were making an audio scrapbook, a moment in time. A music album is called that for a reason. It’s a set of pictures you can hear.

Then there was the order in which they were placed. And you had hard choices to make over which song really conveyed what you wanted to say, what you needed to hear. I mean one Led Zeppelin song, while conveying the right thoughts, would take up the place of two or sometimes three songs.

Lastly, the cover art. Did you list out the songs? Draw a picture and let the recipient be surprised as your genius was musically revealed? Use all the colors in your scented marker pack? So many choices.

Now of course, I make playlists for all my books and characters. I have all those playlists listed above. But once in a while, I long for the days of the perfect mix of ten or fifteen songs.

What does this have to do with writing? What finally makes it into your book is your mixed-tape. You’ll have a hundred ideas and side plots and little things that go through your brain and maybe even into your first draft. But in the end, you revise and whittle it down to just the perfect mix of words, thoughts and ideas to convey the perfect story. Then you put it in order and find the perfect cover to hold it all in.

While the art of a literal mixed-tape is soon to be completely lost, at least writers are keeping those ideas alive with their stories, their playlists and the influences music will always have on the written word.

Until next time, love and music notes, Angi