blank cassette

mixed music,
mixed feelings

Music is a gift. That part I’m sure of.

Hearing music, being able to play it, singing it beautifully or singing it as if no-one else exists in the world. Tapping it out, hearing it as you run your fingers along a fence, sensing it in the pulse of another. Feeling it. It all blends to a sweet and personal harmony.

Music is everywhere and it’s a joy.

But there’s a gift that I miss. Or sometimes think that I do. A package of music that’s had its time.

A million years ago, there was the mixtape.

You could make your own; tape recorder shoved up hard against the radio, finger hovering on the worn red record button, waiting for that song. You know the one. It kept you up at night, trying to remember the words. It made your heart ache, when it came on air. Or it made you want to dance. You couldn’t not dance.

An enthusiastic friend might gift a mixtape to you. A box full of the sounds they wanted you to love. Maybe they were trying to cure you of your poppy, synthy, electronic ways. Maybe it was so that you might one day fall for their kind of music, or even fall for them. I always fell in love with the songs, but it never cured me. A good mixtape could blow my mind. It opened musical doors. Hell, a great one could unearth entire musical cities.

There are different ways to do this now. Digital ways. Shared playlists, and radio stations that like to think they know what you want. The word mixtape has taken on its own life and lots of folk use it to mean the mix, not the media. But, for me, this hasn’t replaced what’s gone. It still does and always will mean a cassette with a wound up gift of sound.

I miss it, absolutely. But that’s not to say I miss the technology. I guess that’s it – what I’m not so sure of. Cassette tapes were thick with imperfections. They wore out. Got tangled up. Unravelled and jammed. Yet there’s a little piece of that imperfect mess that I long for. The last few seconds of the captured next song. The slow devolve of the sounds and words of your favourite track; your most adored bit of tape.

It doesn’t make sense that I miss this. At the time, it annoyed me. Drove me mad. Made me swear and throw things. All the same, these imperfections are what made those songs uniquely mine. No-one else heard these songs in the same way that I did. Not the same order, not the same quality, not even the same loss through overuse and over-love.

And that little nest, that non-robotic soup is, I think, what made this music last. I can still see my favourite tape. My favourite song. That friend’s handwriting. The day the tape broke. Too much heart, too much worship.

As the world around me seeks for more and more stylised perfection, I guess that’s what I miss. A little box of chaos, music and imperfect love.