February 8, 2007

Wear your heart on your sleeves

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
The Observer

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)


  • I was just thinking how sad it was the other day when I purchased some LP frames and hung on the wall a few of my favorite’s, that now they won’t be on the turntable, because I’m too lazy and it’s easy to click on what I want to hear. (Plus I wanted to view Abbey Road and such on the wall).

    Stephen K. — February 8, 2007 @ 11:43 am

  • See I’ve always been the type to make covers for my mix tapes/cd’s. There’s just something about having something tangible to hold onto and look at while listening to the music. Maybe it harkens back to the good ole daze of vinyl and just listening to the music on the turntable as you devour every aspect of the album artwork and the sleeve.

    Russ! — February 8, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

  • I hardly buy CD’s anymore – it’s usually vinyl these days, or a download. You can’t beat the vinyl experience. You have to actually sit down to listen to it, you have to make an effort – you can’t play in the car, or transfer it to the Ipod. Of course there is a nostalgic element to my views, but i feel that you can’t beat the vinyl experience

    Anonymous — February 8, 2007 @ 2:16 pm

  • I recently found a mix tape that I made 20 years ago – yes, I’m old. But it’s very cool as an artifact of a time and as a reminder of what we used to put into mix tapes. Sitting around with a turntable and a bunch of records, trying to pick the perfect songs to compliment the mix tape mood, making sure the beginnings and endings of songs were all in the right place…and that’s how I got through college.

    Jeff C. — February 8, 2007 @ 4:51 pm

  • There’s a similarly brilliant piece about nostalgia, the where and when of when we listened,written by Andrew Harrison in The Word, which echoes Sean o hagan’s comments about the ubiquity of the I pod.Dave Marsh ,in his essential 1001 singles book, talked about the importance of the quest in finding tracks and its possible that something quixotic and wonderfully mad about discovering music is lost in the sheer functionality of the Ipod.Look at Emusic – 40 tracks or more – how many people fill up on numbers but are running on empty when it comes to listening? Listening to Rem’s ‘Up’ tonight and that is majestic and brave.

    russell — February 8, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

  • Jeff, I also liked the cool things you could do with mix tapes that required little technological know-how (no cropping mp3 files or any of that nonsense) –

    One time in high school during my Pearl Jam fascination stage (oh. wait.) I was thinking about all the references to blood in Pearl Jam songs on the first three albums and in live covers, etc. I put together a “song” on a mix tape of all the snippets from other songs to make a Blood Mix. Yeah, I don’t know why. But see, I could never do something like that now on the computer. So I guess technology makes some things easier and other things harder. I miss the art of the mix.

    heather — February 8, 2007 @ 5:25 pm

  • You should dig up that old Blood mix, I’d love to hear it sometime.

    russ! — February 9, 2007 @ 6:15 am

  • Heather, you had your Blood tape, I made my “Wraparound Porches” tape. A 90 min tape of just diffrent versions of Porch. It was a thing of beauty.

    1, 2, 3 , 4….

    shawn s. — February 9, 2007 @ 9:04 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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