Kind of like Lost Wax casting, only not really at all. I was waxing (ha!) nostalgic to my teenage students the other day about mixtapes, and realized I was totally dating myself* when they didn't get it at all. "But you just make a playlist, it's so easy!" Exactly. It's so easy. And therefore it loses something. Yes, you still have to choose just the right songs, and can work on making the perfect cover, but it's not quite the same. Making a mixtape was a big deal. You had to spend hours cuing up the tapes and knowing exactly how long the songs were and waiting to hit stop at just the right moment. And all that came after poring through your music and your friends' music, tapes scattered on the floor all around, popping them in and out of the player to hear the songs, and hear if the transitions worked... There was that in-between period, of using cd's to make a mixtape, before you could burn it onto a new cd, which wasn't quite as involved but was still a very hands-on kind of process. Something about the tangibility of it all was magical. It meant something.
Mixtapes were the love letters of my youth.
That said, I totally dig the easy access to music these days, and those same students make me cd's, which is a great way to hear new stuff, and the internet brings its own magic. But I still miss the true mixtape.
*I love myself, I think I'm grand. When I go to the movies, I hold my hand. I put my arm around my waist, and if I get fresh, I slap my face. --Ogden Nash
UPDATE: a couple days after I wrote this I was reading Sherman Alexie's new collection, War Dances, which includes the poem "Ode to Mix Tapes." "...the last track/ Was the vessel that contained/ The most devotion and pain/ And made promises that you couldn't take back." As always, it's a book that hits you where it matters. He is such a powerful writer.