“The making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do’s and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing.” (High Fidelity)
Over the past few weeks, one of my work projects has me thinking about playlists a lot: about how they can capture a mood perfectly, about how they can change your mood more effectively than almost anything else, and how they indeed are a very subtle art.
As the first of what might become a regular feature of this blog, I’m going to share a playlist. This one seeks to capture the feeling of the song title that wraps it up: one Sunday morning.
Here’s the screen shot of the songs and artists; below is a link that will take you to the music itself (technology willing). Enjoy.
Wait, those are the hallmark bleeps of Postal Service… hold on, isn’t that Wonderwall– but the version by Ryan Adams before he went off and married Mandy Moore and made that weird hard rock record in-between screeds that he would post on his website and then try to retract, and then is that a Radiohead track (it’s several, actually), and then did I just pick up bits from Morcheeba, Simian, Blur and even Bob freaking Marley?
If this sounds like a Girl Talk experience, it’s similar. I distinctly remember the first time I heard Girl Talk: it was as if, all of a sudden, all the neurons tied in with my musical memory were firing simultaneously. Think Limitless, but with music and without all the terrible movie bits.
But this song is different. Despite Girl Talk’s genius (yes, I used that word), if we’re being honest we’ll admit that he knows only one tempo: full-out dance party. Neither he nor anyone around him have every really managed to achieve the same kind of cultural cuisinart with tunes that are more cinematic and chill. Until now.
A duo by the name of Inspired Flight has created a Girl Talk-esque track that manages to fire up all the parts of your musical brain while still staying smooth. A sprawling, seven minute track that just set the benchmark for what a downtempo mash-up could be. Brilliant, and just ready to be picked up by a movie that wants to re-invent what a lead soundtrack song could be. And, in the interim, to be enjoyed on repeat play.
With the digitally driven democratization of music creation, what can we call an instrument these days? Who qualifies as a musician?
As it often is, the purist’s argument is tempting. It’s easy to clear one’s throat, gather the right gravitas of righteous indignation, and proclaim that instruments are what instruments have been: the presence of a demo version of Garage Band on your Mac doesn’t create music any more than does Guitar Hero.
As a music fanatic, I almost feel compelled to take a stand on this side of exclusivity. The respect I have for live musicians borders on reverence, and its rarity elevates the impact of this talent.
But here’s the thing: I have (almost) enough respect for what people can create through the re-mix. The ability to take create an entire song around a sample is the background of hip-hop music. With that fact, the turntable became an instrument. And the more recent technology that enables us to create music from a hyper-kinetic tableau of pop culture (think Girl Talk) has turned the laptop into an instrument. Yes, it has.
Now just because you know how to loop a beat doesn’t mean that you have musical talent. Trust me, I know this from experience. Aside from spectacularly futile short-term jaunts with the clarinet and the guitar, I’ve had no success whatsoever with traditional instruments. I guess that’s one of the reasons that I’ve been drawn to dj-ing: considering my creation as the selection and sequencing of music. Using ideas and juxtapositions and builds to create and bend moods and atmospheres. I’m still somewhat amateurish at it, but it’s quite fun and quite the creative challenge. Here’s an old mix that I hadn’t shared digitally prior to now. Enjoy this mix from 2003, I’d imagine for some of you it will be a nice bit of nostalgia and for others perhaps a bit of a musical discovery. If all goes well, you should be able to click here and download the zip file with the music. If that link doesn’t cooperate, try this one: http://www.mediafire.com/file/ujvy1tnzydo/Holiday%20Mix%202003.zip
And here’s the track list. Do hope you enjoy it, holler if there’s anything that you’re particularly liking. Am I a musician? Probably not. But an improving dj? Perhaps.