Days of Lore

Art imitates life Ah … the mixtape. They’ve been around for decades. But it wasn’t until Nick Hornby made it a central character in High Fidelity that the mixtape really became the piece of pop culture it is today. And when John Cusack took the role of Rob Gordon for the movie version … forget it—the mixtape became the symbol of emo music snobs everywhere.

Of course, in the age of computers and iTunes, the actual “tape” in mixtape has run the risk of going the way of the 8-Track. But there are those who still stand by the traditional medium. In fact, I just received a mixtape for my birthday, and the person actually put it on an honest-to-god cassette—not one of those ghastly CD-Rs. Very sexy. Sassy, even.

Making a mixtape is an art. Deciding which songs or artists you want to include. Themes. The order in which the songs appear (they must flow!). Whether you even choose to include song titles or artist names on the sleeve. Cover art. And bundling emotions on a tiny strip of magnetic tape encased in plastic—not a simple task. Yes, the mixtape is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Mixed emotions There’s some thought that goes into making any mixtape, since it’s safe to say the recipient is a person you know in some capacity. But there are varying degrees.

A mixtape can be purely educational. For example, there’s the “You Gotta Hear This” mixtape you give someone simply to turn them on to new music. Mixtapes can also express how you really feel about someone through the words of, say, a Bob Dylan … or, hell, even a Sinead O’Connor. The “This Is Me” mixtape gives someone a fleeting glimpse into your music collection—since we all know that music says a lot about a person. These can be a little tricky, because you run the risk of the chosen one possibly reading too deeply into Robin Zander singing, “I want you to want me,” when in reality you just think it’s a kick-ass rock song.

Those are the easy ones …

Choosing that perfect song to confess your love or admiration for someone can be stressful. Again, you have to be conscious of what messages you want to send (or not send) a person.

You’ve got the “Let’s Hang Out and Have Fun” mix, where you convey that things are going swimmingly, but not too swimmingly. Or you can really go for the gold with the “You Will Fall in Love with Me” mixtape, which would undoubtedly be laced with Marvin Gaye, Al Green, maybe a few country ditties from Buck Owens or Gram Parsons. Throw into the mix Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time” or “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton, and you’d better start making wedding plans right away. But, that’s just me.

International Noise conspiracy Mixtape culture is alive and well. Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore put together Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture, a book of essays from record store clerks, musicians and so on, where they talk about their mixes, from the “Road Trip Tape” to the “Break-up Tape.” And Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield tells his story of love and loss in his new book, Love is a Mix Tape.

Oh, but there’s more. I was recently directed to a Web site where people from all over the world can share music in the form of a mixtape. The International Mixtape Project is a community of like-minded people who, for $10 every six months, set up a profile and send one mixtape (or CD) to an assigned recipient once a month. In return, you receive a mix yourself from someone else in the community.

It looks pretty cool. Set up a profile, and you can blog and set up photos (like some other über-popular networking site), post track listings to your mixes and correspond with other music dorks around the world. Check it out at