Monday, April 13, 2009

Play List: Counterpoint

There were two internet destinations that figured prominently in my freshman year of college: Art of the Mix and Audiogalaxy. The former allowed me to share with others the carefully crafted mix tapes I devised during my high school years while the latter allowed me to build a rather extensive mp3 collection for future mixes.

Nowadays, I find mixing to be somewhat uninspired because there are fewer limitations. I didn't get a CD burner until twelfth grade, so all of mixes up to that point were actual mix tapes. Mix construction at that time required extensive planning. First you pick a theme and then select songs related to that theme. After repeatedly listening to specific tracks, you narrow down your list and create a dossier that included the length of each track. Once you narrow down your list to 12-15 tracks, you have to create a flow from one track to the next. It could be a drum beat, a choice of tempo, some connective fiber linking one song to the next. However, with a tape you are limited to either 30 or 45 minutes to a side, so you need to structure your tracks so that connections can flow without a tape flip cutting into the middle of a track or having over two minutes of silence. I probably went through a ream of paper in high school just from adding up the total minutes of a proposed list -- but it was worth it.

CD Burning adjusted those limitations. Instead you could have up to 80 minutes of continuous music expounding on a theme of your choosing. Arranging flow was also easier as shuffling tracks just involved a click and a drag instead of swapping CDs and skip-searching track numbers. Also, with services like Audiogalazy and Kazaa, if there was a song that you needed to complete your thesis it was only a short download away. There is a distinct disadvantage to the switch from tape to CD: If you want to present a point/counterpoint type mix (such as God/Devil), you don't have the flipping of a tape to facilitate that transition of thought.

Modern music technology has made this process almost impossible. A playlist, as Nick and Norah have shown us, can be infinite. Synthesizing an idea is no longer necessary because there is no technologically forced limitation. I still use my first generation iPod Shuffle on a daily basis, but 8.5 hours is way too much when conveying an idea, particularly if you want to present a dichotomy.

A playlist idea that I have been batting around revolves around the idea of Point/Counterpoint, Rebuttal/Response, A-Side/B-Side. Since my music library has exploded in the last few years, I feel like I have missed music based discussions between tracks that may not have realized they were in conversation with one another. I feel the list is incomplete, partly because my library will always be incomplete, partly because sometimes I will only make the connection if the right synapses fire at the right time. Here is my list so far:

  • "The Way I Are" Timbaland /
    "My Love Don't Cost a Thing" Jennifer Lopez

  • "My Humps" Black Eyed Peas /
    "Thong Song" Sisqo

  • "Shut Up and Drive" Rihanna /
    "Little Red Corvette" Prince

  • "Lovestoned/I Think That She Knows" Justin Timberlake /
    "Layla" Derek and the Dominos

  • "Southern Man" Neil Young /
    "Sweet Home Alabama" Lynyrd Skynyrd


  • That last item would probably get cut in the final draft, since the rebuttal is explicit in the latter song, but hopefully you get the idea. As you can see it is a rather short list and not enough for even a cassette.

    What songs do you think would work for a mix like this?

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