Sound Check

Sound Checkby Amber Goodwyn

If there isn’t an art or science to making a music mix, there’s definitely a folk tradition — and I love snapping up old cassettes with handmade covers at garage sales. My favorite such find was a yellow, hot pink and black line drawing of a tough guy’s face with ‘Ozzy’ Sharpie’d in below, with no Ozzy Osbourne tunes at all to be found on the tape.

Sir Mix-A-Lot

I was a preteen when I first started taping songs I liked from the radio, which inadvertently became the first mixes I ever made. In that pre-YouTube era, I spent hours listening to these recordings until the randomly-sequenced songs, messy cuts and truncated radio host’s voices became as familiar and musical to me as Madonna’s “Secret”.

Not long after that, my friends and I began listening to music in earnest and making mix CDs for each other complete with improvised album art to better share our passionate love of all things Smashing Pumpkins or Tori Amos. I discovered Patti Smith for the first time on a mix CD an older boy made for me, not realizing until much later how unattractive his derogatory comments about her unconventional appearance were.

Fast forward about 10 years into the future when mix CDs and iPod playlists would become fuel for the tank on road trips and tours with my band. When I worked at a free-form radio station in Montreal, I learned to push my mixing capacity to the limit by improvising super long cross-fades while playing with volume and pitch to create wholly new meanings from the musical recordings at the tips of each fader. When I DJed dance music at live events, I’d preplan my playlist in rigorous pursuit of the constantly changing Right Vibe. The mix I made for the drive to the court house to get married included ’Chapel of Love’ as well as ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’.

The Personal Is Musical

Currently I’m preoccupied with a creating a completely new-to-me type of mix: one for giving birth to my first baby. Like dance music, the tracks should be selected to encourage being in my body and staying attuned to its rhythms. Like my free-form radio experiments, the playlist should be light and ephemeral, alleviating the passage of time. Familiar tunes will likely be included also, to help relieve any sense of panic or fear. The stakes are high and the baby is carrying low, so it won’t be too long until I’m able to assess the success of this newest of music mixable ventures. I won’t be able to make the cover art until after, of course, when I’ve met this little rock star and have best determined how to canonize her in my collection of tapes, CDRs and playlists.

In my ears: All the mixtapes

Twitter: ambergoodwyn

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2014-05-15