Thursday, May 25, 2006

is it better to be better than to be anything?

A question:

Do you enjoy a mix CD purely for the novelty of the music, or do you find artistic value in the arrangement of the songs?

I adhere strongly to the latter viewpoint, as anyone who knows me might guess. I think it has something to do with reconciling my fierce passion for music with my inability to create recorded music of my own: I can't make it, but by gum, I can be creative in organizing it. To be sure, sometimes I choose songs with an eye to the audience--songs that a person or persons might not know and therefore can use to broaden their musical horizons. ExRecs, in particular, and the summer mixes as well, tend to follow this rubric. Moreover, the newer the song, the more interest I have in including it in the playlist to begin with because I'm personally not tired of it yet.

However, I also firmly believe that there's value in a farther-reaching playlist, one that spans your collection and includes beloved songs as well as cutting-edge tracks, and I think this is why ...by the numbers became one of my favorite mixes ever--without the constraint of purely "new" music, I could simply pick songs that appealed to me, and the result was literally intoxicating. I might make copies of such a mix for people whom I think might be interested, but for the most part, the mix is for my personal benefit. Hell, I obviously own the music already--it's the artful arrangement of the music that brings its appeal.

Anyway, I made a mix this afternoon, which I oh-so-charmingly entitled Just for the Halibut. Yeah, yeah, I'm hilarious, I know. Regardless, it consists merely of songs I've loved recently that I wanted to revisit in a holistic setting, and as it resulted in an even 80 minutes worth of music, I feel it's somewhat fated: I can burn it to CD if I choose, or not, as the whimsy strikes. However, I offered a copy to the Boy this evening, and he declined, saying, "I own most of those songs already," and chalked it up to some sort of double-songed iPod distress. I was, and still am, hurt by this rejection, because clearly I already own the songs--it's the choosing of the songs, the collection and the order, that brings me joy. I can't imagine refusing a mix CD from anyone, even if I owned every song on it, because part of the delight of a mix is appreciating the effort that went into selecting particular artists' work and aligning them ever-so-perfectly in order.

Obviously, I think about this way too much. But have I thought myself into a corner? What do you think, readership? Do mix cds/playlists derive value only from their ability to introduce you to a new artist? Is one song on a mix cd really that revealing of an artist's catalog, anyway? And while I'm at it, what's your favorite new artist you've discovered in the last six months?

And as I would be remiss to talk around a track listing so much and not actually include it, here's Just for the Halibut (you want it, it's yours):
1. The Twilight Singers - I'm Ready
2. The New Pornographers - Sing Me Spanish Techno
3. William Shatner - Common People
4. The Polyphonic Spree - Light and Day
5. John Vanderslice - Keep the Dream Alive
6. Mike Doughty - I Hear the Bells
7. Belle & Sebastian - Sukie in the Graveyard
8. Ben Folds Five - Video Killed the Radio Star
9. Ok Go - Get Over It
10. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - All In a Day
11. The Long Winters - Cinnamon
12. Aimee Mann - She Really Wants You
13. Counting Crows - Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman)
14. Joseph Arthur - Can't Exist
15. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Dani California
16. Broken Social Scene - Almost Crimes
17. Aqualung - Left Behind
18. The Verve - Lucky Man
19. Coldplay - Swallowed in the Sea
20. Augustana - Stars and Boulevards

6 comments:

trunger said...

points to be considered:

1. given the "Age of IPOD", most persons could readily be able to put together such a playlist and then change it on a whimsy

2. I think most people don't really put much thought into the order of songs on a mix list. Although, if said mix list were done for someone in particular then there would be some thought into the choice and order of songs. Personally, when I create a mix, the only thing I try to do is keep from putting the same artist together. Although it's quite redundant nowadays since if I listen to a CD I usually play it on shuffle which brings on another interesting point (hooray run on sentences!). In my experience of listening to CDs straight through, I discovered that my attention span only lasts for about midway through the CD. For the most part, anything after that just reaches my "barely listening" zone. This usually occurs mostly from the fact that I only listen to CDs while I'm driving. So by putting my CD player on shuffle I get the chance to give an equal listen to all the tracks.

answer to question #1: I enjoy a mix CD mostly for the music and the fact that I have all of these blank CDs and having nothing better to do with them :) Although now that I have read this blog, I will have to take the arrangement of songs into consideration when next I recieve mix cd (hint, hint) ;-)

answer to question #2a: Value is derived from several other factors. Take into consideration from whom the CD is given (shame on he who spurns the gift of another). I mean it brings back that whole idea of "it's the thought that counts". You spend that time to think about the selection, then the order. That sort of thing takes time. Some people should realise something like that. This part of the question is mostly dependant on the type of music listener you are. I, myself, am one that judges music mostly on a song by song basis.

answer to question #2b: Panic! At the Disco. One of my friends was really into them and I caught a snippet of them in passing on MTV2 whilst channel surfing. That pretty much spurned me into checking them out and I was so hooked after that. It makes me sad that they're hitting St. Louis on July 20th :(

anyway, I think that's enough for a late nite dissertation or something akin to that.

^kat^ said...

Valid points, all. And I think at the end of the day, I wasn't making this mix with anyone in mind but me, so it's not exactly like a gift scorned or anything. But ever since my first attempt at a mix cd way back in the last millennium, when some ridiculously loud song was carelessly placed after a quiet song, I've taken special care to make sure that mixes/playlists have good transitions in them, that songs placed next to each other segue well. (Unless, of course, it's a huge playlist meant to be shuffled--then it doesn't matter.) Maybe my radio background also puts me in this weird position to imbue playlists with Meaning with a capital M--and given that most people probably don't care anyway and shuffle things up regardless, I'm feeling considerably less offended than I was originally.

This actually leads well into my last question--I'm so woefully behind on new music that I honestly DON'T have a lot of new stuff to put on a mix cd at the moment anyhow, so maybe I'm feeling a little defensive about my music choices for that very reason. I'll definitely check out Panic! at the Disco--I've heard of them, but I don't really know anything about them.

Cella Bella said...

When you say "mixed cd" I think of college road trips with my best friends. The point of those cds was not to teach my friends because, believe me, they couldn't care less. The reason why we had those mixed cds was to play them loud on the long, flat stretches of Texas highway and sing along at the top of our lungs to all our favorite songs (I think every single trip included "I Touch Myself" which, when it came on, you were required to belt it out to the trucker in the next lane.). When I play them now, I know exactly what bands were popular, what boy I liked, and what color eyeshadow I was wearing.

ericat13 said...

see, I'm exactly the opposite -- I love getting mix CDs that introduce me to new artists, and if I really love a particular song then I'll try to sample more by the artist and sometimes end up buying a full CD. I only really make CDs -- or new playlists in general -- when (1) someone specifically asks for one or (2) I need a mix for a particular occasion (e.g., driving to HERSHEYPARK).

btw, this mix sounds awesome -- the only song I already have is "get over it", and I just heard BFF's "video killed the radio star" for the first time yesterday and nearly fell out of my chair when I figured out what it was. so yes, I would love a copy.

trunger said...

to ericat13:

you need to listen to She Don't Use Jelly and Bitches Ain't Shit by BBF and Ben Folds respectively. if you fell out of your chair with Video Killed the Radio Star, you might fall out of the room after listening to these two :)

to kat:

Panic! At the Disco is kind of a more angst ridden version of Fallout Boy with a bit of a techno flair. at least vocally it sounds kinda like Fallout Boy.

Bruce said...

I only have two of those, so if you're offering, let me know where to pick it up (or if you need an address).

I just had a similar discussion earlier in the month. They tell me that I put a lot of thought into my mixes, but it feels automatic to me. I put a lot of thought into explaining my mixes, which is something else entirely.

Sequence is only slightly less important than the audience on my discs. I tend to think of them in terms of scope instead of cohesiveness, but it's also entirely too early in the morning for me to know what I'm actually saying.

For the questions:
1: No. New music is a plus, but it's not that important. For me, it's about impressions. When I receive a mix, I see it as a friend telling me who they think I am.

As an aside, does new music refer to, "I've never heard it before," or, "This just came out?"

2: No, but if the point is introductions, then the song should inspire the listener to explore deeper into the catalog on their own.

3: I should just drop my follow-up to #1 in here. My favorite 'new to me' song of the last six months in Rainbow's "Since You've Been Gone," which was actually released in 1981. I've been removed from new music, but Panic! at the Disco (already mentioned) is on my list. I also just started listening to Jamie Cullum, proving that I'm well behind the pace.