“Now, my friends, without further ado and to permit those holding their breaths to breathe…” — Masterharper Robinton, from Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonsinger”

Here, then, is the back half of the crazy project of the week.

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Nobody who knows me at all will be surprised to learn that I used to make mix tapes, the real thing, back in the 80s and early 90s. One of my favorite tricks was to use one set of artists or title elements or what-have-you in one sequence for side ‘A’ of the 90-minute cassette and then reverse the sequence for the ‘B’ side. The effect, especially in the popular players of the day which would play both sides of the tape over and over until someone pressed the Stop button (or until the tape jammed or broke), was that of a musical journey, bouncing back and forth along some theme or another.

I moved on to burning CDs when technology left cassettes behind for good, but it’s just not the same. CDs will cheerfully repeat their lone sequence and that’s all they can do. I can’t play the same thematic tricks in a simple circular form that I could with two “sides” of tape. Complexity is limited by the seventy-or-so minutes you have to work with. The one new feature, that of shuffle play, is nearly useless for my purposes.

I must admit, of course, that this little project doesn’t fit the mold of the classic mixtape either. It’s two gigantic MP3 files separated by journal post numbers, launched by two different player widgets, and so forth. All this will really do is give you an idea of the kind of things I like to do, namely playing around with themes and patterns. Oh, and many of these are among my favorite songs, so there’s that benefit as well… dubious as it may be for someone who doesn’t share my particular tastes. (That would be 99.99% of humanity.)

I tried to use one “current” and one “older” song from each artist as well as differing the tone between directions of travel. Duran Duran’s upbeat “Nice” is balanced by the somber “Winter Marches On,” while the Pet Shop Boys’ dystopian “Integral” and exuberant “Metamorphosis” neatly showcase the dark and light sides of their musical output. The plan didn’t always work, and in crafting the two mixes I ended up with imperfect pacing both directions due to the multiple restrictions and challenges I’d faced coupled with my lack of recent practice. I was also forced to cheat a little bit on one of the artist selections, as Kevin Gilbert’s limited musical output didn’t give me any choice if I wanted to keep him in.

Yet, I’m generally happy with how it turned out… all things considered.

Part One:

  1. Toy Matinee – Last Plane Out
  2. BT – Circles
  3. Depeche Mode – Suffer Well
  4. Duran Duran – Nice
  5. Pet Shop Boys – Integral
  6. VAST – Touched
  7. Kotoko – Iruka
  8. Dada – Surround
  9. Genesis – Feeding The Fire
  10. Yoko Kanno – The Egg and I
  11. Midnight Oil – Return To Sender
  12. Robert Plant – Down To The Sea
  13. Peter Gabriel – Growing Up

Part Two:

  1. Peter Gabriel – That Voice Again
  2. Robert Plant – Little By Little
  3. Midnight Oil – No Man’s Land
  4. Yoko Kanno – Call Me Call Me
  5. Genesis – Not About Us
  6. Dada – Spinning My Wheels
  7. Kotoko – Re-sublimity
  8. VAST – I Can’t Say No (To You)
  9. Pet Shop Boys – Metamorphosis
  10. Duran Duran – Winter Marches On
  11. Depeche Mode – Halo (live)
  12. BT – Satellite
  13. Kevin Gilbert – All Fall Down

I hope you enjoyed this little trip into both my psyche and my music library.