Well…I can’t answer that for you…but I can answer it for me. I’ve always been fascinated by “best of” (my call on the playlist, even if the selections aren’t the industry “standard”) or one-off holiday conglomerations of sound (mixes).
Ever since I bought my first TEAC double cassette deck (with a super-fast pause lever…enabling for near perfect splicing capabilities) and began mixing Fripp-Belew-Eno-Bowie projects for my weekly car rides to Rutgers University (where I studied English Literature & once submitted a brief paper comparing Robert Frost’s ‘Provide Provide‘ to David Bowie’s ‘Cracked Actor’) – complete with hand-drawn cassette artwork (think Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” miniaturized onto a TDK SA-X 90 or Maxell UD-XL II (does anyone remember “THAT’S” brand audio tape?) sleeve insert, I’ve been making mixes that I not only listened to again & again (virtually abandoning the album in favor of the mix), but for which I received requests for duplicate copies.
Since the era of the cassette (mixtape), it’s been mini-disc, CD-Rs & now the digital domain of mp3s. I prefer the latter, as mp3 mixing operates with zero time/length restraints – so a fifty-four minute mix is as readily produced as a ninety-three minute one (and sometimes…the former expands to the latter – see bullet point #5, below).
Artwork is still rendered via Adobe Illustrator…but not with playlists as part of the art, but rather a text-file bundled/zipped with the mix & artwork and/or a time-stamped track-listing via Mixcloud. The best artwork was done in years prior; full-on productions like this mix collaboration with Irish/Ambient counterpart Mr. Gary Smith (a.k.a ‘Muzag‘):
or this one, another collaboration – this time with Mr. Joe Miles, a.k.a. 12 Volt Man:
…and one more, a solo shot from 2009:
And, along the way, I developed a systematic methodology for mix construction:
- Genre specific: e.g. Ambient-Classical-Jazz-Rock (with occasional mash-ups)
- ALWAYS slowest track to fastest (or in the case of Ambient: quietest to loudest), and
- Sequencing- Sequencing- Sequencing – for best spatial/aural flow: in any given selection of songs…there is a best order in which to listen to them.
- When/if it’s not working…save your work & walk away. It’ll come together another day.
- It’s not over ’til it’s over (don’t be afraid of post-production tweaks…just take very good notes)
Given the requests for trades (during those thrilling Art of the Mix years) and online following (e.g. Mixcloud, this blog & Ambient Landscape, Bandcamp)…the sequence has its merits – still, I’m always thrilled when something crafted for personal consumption (which necessarily means fine work) is sought after by outside others.
I liken the mixing process to the Marvel character Galactus…searching the Universe for worlds to consume or, in my case, tunes to meld into my latest mix. Once the tunes are used…I almost never play them singly again; and usually abandon the albums which were never more than fodder for my consuming mixological habit, to the l@b Record Vault.
A great deal of the music I acquire (sent to me by the composers in return for inclusion on a mix), download and/or purchase is done specifically for the purposes of current or future mix-making. I frequent Amazon in search of sounds that will segue perfectly into a current mix project. I’ve even been known to rearrange the order of tracks on albums so as to better facilitate the experiential flow of the music (slowest to fastest/quiet to loud); and I immediately begin earmarking & sequestering tracks that facilitate the emotions I wish to convey on those mixes.
The immersing of myself into the mixing process (fading/cross-fading tracks in & out, adding reverb or echo, cutting long-form pieces down to digestible bites & designing the overall soundscape) is one that allows me to shutter out the world for a brief period of time and simply enjoy the process of creation.
The bottom line for me is this: I mix because I like to control the content to which I listen, I mix because the world & its pressures seem to disappear during the several hours it takes to concoct one, …and because I actually enjoy listening to the audio deliverables I create (usually via smart-phone & ear-buds or via Blue-Tooth in my car)…
…and, with my genre of choice being Ambient music, I mix ambient. Over the years, I’d like to think that I’ve become somewhat proficient at the science (software, technology, etc) as well as the art (track selection, sequencing, etc.) sides of the mix (if you doubt that last comment, or dismiss it as so much hubris…just give us a listen & let us know what you think – we ❤ feedback!)