That’s a word you don’t hear very often these days, although occasionally it surfaces – an anachronistic throwback in a world dominated by MP3s and iTunes, to more halcyon days. Today it’s all but but superseded by the ubiquitous and horribly impersonal ‘playlist’, which has neither the style or appeal of a lovingly-crafted mixtape, over which hours were spent painstakingly recording other tapes, or even vinyl, or – better still – religiously listening to the Top 40, finger poised over the record button, desperately hoping the DJ wouldn’t speak over the end of the track!
Maybe you’d even have that ultimate expression of affection – an awkwardly stuttered personal recorded message hidden away amongst the tracks so painstakingly gathered together. Now that was something special!
Today, the mixtape is no more, a victim of the march of technology and capriciousness of time… There was, of course, a modern replacement for the fragile and now obsolete medium of magnetic tape, but somehow CDs never captured the romance of the mixtape, neither did they reqire the dedication and investment of self that the painstaking analogue method of recording demands. Besides, CDs have had their day too – who uses them any more?
Despite the demise of tape, there will be those of a certain age who will have just felt a sharp pang of nostalgia, pleasure and regret after reading the opening words of today’s post; those whose thoughts – like mine – are now turning to that almost forgotten cassette tape that has languished for years in a shoebox in the wardrobe, and desperately wish there was a way to listen once again to the treasures captured on its magnetic memory.
And, in fact, it is memory that is the real key to the allure of the forgotten mixtape… Those songs and messages preserved upon that flimsy plastic thread can evoke powerful and poignant memories of love, loss, joy and sadness; of times in our lives that we will never relive, and sometimes, we wouldn’t want to; of people and places, moments and mistakes – the soundtrack to a life past, but never entirely forgotten. That little plastic case, with the spools you used to wind with a chunky pencil of the perfect diameter that you kept handy for the job is far more than the sum of its parts.
The other great quality of the mixtape was that you never quite knew what to expect of it. It was always a collection of music prepared by somebody else with the intention of letting you know how they felt about you, but usually entirely based on their own much musical tastes and knowledge. It meant that you could end up listening to music you loathed, or something completely new that might well have inspired a lifetime’s enjoyment.
I’ve found that SL can be a bit like that. Music is a big thing inworld – it forms an eclectic backdrop to many a parcel and sim, it is the preferred means of relaxation and socialising for many residents, and music is a unifying Esperanto, providing a common link and language between the hugely diverse populace of the virtual world. Like the mixtape, we’re frequently stuck with what other people enjoy as opposed to what we might choose if the selection was up to us, but, as far as I’m concerned, this has been a positive benefit for me because it’s meant that I’ve been exposed to a range of music and genres about which I might otherwise have remained unaware, or may even have avoided.
Thanks to SL, I’ve discovered musical gems that I now count amongst my favourites, and also some very cool people that have become good friends, initially at least, because of sharing a commonality in our listening habits. My musical knowledge, enjoyment, and my willingness to discover and explore music even more widely have also been bolstered during my time inworld, and it’s something I’m very grateful for.
There’s another way that the SL musical experience invokes the magic of the mixtape, and it’s all about those memories: There are some songs that I cannot hear without recalling times, places and people in the virtual world. Some of those places and people are now only memories – both good, and not so good – and those memories can be incredibly evocative, although they are very often transient – recalled for a brief moment, mulled over, then quietly relegated to the filing cabinet of forgetfulness, until the next time. The next occasion that emotive track pops up in my stream.
I’ll finish here, before things become too sentimental! Besides, I know that you’re just itching to go and find that old mix tape, hidden away at the back of the cupboard, before hitting Ebay in the hope that somebody somewhere might be wanting to offload an old cassette player, so that once again you can rekindle those old feelings.
And who can blame you?
So write me a letter
Tell me where you are
How to get there
And how long that it takes to tape me some songs
Make me a mixtape
Something old and something new
Something I said or that we did
That reminds me of you make me a mixtape that makes me yours
The Promise Ring – Make Me A Mixtape