Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Retro Mixology

This LiveJournal entry is mastered to Dolby "B" standards for noise reduction. Decrease treble response when reading on non-Dolby equipment.

A few months ago, Russ reconnected with Leah, a girl that we had both gone to elementary school with. We hung out a couple of times, and she asked me for some of my mixes. I found out that she only had a tape deck in her car, so I actually went online and found a 74 minute cassette in order to transfer a copy of Drivin', figuring that it would just be a grotesque tease otherwise. I taped the disc and gave her the resultant copy along with a bunch of CDs. She really liked the rock mixes, referring to them as 'flawless.'

Whilst assisting jailnurse with his infernal exercise equipment, we came across several sealed 90 minute CrO2 cassettes. As he had not used his tape deck in years, it was deemed unnecessary and added to the pile of things that he was getting rid of. I snagged the tapes, figuring I could make a couple of mixes that Leah could listen to in the car.

So I made two rock mix tapes.

Now, I have often referred to mentally dividing my mix albums into a "side one" and "side two" for programming purposes, and sometimes even break up the play flow thus. I use this method because I have often felt that LP programs were often more balanced listening experiences than CDs; the last track on the first side has to hit the listener and make them eager to flip the platter over. It is actually one of the reasons why jailnurse's oft-quoted statement "Track 7 is always good" is right more often than not - track 7 was very often the first song on side two.

I've used variations on this model in order to account for the longer running time of a compact disc; in the case of Nature Finds A Way, I used a double LP model, as was California or Bust, my first rock "theme" tape, made back in 1997, while I still worked at Tower Records. The artwork for California or Bust had that old "Double Play/Equal to 2 LPs" logo that appeared on some early tapes, and had an image of the 'album cover' above a bar code (the Rhino issue of Maurice Jarre's Doctor Zhivago), and the track listing was designed to look like it had just been photographed off of the LP artwork, the idea being that it was a soundtrack album for a never released movie from 1982. This tape was the antecedent of the aforementioned Drivin' compilation.

My tape mixes evolved, and I eventually became dissatisfied with pausing the tape between tracks. I preferred tape decks with mechanical controls, as they allowed for greater precision, and in addition to queuing up tracks I could also edit them as well. I was always after that elusive crossfade, though, which I finally got through the use of a miniature mixing board I got from one of my fellow filmmakers at college. I would plug the CD player into one set of inputs, the laserdisc player in the other (I never used the microphone input), and I would manually switch CDs, queuing them up using the headphone jack on the players. I could still edit, which often became necessary because no matter how good as I got at it, keeping one's cool for a whole side of a 100 minute tape can be very, very difficult. There were also times when varying dynamic between tracks caused overloads. And, worst of all, if I miscalculated my remaining time, I could inadvertently screw up an entire side. It was extremely seat-of-the-pants stuff.

That miniature mixing board is long gone. My current tape deck has logic controls that, as is standard, engage the erase head first, causing a momentary lapse in recording and thus precluding any split-second editing or track transitions. I considered sitting down and just doing the pause thing... but where's the fun in that? Besides... with the technology available to me, I can make a much better-sounding tape than was ever possible before. In addition to crossfades now being something I can fine-tune, working in the digital medium allows me to adjust the dynamic for various tracks to keep it more consistent. This is something I only occasionally do on my CD mixes (although I do often adjust sound level), but a tape cassette is much more restricted in that respect.

I ended up making two discs of a little over 45 minutes for each of the two tapes. I didn't start from scratch, however. I thought of a tape that I had made many years ago that opened with an unbroken sequence that I really liked: Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan → 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) by the Jimi Hendrix Experience → Monkey Man by the Rolling Stones. I ended up recycling a lot of old mix tape sequences that I just never revisited in the CD medium. I made some conceptual playlists on my iPod as a run-through, and then began to assemble what would eventually become these two tapes Rivers Always Reach the Sea and Hollow Sky.

The resulting two tapes are therefore not only awash with nostalgia, they ended up being a lot of fun to make, and I felt a certain satisfaction while listening to them during recording (how quaint) because I didn't have to do anything at all but wait for the music to end. I didn't have to worry about the tape length (the longest side was the last, clocking in at 46:20, and it just fit) or whether it would overload or be too faint to hear over the hiss.

Now... the four CDs I made to tape are just one long track each. I have not erased the component files yet, however, because I think these are keepers. I'm not going to pad the running time, each platter will run the length I designed it for (with the proper track marks and CD Text added), but they will be two double disc sets. Since I'm going so retro, I should find those fat pre-slimline double CD jewel boxes for them...
Tags: audio, mix workshop

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