About a year ago I was sorting through stuff in my attic when I came across a box labeled "CDs". Since I no longer own a cd player, this box had made it through several moves without ever being opened. On a whim I moved it to the giveaway pile, which my husband eagerly took to be donated later that day.
Typically giving things away is a good experience for me. Hoarding runs in my family, and stuff finds
This time however, the regret of donating that box has continued to slowly creep up on me. It was not immediate, but over the following months little memories began to come back to me. The signed cds from bands that I had seen before they got big, the obscure music of bands that never got big but should have, the music of friends who were musicians, cds that friends had burned for me...most of these could never be replaced, and I mourned them.
But the bigger loss was one I had not realized until a moment in the car when my son wanted to listen to some music. I felt it was time to expand his horizons a bit, and so I started to play some of my favorite music from back in high school and college. Music that I knew all of the lyrics to...music that came embedded with so many memories that each song was like a time capsule...music from a time when we didn't ask someone new what they did for a living, or what their hobbies were, we asked them what music they listened to. And that was when it hit me.
I never should have gotten rid of that box. Not because *I* need to someday take out those albums and relive those memories, but because someday *my son* should be able to dig in that box and discover it for himself.
When I was a kid I used to love looking through my mom's record collection. The cover artwork alone told a story. A story of a different time, a time that I never knew. A time when my mom and dad were young and rebellious and listened to music that reflected that. Songs by musicians like the Doors, the Mamas and Papas, Donovan, Simon and Garfunkle, Janis Joplin, the Beatles...I can still see the record covers in my mind.
The music fascinated me. This wasn't the eighties pop music I had heard on the radio like Madonna's "Material Girl" or Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", this was something much deeper.
I spent many hours listening to those records and memorizing everything about them, including most of the lyrics. On long road trips in our old, crappy Volkswagen Vanagon that was never warm enough and only had a half-assed radio, my mom would ask me to sing those songs to her. Sometimes she would listen as I sang, sometimes we would belt it out together. Sometimes she would ask me for songs I didn't know, and later I would find them and memorize them so that we could sing them together.
As I developed into a teenager I began to discover my own music. Music that was even deeper, and that was much darker and often angrier. Music by artists like the Cure, the Violent Femmes, the Pixies, Jane's Addiction...music by pissed off women like Tori Amos and Sinead O' Conner. Music that reflected my own emotional experience.
I think that making mixed tapes for people was the prelude to my later obsession with filmmaking. I spent hours and hours planning out the tape, picking which song would lead into the next and carefully hitting play and record at the same time. If I messed up I had to do it again. And I had to listen to each song in real time, it wasn't just drag and drop like it is now. I listened to each song in real time, planning out what went next and how to match it perfectly to my message, and when I gave it to my loved one, they had to listen to it in the order that I gave it to them in.
Not only that, but there were two sides to it. So one side could represent one emotion and the other another. It was a build-up. There was intention behind it. It was an art form.
Later I would get the same feeling editing my movies. The exhilaration of how one shot met with the next to evoke that feeling or communicate that concept was the same feeling I had when I made a mixed tape, with the added benefit that I could create the message to begin with. And of course there was the visual component too. It was a lot of additional layers, but at its core, for me, filmmaking is just like making a mixed tape for a good friend.
But now all that is gone. If I want to listen to a song I can just type it in and listen. I don't have to listen to the rest of the album. I rarely bother to look at the album artwork or to read the lyrics and ponder the deeper meaning behind the song.
The last time I gave someone a mixed cd, they just imported it into their laptop and added the songs to their music collection. Whenever they bothered to listen to it, it was out of order. I was devastated and haven't made a mixed cd since. That was over ten years ago.
I recently made a spotify playlist for my mother-in-law to play while she was going through cancer treatment. It was the first time I had put music together for someone in a long time. It wasn't exactly the same as making a mixed tape, but there was definitely an echo of the feeling. Shortly after, my husband and I began putting together a playlist for the upcoming birth of our next baby. Again it evoked those similar feelings of joy that I remember from making mixed tapes back in the day.
I am slowly coming to terms with what the changes in technology has done to the art forms we had built around the old technology. It is not the same, and I definitely have a nostalgia for the old ways of doing things, but it's good in its own way.
If I could turn back time, I would keep that box of cds. But there is no way to get it back now. That box is gone forever, and lives only in my memory. I want my son to be able to have the same joy of discovery that I had when digging through my mom's record collection. I want him to experience that same realization that his mother is more than who he knows now, that she has an interesting past, a time before he was born when she was maybe sort of cool.
I have debated trying to rebuild my collection. In my fantasy world I will go to thrift shops and record stores and get back all of the albums I used to have. Only this time it will be on vinyl because that's even cooler...
But most likely I won't have the time or money for that. I'll be too busy with the new baby and working freelance projects to spend hours digging through music. In the end, I might just have to make due with making my son a playlist...it's not the same as a collection, but it will have to do.