05 July 2006


with a nod and wink to master herbert's "Personal Contract for the Composition of Music", here are some considerations to which i attempt to adhere in my mixmaking. (as well as some exceptions that disprove the rule. wasn't that adage always weird.)

(this is somewhat of a preamble both to the eventual manifesto of this website and to the mix deconstructions i will become forthwith posthaste.)

Perfectionistic Constraints for the Compilation Of Mixtapes

1. only one song per artist per mix.
for straightforward (probably?) balance-related aesthetic reasons. artists with multiple aliases make for sneaky but legitimate exceptions. might be okay to break this rule for mixes with narrow focus such as overviews of a specific genre.

2. try to use mostly or exclusively music which is unfamiliar to the intended audience/recipient of the mix.
because a large amount of the point is to introduce people to new music. (although music they may know but probably don't have access to is also cool.) of course, it's not possible to know for sure what somebody will or will not have heard, and it's not necessary to err on the side of obscurism. this is most pertinent for single-recipient, bespoke mixes (and it makes for a fun sort of guessing game/test of my awareness of my friends' music knowledge.) in the case of mass-distribution mixes, this is definitely more of a guideline than a constraint, since it won't be possible to satisfy completely.

3. a given song can only appear on one mix.
this is the stickiest constraint i make upon myself - the hardest to follow but maybe the one i feel most strongly about. there are several reasons for it: because it forces me to be creative in my use of my library, perhaps exploring for something newly exciting rather than recycling an old favorite; because it keeps the mixes more interesting for me as well as my [external] audience, since mixes are part of the way i process new music; because it is consistent with the way i sometimes view my mixes as comprising a cohesive and self-contained body of work, without overlaps; perhaps most pragmatically because, in keeping with constraint #2, i don't want to give somebody the same music twice, in case, for instance, they get a mass-distro mix that reuses something that was previously on a bespoke mix for them.

october is eternal has gone through several revisions partly in order to accord with this constraint: alyssa got a slightly different earlier version of that didn't include the songs that overlapped from genrecalia; the latest version excises 'i summon you' since i had intended to include it on a ghost of valentine's past; if i was really crazy i'd be tempted to revise it before i give tara a copy because the sam cooke track was on tarabundle. of course, all of this is in keeping with constraint #2, but it's not really in the spirit of #3, which is based on there being a finalized "ideal" version of any given mix (even if it's not the one that's distributed, or even if it's never made) which is the one that "counts" for the ouevre (which i'm presently discussing as though somebody else could be aware of it besides me.)

(i have decided, for instance, that "getting it made" by band of blacky ranchette should swap spots with st. etienne's "relocate", because the former actually belongs on
ceremony, matrimony, alimony, rather than he said, she said, and vice versa for the latter. fortunately, or not, rebecca has both mixes. by the same token, i should definitely have included elvis costello's "our little angel" on bonus beats me! instead of "distorted angel" [which i overused before i had this rule])

i definitely violate this rule with some frequency, but i'm always (sometimes painfully) conscious of when i do. in a few instances i have used a bespoke mix as a basis or template for a later mass-distro mix (
super mini ear for rabi was a structural precursor to such great heights: 2003 in pop; virtue-luau/stayed-gunny for rebecca was the source of some transitions that i later used in wintry mix - which i justified since i knew reb wouldn't be receiving a copy of wintry in sunny sri lanka.) in other cases i have specifically exempted some mixes from this rule - the chicks series for my mom for instance, and - for obvious reasons - plays favorites and plays second favorites.

05 finger disco reuses a couple of songs that were on martha's phonosyntheSIS, rae's coast to coast in the post, and angela's vulpine valentine - which is fairly reasonable since it's a round-up of my favorite songs from year; however i would prefer to adhere to the rule even in the case of best-of-annum mixes, and indeed i specifically try to save up songs that i know i'll want to include on them. (which is why "song for dennis brown" and "i turn my camera on", for example, haven't appeared on any other mix, and "sun shawa" wasn't on any other mix that counted.)

4. whenever possible, the first thing on the mix should be a song by four tet
a relatively recent addition to the list, since i realized how well it worked for the wintry mix. other successful examples: october is eternal, the vulpine valentine, '05 finger disco, and, back in the day, mark's lozenge of lounge. by rights, "sun drums and soil" ought to be the first track on the sunny-themed popsical - or even better, a hidden track before the cd starts - but it's not on the current version because (among other things) it's just too long. (kind of like this post!) do you know how tempted i am to buy the single on the off chance i'd want to include one of the remixes?

so. there are plenty of other considerations, such as ensuring a cohesive and enjoyable listening experience, minimizing stylistic imbalance (i.e. a single hip-hop track in the middle of a mellow folk set), and - very key - respecting the format of the mix; (tape vs. cd - which is a topic for another day), but nothing i would really call a "constraint." and, always, everything is subject to what seems like a good idea at the time.

i've now alluded to a potentially bewildering array of mixes past and present, some of which i will discuss in greater detail in upcoming posts. stay tuned!

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