Categories: Mirror Mirror

Jennifer Allen


By Jennifer Allen

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” ~ Victor Hugo

As we slide headlong into the Summer of 2024, I’ve discovered a whole new sense of sentimentality within a particular activity that I had once upon a time become quite familiar with. Indeed, there is a peculiar joy lost to some in this day and age, and that is composing… the perfect Mixtape.

You see, back in the days of yesteryear before all this fancy technology to stash our beloved songs, we used to conceive of playlists by means of pen and paper, general music knowhow, and physical albums on hand at that particular time. We would then spend an entire afternoon with explicit care smacking Play & Record on two separate cassette docks. Switching cassettes (or LP albums) back and forth, fast forwarding to the specific song we’d need, and then copying it onto a blank tape in the perfect order to flow between the two other music choices on either side.

Such an arduous process could be perceived as something akin to painting bits and bobs onto a willing canvas.

And what would we then do with these personal compositions of auditory stimulation? Some would be gifted to friends or family, but for some young adults they were given to whomever they were dating (or wanted to date) at the time. Some others still were kept as personal mementos to pop in the car stereo for a long drive or slip into your personal Walkman in an attempt to drown out the world while hoofing it somewhere.

I made these tapes for a multitude of reasons. Even as the medium to record eventually shifted, the intent was still very much the same. Some of my most innovative mixes were given away while others remain neatly packed away in a dusty cassette carrier. It doesn’t even matter that I no longer have the means to properly replay these tiny bundles of plastic and magnetic tape. The simple act of tugging them out to read each weathered label is enough to bloom a smile or four.

As a reminder… this was in the dark ages before Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, or even YouTube. Musical performers gained most of their loyal fanbase through months and months of rigorous touring and the occasional record store signing.

MTV was just gaining its footing within our cultural zeitgeist; a new promotional vehicle which would eventually spark both good and bad consequences for various bands due to the added exposure and pressure to achieve and later maintain a certain ‘look’ n order to stay relevant.

While the creative method of the Mixtape may have evolved… first to burnable CD’s, then MP3 lists, and finally digital streaming, its purpose has remained relatively unchanged.

This is because music at its core is a creative force best capable of giving voice and shape to our most transcendent experiences (both real and imagined) by containing and expanding them simultaneously.

When you hear, feel, and think of a particular song you enjoy, there is a connection to which a specific life moment can be relived through a series of notes and phrases.

As painter, poet, and writer John Berger once wrote:

“A song, as distinct from the bodies it takes over, is unfixed in time and place. A song narrates a past experience. While it is being sung it fills the present. Stories do the same. But songs have another dimension, which is uniquely theirs. A song fills the present, while it hopes to reach a listening ear in some future somewhere. It leans forward, farther and farther. Without the persistence of this hope, songs would not exist. Songs lean forward.”

More simply put… Music has the capacity to reach beyond language, culture, belief, and even time itself to unify those who dare to appreciate it.

These days, I’ve traded in my archaic cassettes for curated playlists on YouTube, which I often explore by succumbing to the platform’s recommendation algorithm. It’s not a perfect practice, but these little side bar endorsements have sparked my curiosity and led me on an entire evening’s treasure hunt of musical discoveries.

And occasionally I still tug out that dusty cassette box just to peek at the labels… and reminisce on those moments personified through carefully selected tunes etched forever into my consciousness.

Now… where can I find a good Walkman on sale?

Jennifer Allen works at Saathee and is also a Podcaster, Blogger, Photographer, Graphic Artist, Gamer, Martial Arts Practitioner, and an all around Pop Culture Geek. You can reach her at [email protected]