Mixtape

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A compact audio cassette mixtape with a handwritten label: "Funky Stuff" Funky Stuff mixtape.jpg
A compact audio cassette mixtape with a handwritten label: "Funky Stuff"

A mixtape (alternatively mix-tape or mix tape) is a compilation of music, typically from multiple sources, recorded onto a medium. With origins in the 1980s, the term normally describes a homemade compilation of music onto a cassette tape, CD, or digital playlist. The songs are either ordered sequentially or made into a continuous program by beatmatching the songs and creating seamless transitions at their beginnings and endings with fades or abrupt edits. [1] Essayist Geoffrey O'Brien described this definition of the mixtape as "perhaps the most widely practiced American art form". [2] [3]

Contents

In hip hop and R&B culture, a mixtape often describes a self-produced or independently released album issued free of charge to gain publicity or avoid possible copyright infringement. However, the term has been applied to a number of releases published for profit in the 2010s and the line between a release billed as a mixtape and one referred to as a studio album or extended play has become increasingly blurred.

History

An early pirated 8 track mixtape from 1974 8trackmixtape.JPG
An early pirated 8 track mixtape from 1974

Homemade mix tapes became common in the 1980s. Although the compact audio cassette by Philips appeared at the 1963 Berlin Radio Show, [4] the sound quality of cassettes was not good enough to be seriously considered for music recording until further advances in tape formulations, including the advent of chrome and metal tape. Before the introduction of the audio cassette, the creation of a pop music compilation required specialized or cumbersome equipment, such as a reel-to-reel or 8 track recorder, that was often inaccessible to the casual music fan. As cassette tapes and recorders grew in popularity and portability, these technological hurdles were lowered to the point where the only resources required to create a mix were a handful of cassettes and a cassette recorder connected to a source of pre-recorded music, such as a radio or LP player. The 8-track tape cartridge was more popular for music recording during much of the 1960s, as the cassette was originally only mono and intended for vocal recordings only, such as in office dictation machines. But improvements in fidelity finally allowed the cassette to become a major player. The ready availability of the cassette and higher quality home recording decks to serve the casual home user allowed the cassette to become the dominant tape format, to the point that the 8 track tape nearly disappeared shortly after the turn of the 1980s. The growth of the mixtape was also encouraged by improved quality and increased popularity of audio cassette players in car entertainment systems, and by the introduction of the Sony Walkman in 1979.[ citation needed ]

A distinction should be drawn between a private mixtape, which is usually intended for a specific listener or private social event, and a public mixtape, or "party tape", usually consisting of a recording of a club performance by a DJ and intended to be sold to multiple individuals. In the 1970s, such DJs as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, Kool Herc and the Herculoids, and DJ Hollywood would often distribute recordings of their club performances via audio cassette, as well as customized recordings (often prepared at exorbitant prices) for individual tape purchasers. These recordings tended to be of higher technical ability than home-made mixtapes and incorporated techniques such as beatmatching and scratching. One 12 October 1974 article in Billboard reported, "Tapes were originally dubbed by jockeys to serve as standbys for times when they did not have disco turntables to hand. The tapes represent each jockey's concept of programming, placing, and sequencing of record sides. The music is heard without interruption. One- to three-hour programs bring anywhere from $30 to $75 per tape, mostly reel-to-reel, but increasingly on cartridge and cassette." Club proprietors, as well as DJs, would often prepare such tapes for sale.

Throughout the 1980s, mixtapes were a highly visible element of youth culture. However, the increased availability of CD burners and MP3 players and the gradual disappearance of cassette players in cars and households have led to a decline in the popularity of the compact audio cassette as a medium for homemade mixes. The high point of traditional mixtape culture was arguably the publication of Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity in 1995. Since then, mixtapes have largely been replaced by mix CDs and shared MP3 playlists, which are more durable, can hold more songs, and require minutes (rather than hours) to prepare, and MP3 players take only seconds compared to CD-Rs.[ citation needed ]

Today, websites concerned with electronic music provide mixes in a digital format. These usually consist of recorded DJ sets of live, beat-matched mixes of songs, which are used by DJs seeking to demonstrate their mixing skills to an online audience. Some radio shows worldwide specialize in mix series, including The Breezeblock on BBC Radio 1, The Solid Steel Show (formerly on KISS-FM), and Eddy Temple-Morris/The Remix on Xfm.[ citation needed ]

Additionally, DJs such as Grandmaster Flash, DJ QBert, DJ Spooky, DJ Z-Trip or DJ Shadow, The Avalanches, and Rjd2 have gained fame for creating new songs by combining fragments of existing songs (which need not necessarily belong to the same genre). The resulting remix or mash-up can be seen as an evolution of the mixtape, in that it appropriates existing songs to give them new meanings through their juxtaposition, but does so in a quicker, more integrated style. This practice is heavily derived from the use of song loops as musical backdrops for an MC's rhymes in hip hop music, which is also related to turntablism.

Frank Creighton, a director of anti-copyright infringement efforts for the Recording Industry Association of America, considers that "money did not have to be involved for copying to be illegal". [5]

Aesthetic

While the process of recording a mix onto an audio cassette from LPs or compact discs is technically straightforward, many music fans who create more than one mixtape are eventually compelled to confront some of the practical and aesthetic challenges involved in the mixtape format. From a practical standpoint, such issues as avoiding an excessive amount of blank tape at the end of one side (which requires careful planning of the length of each side of the mix) and reducing the audible click between songs (which requires mastery of the pause button on the cassette recorder) have been identified as part of the shared experience of mixtape aficionados. From an aesthetic point of view, many enthusiasts believe that because a tape player, unlike a CD player, lacks the ability to skip from song to song, the mixtape needs to be considered in its entirety. This requires the mixtape creator to consider the transitions between songs, the effects caused by juxtaposing a soft song with a loud song, and the overall "narrative arc" of the entire tape. One notable listing of such aesthetic "rules" can be found in a paragraph from Nick Hornby's High Fidelity [6]

To me, making a tape is like writing a letter—there's a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. ... A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You've got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with "Got to Get You Off My Mind", but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you've got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can't have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can't have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you've done the whole thing in pairs and...oh, there are loads of rules.

A handwritten track listing for a mixtape Mix tape sleeve notes.jpg
A handwritten track listing for a mixtape

Many enthusiasts also devote substantial attention to the packaging of a mix tape intended as a gift, sometimes going so far as to create cover art and customized liner notes. The cover of the original McSweeney's edition of 31 Songs , a 2003 essay collection by Nick Hornby, was intended to suggest the packaging of a homemade mixtape, with the Side A half (of a Maxell cassette J-card) as the front cover and the Side B half on the back cover. It also came with an actual CD featuring ten of the songs discussed in the text. Indeed, the look of mix tapes, featuring hand-written notes on the recording medium manufacturer's supplied labels, has become one of the aesthetic conventions of modern design, a distinct style that designers may attempt to copy or cite. Many have been so widely distributed that the CDDB has logged and can identify ID3 tags when a disc mix tape is inserted into a PC.

From an artistic point of view, many creators[ who? ] of mix tapes seem to regard them as a form of emotional self-expression, although whether a mix tape retains the same web of emotional associations when passed from its creator to the recipient is, at best, debatable. Some argue that in selecting, juxtaposing, or even editing originally unrelated tracks of pop music into a new work of art, the "author" of a mix tape moves from passive listener to archivist, editor, and finally active participant in the process of musical creation. (Some legitimacy for this viewpoint was provided by Cassette Stories, a 2003 exhibition at the Museum of Communication in Hamburg, Germany, which featured stories and submissions from eighty mix tape enthusiasts.) However, this perception of the mix tape as a work of art has been criticized[ by whom? ] as resulting in a sort of elitism, with creators becoming more concerned with finding arcane and surprising combinations of tracks than with creating a tape that is listenable, enjoyable, or appropriate to its intended recipient. (In High Fidelity, for example, the narrator's girlfriend complains that his mix tapes are too didactic.) On a very basic level, the creation of a mix tape can be seen[ by whom? ] as an expression of the individual compiler's taste in music, often put forward for the implicit approval of the tape's recipient, and in many cases as a tentative step towards building the compiler's personal canon of pop music.

In hip hop

In hip hop's earliest days, the music only existed in live form, so performers' music was spread via tapes of parties and shows. [7] Hip hop mixtapes first appeared in the mid-1970s in New York City, featuring artists such as Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa. [7]

In the mid-1980s, DJs, such as Brucie B, began recording their live music and selling them as mixtapes, which was soon followed by other DJs, like Kid Capri and Doo Wop. [7] Ron G moved the mixtape forward in the early 1990s by blending R&B a cappellas with hip hop beats (known as "blends"). [7] Blend tapes were developed to promote one or more new artists, or as a pre-release by more established artists to promote upcoming "official" albums. [8]

See also

Related Research Articles

Disc jockey Name for person who plays recorded music for an audience

A disc jockey, more commonly abbreviated as DJ, is a person who plays recorded music for an audience. Most common types of DJs include radio DJs, club DJs, mobile DJs, and turntablists. Originally, the "disc" in "disc jockey" referred to shellac and later vinyl records, but nowadays DJ is used as an all-encompassing term to also describe persons who mix music from other recording media such as cassettes, CDs or digital audio files on a CDJ, controller, or even a laptop. DJs may adopt the title "DJ" in front of their real names, adopted pseudonyms, or stage names.

Cassette tape Magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback

The Compact Cassette or Musicassette (MC), also commonly called the tape cassette, cassette tape, audio cassette, or simply tape or cassette, is an analog magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback. It was developed by Philips in Hasselt, Belgium, and introduced in September 1963. Compact Cassettes come in two forms, either already containing content as a prerecorded cassette (Musicassette), or as a fully recordable "blank" cassette. Both forms are reversible by the user.

Digital Audio Tape Digital audio cassette format developed by Sony

Digital Audio Tape is a signal recording and playback medium developed by Sony and introduced in 1987. In appearance it is similar to a Compact Cassette, using 3.81 mm / 0.15" magnetic tape enclosed in a protective shell, but is roughly half the size at 73 mm × 54 mm × 10.5 mm. The recording is digital rather than analog. DAT can record at sampling rates equal to, as well as higher and lower than a CD at 16 bits quantization. If a comparable digital source is copied without returning to the analogue domain, then the DAT will produce an exact clone, unlike other digital media such as Digital Compact Cassette or non-Hi-MD MiniDisc, both of which use a lossy data reduction system.

Tape recorder

An audio tape recorder, tape deck, or tape machine is a sound recording and reproduction device that records and plays back sounds usually using magnetic tape for storage. In its present-day form, it records a fluctuating signal by moving the tape across a tape head that polarizes the magnetic domains in the tape in proportion to the audio signal. Tape-recording devices include the reel-to-reel tape deck and the cassette deck, which uses a cassette for storage.

8-track tape Magnetic tape sound recording format

The 8-track tape is a magnetic-tape sound recording technology that was popular in the United States from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, when the Compact Cassette tape, which predated 8-track, surpassed it in popularity for pre-recorded music. The format is obsolete and was relatively unknown outside the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Italy, and Japan. The main advantage of the 8-Track tape cartridge is that it does not have to be "flipped over" to play the alternative set of tracks.

A cassette deck is a type of tape machine for playing and recording audio cassettes. The consumer electronics industry formerly used the term deck to distinguish them from a tape recorder, the "deck" being part of a stereo component system, while a "tape recorder" was more portable and usually had a self-contained power amplifier.

Boombox Portable music player with tape recorders and radio with a carrying handle

A boombox is a transistorized portable music player featuring one or two cassette tape recorder/players and AM/FM radio, generally with a carrying handle. Beginning in the mid 1980s, a CD player was often included. Sound is delivered through an amplifier and two or more integrated loudspeakers. A boombox is a device typically capable of receiving radio stations and playing recorded music. Many models are also capable of recording onto cassette tapes from radio and other sources. In the 1990s, some boomboxes were available with minidisc recorders and players. Designed for portability, boomboxes can be powered by batteries as well as by line current. The boombox was introduced to the American market during the late 1970s. The desire for louder and heavier bass led to bigger and heavier boxes; by the 1980s, some boomboxes had reached the size of a suitcase. Some larger boomboxes even contained vertically mounted record turntables. Most boomboxes were battery-operated, leading to extremely heavy, bulky boxes.

Scratching

Scratching, sometimes referred to as scrubbing, is a DJ and turntablist technique of moving a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable to produce percussive or rhythmic sounds. A crossfader on a DJ mixer may be used to fade between two records simultaneously.

Turntablism

Turntablism is the art of manipulating sounds and creating new music, sound effects, mixes and other creative sounds and beats, typically by using two or more turntables and a cross fader-equipped DJ mixer. The mixer is plugged into a PA system for live events and/or broadcasting equipment so that a wider audience can hear the turntablist's music. Turntablists manipulate records on a turntable by moving the record with their hand to cue the stylus to exact points on a record, and by touching or moving the platter or record to stop, slow down, speed up or, spin the record backwards, or moving the turntable platter back and forth, all while using a DJ mixer's crossfader control and the mixer's gain and equalization controls to adjust the sound and level of each turntable. Turntablists typically use two or more turntables and headphones to cue up desired start points on different records.

Reel-to-reel audio tape recording

Reel-to-reel audio tape recording, also called open-reel recording, is the form of magnetic tape audio recording in which the recording medium is held on a reel that is not permanently mounted in an enclosed cassette. In use, the supply reel containing the tape is placed on a spindle or hub; the end of the tape is manually pulled out of the reel, threaded through mechanical guides and a tape head assembly, and attached by friction to the hub of the second, initially empty takeup reel.

DJ Yoda

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SPARS code

The SPARS code is a three-position alphabetic classification system developed in the early 1980s by the Society of Professional Audio Recording Services (SPARS) for commercial compact disc releases to denote aspects of the sound recording and reproduction process, distinguishing between the use of analog equipment and digital equipment. The code's three positions refer to recording, mixing, and mastering respectively. The first two positions may be coded either "A" for analog or "D" for digital; the third position (mastering) is always "D" on digital CDs. The scheme was not originally intended to be limited to use on digital packaged media: it was also available for use in conjunction with analog releases such as vinyl or cassette, but this was never done in practice.

Portastudio Home recording studio equipment

The TASCAM Portastudio was the world's first four-track recorder based on a standard compact audio cassette tape. The term portastudio is exclusive to TASCAM, though it is generally used to describe all self-contained cassette-based multitrack recorders dedicated to music production. The Portastudio, and particularly its first iteration, the Teac 144, is credited with launching the home-recording wave, which allowed musicians to cheaply record and produce music at home, and is cited as one of the most significant innovations in music production technology.

DJ mixer

A DJ mixer is a type of audio mixing console used by Disc jockeys (DJs) to control and manipulate multiple audio signals. Some DJs use the mixer to make seamless transitions from one song to another when they are playing records at a dance club. Hip hop DJs and turntablists use the DJ mixer to play record players like a musical instrument and create new sounds. DJs in the disco, house music, electronic dance music and other dance-oriented genres use the mixer to make smooth transitions between different sound recordings as they are playing. The sources are typically record turntables, compact cassettes, CDJs, or DJ software on a laptop. DJ mixers allow the DJ to use headphones to preview the next song before playing it to the audience. Most low- to mid-priced DJ mixers can only accommodate two turntables or CD players, but some mixers can accommodate up to four turntables or CD players. DJs and turntablists in hip hop music and nu metal use DJ mixers to create beats, loops and "scratching" sound effects.

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History of multitrack recording

Multitrack recording of sound is the process in which sound and other electro-acoustic signals are captured on a recording medium such as magnetic tape, which is divided into two or more audio tracks that run parallel with each other. Because they are carried on the same medium, the tracks stay in perfect synchronisation, while allowing multiple sound sources to be recorded asynchronously. The first system for creating stereophonic sound was demonstrated by Clément Ader in Paris in 1881. The pallophotophone, invented by Charles A. Hoxie and first demonstrated in 1922, recorded optically on 35 mm film, and some versions used a format of as many as twelve tracks in parallel on each strip. The tracks were recorded one at a time in separate passes and were not intended for later mixdown or stereophony; as with later half-track and quarter-track monophonic tape recording, the multiple tracks simply multiplied the maximum recording time possible, greatly reducing cost and bulk. British EMI engineer Alan Blumlein patented systems for recording stereophonic sound and surround sound on disc and film in 1933. The history of modern multitrack audio recording using magnetic tape began in 1943 with the invention of stereo tape recording, which divided the recording head into two tracks.

Valete

Keidje Torres Lima is a Portuguese language political hip hop artist, known professionally as Valete. that has enjoyed critical success in his home country of Portugal.

Jaguar Skills is a British DJ who since 2002 has performed multi-genre, cut-n-paste style Djing mixes. The DJ has released hundreds of mixtapes through various outlets, including BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 1Xtra and has a weekly 10-minute mix on The Trevor Nelson Show.

An endless tape cartridge is a tape cartridge or cassette that contains magnetic audio tape that can be played in an endless loop, without the need to rewind to repeat.

References

  1. "Mixtape". Merriam Webster. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  2. Resnick, Michael (2006). "BurnLists: The Digital "Mix Tape" Comes of Age". Archived from the original on 10 December 2006. Retrieved 15 January 2007.
  3. Rosen, Jody (29 April 2004). "Unforgettable". The Nation. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  4. John Shepherd, Continuum encyclopedia of popular music of the world. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003, p.506
  5. Gallagher, David (January 2003). "For the Mix Tape, A Digital Upgrade And Notoriety". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 May 2008.
  6. Hornby, Nick (2005). High Fidelity. pp. 62–63. ISBN   0141925078.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Shapiro, Peter (2005) The Rough Guide to Hip-Hop, Rough Guides, ISBN   1-84353-263-8, p.332-333
  8. Mitchell, Shamika Ann (2007). Mickey Hess (ed.). Icons of Hip Hop (1. publ. ed.). Westport, CT [u.a.]: Greenwood Press. ISBN   9780313339035.

Further reading