Pause, Play, Record

Feature

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's become a kind of sport for music-lovers to mourn yet another almost-obsolete technology. For Jocelyn Gonzales it's the cassette tape. Her old mix tapes can't be recreated in a playlist on iTunes -– they're a special medium unto themselves.

    Music Playlist
  1. Skating
    Artist: Vince Guaraldi Trio
    Album: A Charlie Brown Christmas
    Label: Fantasy
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Little Fluffy Clouds
    Artist: The Orb
    Album: The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
    Label: Universal UK
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Are 'Friends' Electric?
    Artist: Gary Numan and Tubeway Army
    Album: Electricity: 18 Synth Pop Hits
    Label: MCI (UK)
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. All Time High
    Artist: Rita Coolidge
    Album: All Time High
    Label: Universal/Spectrum
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. What It's All About
    Artist: Stone Roses/Run DMC
    Album: What It's All About
    Label: Profile
    Purchase: Amazon
  6. Starpower
    Artist: Sonic Youth
    Album: Starpower
    Label: Sst Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  7. Think Again
    Artist: Minor Threat
    Album: Out of Step
    Label: Dischord Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  8. Milkshake
    Artist: Kelis
    Album: Tasty
    Label: Startrak
    Purchase: Amazon
  9. You Are The Everything
    Artist: R.E.M.
    Album: Green
    Label: Warner Bros/Wea
    Purchase: Amazon
  10. I Want You
    Artist: Bob Dylan
    Album: Blonde on Blonde
    Label: Sony
    Purchase: Amazon

Contributors:

Jocelyn Gonzales

Comments [5]

David Chelsea from Portland Oregon

Not to blow my own horn, but l just drew a comics story about Mix Tapes for the anthology Typhon. Each frame illustrates a snippet from a song, and at the end the cassette gets eaten by the player, which has been the fate of many such mix tapes- one reason I eventually switched to CD's. The mix is mostly novelty numbers straight out of Dr. Demento- the kind of tape I used to make to play for my kids in the car.

Sep. 04 2008 12:53 PM
Mike White from Westland, MI

This was a great piece. You've inspired me to break out some cassettes and digitize them.

Alas for the death of Muxtape, too, btw. That was as close to an online equivalent as I could find.

Sep. 04 2008 07:40 AM
arkonbey from Underhill, Vermont

I was just looking through my pile of cassettes on Sunday. Found the dozen or so my best friend sent me when I was stationed at USCG Airstation Kodiak, AK. They were chock full of (what was then)cutting edge music interspersed with comments.

Also in the pile were the tapes I made for my GF (now wife) when we were in art school together. I'd send them to her over the summer complete with hand-drawn covers.

I still make mixes with elaborate names and covers, but it's CDs now.

Mr. 1995 hit an important point about cassesttes, though: when you choose songs for a mix, they are meant to be played through. One follows the other in a special, specific way. Skipping ruins it.

Sep. 02 2008 04:42 PM
Mr. 1995 from Sacramento

I just made a mix tape for a lady. In fact, she asked me to. (An aside: Women! If you want to flatter a DIY nerd, ask him to make you a mix tape. It's like asking a normie bro dude to lift something or open a pickle jar for you.) As much as I like making the music, the best part is making the cover. I keep old magazines around to do that--also for the fanzine I will never get around to making.

Tapes are far better than CD's for several reasons. The first is that the recipient can't just skip songs. It makes him or her listen to them all at least once, and preserves your thoughtful order. The second is their perfect pocket size. The third is the ability to adjust the volume levels to keep them uniform. The fourth is that one listens to it while making it, allowing one to get into the mood and better choose songs to preserve or deliberately change that mood. The fifth is that it shows the recipient that you put effort into it; a CD is just dragging files into a burn folder. That brings us to the most important reason tapes are better: A mix tape shows that you own all of the records you've put into the mix. Any idiot can download songs from Bit Torrent, but only the most dedicated anoraks with the most record store mold particles in their lungs can put on a tape that Josef K song or that track off of "Chung King Can Suck It."

In your digital faces. Trade mix tapes with pen pals until your hearing finally goes.

Aug. 31 2008 01:10 AM
Emily Vito from Brooklyn, NY

Listening to this piece was bittersweet for me. It brought back great memories, but made me sad because of all the mix tapes once in my possession, none exist any longer. My younger sister and I are very close in age, and once she began to drive we shared a car. Since it was so clumsy to haul armloads or cases of cassette tapes back and forth every time I had the car, they remained and she listened to them too. Unfortunately, in her care, they became damaged or were loaned out to others of her friends. I kept a few favorites in my room and reserved them for stereo use only, but when my parents moved to a smaller house after my sisters and I had moved out, they were tossed. I didn't realize at the time how much I might miss them years later, and that they would have been worth yet another box of stuff to move around at college and beyond. It is worth noting though that there are USB memory cards that are sold in boxes resembling cassete tapes, so your modern mix tape can have something of the bygone era. It's not the same as a cassette, of course, but it will have to do.

Aug. 30 2008 11:22 AM

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