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Saturday, April 13, 2024

EDITORIAL: Can We Talk About the Lost Art of Making Mixtapes?


It seems⁢ like only yesterday when I was ‍huddled in my tiny room, fingers⁣ poised over the record and play‌ buttons of ​my cassette player, crafting a tapestry of songs of my choosing. This ⁤was not ‌just a​ labor of⁤ love; this process, this art of making mixtapes,​ was a telltale sign of the times — a‌ mark ​of my generation.

It is an art lost to time, lost to innovation, and lost in the mad rush of commercialization. It is​ the art dumbed down to ⁤a mere button on music streaming ‌apps:⁤ ‘Add to ‌playlist’. ⁤

Don’t get me wrong; if there was anything to be coveted from ‍our⁤ present times, it would be the ‌convenience of everything.⁤ But aren’t⁤ we sacrificing some​ intimate part ⁤of the process in this ⁢relentless race for convenience?

I’ve nurtured my love for music ⁤right here in Schenectady, New York. Lifelong loyalty to one’s hometown is rare ⁤these days, but Schenectady⁣ and I, we share the same DNA, the same⁣ way ‌music ‌and I are tangled in⁣ an endless ⁣dance.

I ‍still remember, aged sixteen, orchestrating‍ a⁤ meta soundtrack ⁤for my house⁤ parties ⁣which had more rhythm than‌ the shuffling⁤ feet of awkward teenagers. Each⁤ mixtape was crafted with precision, each track having it’s ‌place, never ⁢duplicated, never in disarray. ‍It was a reflection of who ⁤we were, our tastes and preferences proudly⁤ on display for anyone willing⁣ to listen.

Back then, it ​wasn’t ⁢as simple as dragging and​ dropping.​ Making a mixtape was an ​elaborate act of love. Each song needed to flow into the next, the ‌transitions leaving an ⁣aftertaste of the last track while gently introducing ⁣the‍ mood of the next.

I recall doing more ⁣than my fair share of rewinds, forwarding, and stopping, waiting​ for a popular track⁢ to​ start on the radio so that I could ⁤record it. Wanted a ⁤hip new song by The Rolling‍ Stones or The Beatles? You had ⁣better be prepared with a handful of⁤ cassettes and​ a whole lot of patience.

Ah,⁢ the things we did for music.

Sharing these cassettes then became a ​social currency.‌ Swapping mixtapes was a direct insight into each other’s lives; an intrusion that​ was strangely welcome. The kind of music you curated was akin to⁣ a‌ personality trait, the nuances beautifully captured on magnetic tape.

One mixtape I’ll always treasure was made by my wife, Margot, when we were dating. An ⁤unassuming package⁣ arrived at my ‍doorstep with nothing but my name on it, Brian. On playing the ⁢tape, ⁢I ⁢laughed, cried, and fell in love all over, with⁢ each song reeking of her personality.

How I wish we could bring back that era, decelerate, set ‍aside the smartphones, ‍and pick up ‌a pair of headphones. The ones with the⁣ jumble of wires that⁢ were prone to getting tangled⁤ up, not these wireless ones. The kind where⁤ the only thing that mattered was the music⁢ flowing through, as if one were tethered‍ to the soul ‍of ‍the creator through their ⁢creation.

This ⁣longing stems not merely​ from the grip of nostalgia but from the erosion⁢ of emotional connection​ in this digital age.⁣ Navigating ‌my sixties is teaching me important lessons about valuing things that ​have depth, a personal touch, ‌things ⁢that take time, effort,‌ and love to ⁢create. ‌But⁤ these values seem to fade into the​ background.

But ⁤what ​saddens me most‍ about ​our loss of mixtapes isn’t the music, but ⁤the stories⁢ and emotions they⁣ carried.

Do we recall the songs we ⁢added to our playlists five years ago, ⁣three years ago, even last month? Do we remember how they spoke ‍to us in profound ways? What are the stories that these modern-day mixtapes hold?

A mixtape was something ​you‌ could touch, feel, experience, and own. Even the stenciled handwriting on each tape added a charm‍ that modern technological advancements could never recreate.

Sure, music has evolved, becoming more accessible than ever. ⁤But at what cost?​ We’ve begun to forget the essence ​of music⁢ — the‌ way it⁢ touches ​our souls, the ‍way it‍ binds memories and emotions, ‍wraps them in melodies that⁣ will forever hold significance.

What have we‍ gained but lost time’s gratitude? A moment’s pause ⁢to ⁣feel, to ‍acknowledge, and appreciate the love someone else puts ⁣into the creation not only ​of the music but the experiences they anticipate we should have?

When ​we traded mixtapes for playlists, did we unknowingly diminish a cultural lexicon born⁣ of music and emotion?

I’ll take a leaf from Bob Seger’s⁤ wisdom ‍here; today’s music ⁢ain’t got the‍ same soul. I somehow still identify with the⁣ old-time rock ‘n’ roll.‌ Even though I realize that it’s‍ an age gone by, I ‌wish for a day when ‍this lost art of making ⁢mixtapes, the act‌ of creating encapsulated ⁢emotions, tangible feelings through⁣ music, is revived.

Maybe then,‌ just maybe, we will experience music as more than just a background score to our busy lives.

Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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