Thursday, July 02, 2009

I'll Make You a Mix Tape!

For the last eight or so months, I had Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield on my to-read list. The premise intrigued me, and while it took me a while to finally get to it, I began reading it last week and blew right through it. The book grabbed me and touched this part of me I long ago lost touch with: Tere, the avid mix-tape maker.

I've said all this before, but it's an understatement to say that I love music, or that music has always been a huge part of my life and my identity. I'm not even sure how to adequately explain it. Just take my word for it: music is vital in my life. I need it when I drive, when I cook, when I clean, when I work. If there's no music to be had, I'll sing (badly). Almost every song I love reminds me of someone or something; in many cases, one song may apply to different people in different ways, and I love that.

And it was at an early age - nine or so - when I began to make mix tapes. Crudely recorded from the radio, they were mixes of everything from Top 40 (I so love you, Casey Kasem) to classic rock to my own voice singing whatever song I loved at that moment. By junior high, I would call radio stations to make requests then stay frozen by the radio, my fingers ready on the play/record buttons, and make the mix tapes that way. Those would take days or weeks to put together, because there were too many variable out of my control: if I caught a song I wanted at the end, I'd have to wait for it to play again; many DJs ignored my requests, etc.

Getting a radio with a double cassette deck was like heaven opening up for me. Making mix tapes from albums (and not the radio) gave me more control and allowed me to line up the songs as I really wanted them; plus, it cut out the DJ talking over the music.

I don't remember how many mix tapes I made, but I still have almost all of them (I've refused to get rid of my vast cassette collection). In high school, I was making at least one tape a week. I'd take them on the bus and make everyone listen to them, and soon enough, my friends were requesting specific mixes for the ride to school and the ride home ("the metal one with Firehouse and Stryper!"; "the one with U2 and Queen!").

I made mix tapes for friends, for my different moods, to listen to in the shower. When I met someone and clicked with them, they got a tape. When I fell in love, there were many tapes! When my heart would break, there'd be one intense tape to carry me through the pain. (This goes hand-in-hand with song dedications.)

Cassettes gave way to CDs, but I resisted for years. I didn't make my first CD mix (and yes, like Rob Sheffield, I agree that they're "mix tapes" no matter what the medium) until the year 2000. And even then, I made mixes in abundance: my favorite Pearl Jam songs in one convenient CD; my favorite ska songs; the best of The Samples; Indigo Girls mixes ranked from most favorite in one CD to lesser faves in others. Same for Dave Matthews Band. Mixes of awesome girl power songs (but NO Spice Girls); mixes of sweet angsty boy-with-guitar music. I still listen to these mixes (even though now they've been uploaded to my iPod.)

I identified so much with what Sheffield expressed in his book, especially in the way that music relates to love. I don't want to spoil the book (because you music lovers out there should read it), but the main premise deals with his relationship with his wife and the role that music played in that relationship.

But because the book was about both love and music, I couldn't help but reflect on a few personal things. Namely, how I haven't made a mix tape since 2003. That speaks volumes to me. What was it about my relationship with my ex-husband (after we reconciled in 2004), becomming a mother, and the life that followed, that took this away from me? Why did I stop? Where were the mix tapes for him as life moved forward with so many big moments in them? How did I end up with someone who didn't even make mix tapes, or fully appreciate them?

Furthermore, what was it about motherhood and a tumultuous relationship that made me lose so much of myself? I struggle on a near-daily basis with moments where I remember something I loved and gave up, or where I try to remember a time when I had interesting things to discuss, or when I simply felt like an interesting, well-rounded person. Surely, motherhood alone does not do this to someone (and I did have a partner who carried his full load as far as parenting duties). Why did life, from my pregnancy forward, seem like such a struggle on an emotional level? Why did I lose my spark?

I want to make mix tapes again. Granted, I've got my playlists ("Extra super faves", "Fiesta!", "DANCE!", "Good Times") on my iPod, but an equally important element of the mix tape is giving it away. The CD drive on my laptop has been broken for a couple of years, but still, there has to be a way to bring the music back and give it away. Or at least, a way to get back to that part of myself that reveled in the music - in discovering new songs and artists, in listening and memorizing lyrics, in sharing an awesome find with a good friend.

In feeling alive and free in the beat of a perfect song, where everything makes total sense.

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Posted by Tere @ 7/02/2009   | |


  • Blogger Balou posted at 7/02/2009 3:22 PM  
    Go to my blog. Listen to the song.

    I am so there with you on this one.
  • Blogger Alfred Soto posted at 7/02/2009 4:04 PM  
    I loved the book too, and I've also saved every tape I've made (since 1988!), some of which I still listen to (I still have a tape player).
  • Anonymous Hector posted at 7/06/2009 12:04 AM  
    For a few years I've made holiday CD mixes for friends and co-workers. I've had a blast making the lists, and there's nothing like opening people up to some songs while selfishly imposing your tastes on them. ;)
  • Blogger Tere posted at 7/06/2009 8:57 AM  
    Hec, my sentiments the same, as far as being able to expose friends to something new while imposing my taste upon them! :-)
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