Monday, September 15, 2008

The Soundtrack to My Life

So, this is the moment where I reveal just how obsessive and crazy I am in regards to my music collection, the mixtape concept, my life/experiences, and how all of those things go together.

Once upon a time, around 1989 or so, I embarked on a project. I decided to create a series of mixtapes that would have all of my favorite stuff from all the albums I owned on them. As I accumulated more albums, I would make more mixtapes. Normal mixtape rules applied, but this was going to be COMPREHENSIVE. Now, I wasn't really too obsessive about the project otherwise...I wasn't rigidly autobiographical (in other words, the music did not go on the mixtapes in the sequence that I discovered or grew to love it), and I kind of just played catch up when it occurred to me to do so. But I kept up with it pretty regularly all through high school, and through my freshman year of college. I can't quite remember how many tapes I had created by then...maybe somewhere around 50 or 60.

Then, tragedy struck...I was home for the summer in 1994, and was driving somewhere, when I suddenly realized that I had left the entire series of cassettes in their storage cases in a cabinet in my dorm room. The dorm rooms were rigorously cleaned after the school year ended, so I knew that the cassettes were gone. All that work, kaput.

I did not attempt to replicate or restart the project for another year and a half or so. I made mixtapes occasionally, but no large connected series of them. Then, some time around the early part of 1996, I decided to attempt the project again, because I thought it would be a good way to occupy my time. This time around I had a LOT more catching up to do, since almost 7 years had elapsed since I started the first time. So I sat around and made mixtapes A LOT. I spent an inordinate amount of time on it. I kept it up until some time in 1999, when I kind of abandoned it for a number of reasons: 1) Cassettes, for better or worse, were on their way out. I didn't even have a cassette player in my car anymore at that point (although I do now, ironically enough). 2) I felt as though a lot of the later tapes had a good bit of music on them that I didn't really like that much...I didn't dislike it, but it was the product of accumulating too much music too fast in a non-discriminatory way, and being able to go back and listen to music that generally didn't mean much to me was not the purpose of the project. To some degree, the point of mixtapes retroactively is to be able to go back and experience a moment in your life, where the music on that tape was, literally, the soundtrack to your life. So... 2004 I began again, with even stricter, more obsessive adherences than the first two times. I decided to use CDs this time around, and did not pursue my current "mixtape" format (see entry "Introduction/What Is This Crap?" for definition) because I had not invented it yet. I rigorously pursued the "autobiographical" nature I had always wanted for the project, starting with the earliest music I ever heard on the first few discs, working all the way up to the present (or early 2004...that's as far as I've gotten with it). So far there are around 250 discs in the series. I found that it's good to stay a few years behind, because when you look back a few years, you REALLY remember what you heard, and what you enjoyed and latched on to...You remember the music that really meant something to you. We'll see how far I get. I know that, given my current situation (most of my CD collection is in the garage, so I don't really have the kind of access to it that the project demands), I won't work on it much any time soon. But we'll see.

This description of this project is necessary to continue a discussion I want to have about iPods, and my struggle/journey with them. So I'll get to that soon. Meanwhile, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the above text.

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