This is absolutely the best article I’ve read in many moons. It made me a bit emotional about the power of music, and captured the simple joy of experiencing a full, complete, physical album (instead of the instant gratification of sterile single downloads) and the labor of love inherent in making an actual mix tape.
Wear your heart on your sleeves
In the days before iTunes, when you wanted to impress a girl you lovingly put together a compilation tape from your LPs. Now – thanks to the wondrous choice of digital music – mix tapes and vinyl are dying out. But is some of the mystery and meaning of music also disappearing?
by Sean O’Hagan
Excerpt 1: “And, if a cherished record collection contains, on one level, a sketchy map of the human heart, a mix tape is a smaller, more intimate map, and a kind of diary of where you once were, and even who you once were. Last week, I found tapes made by ex-girlfriends, old flatmates, long lost friends. I found a brilliant Latin jazz compilation given to me in 1982 by a guy called Neil Barnes, with whom I went to college, went to gigs, and who went out with one of my friends for a while. The DIY cover is made from a postcard; you can still make out Neil and Jackie’s address on the back. Neil went on to form Leftfield, and record with one of his heroes, John Lydon. But this is a snapshot of another time, when we were both lost in music and had no real idea of where we were going.”
Excerpt 2: “As cultural shifts go, [the iPod] is momentous. We are finally free to listen to whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want. Utterly, blissfully, emptily free of everything but the music, itself ghostly, dismembered, intangible.
It may be late in the day, then, to consider what is being lost in this heady moment of what postmodernists call accelerated culture. Has, for instance, the huge shift in the way we consume music altered the way we hear music? Has it changed the nature of our emotional engagement with, and investment in, music? Does music no longer occupy the space in our increasingly overcrowded lives that it once did despite – or because of – the fact that it is easily attainable, ubiquitous? Is it possible that, in the near future, new music will exist solely in cyberspace?”
You absolutely must spend a few minutes reading this excellent piece today. Highly recommended food for thought, with no real answers but fodder for an impassioned and lengthy discussion I would love to have someday. And the closest that this sentiment can be expressed in a 3 minute punk song –
Spin The Black Circle – Pearl Jam
(live on Monkeywrench Radio, Seattle, 1/31/98)