Artwork by Julia Mary Sniatynski
Mix-CDs: made for lovers and friends, created with passion and linked together by theme, mood or nothing at all. Who doesn’t adore getting one? With a handwritten track list and a case personally decorated with anything the maker could find, you’re even willing to forgive them for having a bad taste in music just so you can soak in the love that comes with receiving something made with only you in mind.
I make a lot of mix-CDs. Sometimes I make them with no purpose at all—with no one in mind and no thought, no apparent point at all, behind them. But it gives me joy and it’s something to do to pass the hours.
It’s fair to say that, at times, I become a tad obsessive with introducing friends, potential lovers or almost-strangers to my musical passions. I spend hours drafting a playlist, adding and subtracting songs, and getting so carried away with it that I have enough music to fill as many as seven discs.
I choose a particular tone or mood, perhaps even a country of origin or style of music, or a playlist which is as off-beat as possible so that no one would have ever heard all the songs, let alone heard them strung together. Rarely do I confine myself to one particular musical era either, especially for the all-important first mix-CD I give someone, when impressions are so vital—when friendships and loves are lost or won.
I have what I believe to be odd ways of compiling. I like to think I have a complex storyboard inside my head, carefully laid out on a physical disc to take the listener on a journey full of emotions of joy and sadness and moments of elation and sombreness.
But really, with an impending deadline of a promised CD coming up, I sometimes choose songs I know well and skip from the end of one to the beginning of another, to match each song in the hope of making them flow into each other.
Alternatively, I may listen to all the tracks and rate them—from one to three—depending on how melodic or heavy they are. I then determine, based on these ratings, where they’ll be positioned on that storyboard in order to create the almighty mix.
The problem is, sometimes I tire of it. My devotion is short lived. It’s probably because I always imagine that my forthcoming CD will come together with ease, that it will effortlessly result in a sequence of entrancingly brilliant sounds, enough to lull or stir or evoke anyone’s emotions.
But when I realise how much effort, repetition and fine-tuning are required, or that my goal seems unobtainable, the fun diminishes. And no matter how much dedication I put into it, I cannot force cheeky 1920s songs to flow into dubstep and then into gypsy tunes, no matter how hard I try.
When my interest falters, I usually feel it necessary to establish, then analyse, my aims for the mix I’m trying to create—as well as whether I should care at all if it is simply a collection of songs I think the recipient may delight in. It’s usually just spurred by the desire to create something great, as flawless as possible.
It’s like painting your house—rarely do people notice it’s been done unless the smell of paint still lingers. And you can’t expect them to see the attention you’ve paid to the ceiling or keeping splatters off the skirting. But living within those flawlessly painted walls—knowing the trials that you went through to get it done well—makes you appreciate the job. You know what a disaster it could have been if things had gone differently. The same thing applies with me and my mixes.
So, why do I make mix-CDs? To impress, prove my coolness, spread the word on amazing musicians (Kid Harpoon sneakily makes his way onto near every introductory mix, dig it), send a message, implant emotions, and show I think the recipients are worth all the effort.
Really, what I should learn is that perfection isn’t always obtainable. This doesn’t mean that my expectations should fall or I shouldn’t try. It’s supposed to be a journey that extends from me creating a mix to someone else hearing it—and this second part is more important.