Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Documentary Mixtape Year Zero (1982)

Years ago I set out on a foolish journey in which I was going to compose a series of essays that would eventually make up "mixtapes" of important songs throughout my life. I finished a few of them from my first year of life ("Year Zero"- which is roughly just 1982 since I was born in December of '81), but as with many things the ambition of the project swept it aside in favor of other life priorities. Were it to be seen through, it'd be roughly 700 thoroughly-researched pieces, which now sounds extremely exhausting.

Regardless, the mixes themselves were already all assembled and ready to go and I've since caught up with the years that have gone by since starting the project. I have my issues with Spotify, but it serves as a very easy method of assembling mixes so I've decided to house them all there and I'm going to begin posting them in this spot for any one still lingering around the blogs (It seems like most people gravitated off to social media, a sin I'm guilty of too, I'm afraid). The medium of Spotify means that some of these important songs aren't available to hear in this format, though you can see what they are if you want to check Youtube or other sources. These are meant to function as mixtapes, so there is a rhythm and a kind of sonic order to them.

These songs represent a variety of nexus points in the course of a life. They may have been songs playing in the background at an important point in my life, heard during a pivotal concert, things I couldn't get out of my head no matter how hard I tried, driving songs, songs associated with people/family members from certain moments in life, works that changed my listening habits or perceptions, songs I put on mixes for significant others or songs put on mixes for me by significant others, songs that were popular at the time, songs that perfectly sequenced films I watched over and over, music that represents a shared experience with others, cuts that just hit me directly in the feels or evoked an unexpected emotional response, or songs that just evoke the listening general habits from a year. I tried to be honest about these selections and not redefine a past self to be more hip or aware than I actually was, and there are some pretty embarrassing things lingering within these mixes that may grate a bit now but would feel disingenuous if they were left out of a sonic document of each era. That said, I've left out songs that I simply heard a ton but never enjoyed during a particular time or those tunes that I was forced to endure through things like working retail or rewatching children's movies, many of which I've listened to more than I've listened to my absolute favorite tracks.

I'm not sure for whom this will be interesting. For me, it's everything, since music itself is everything but anyone reading this blog likely has more of a casual connection to my life. I rarely get personal in my writing and those with whom I share personal things just plain don't read what I publish. Perhaps for anyone who make take a moment to examine any of these mixes, it'd be useful to imagine headbanging in an upstate NY basement, an unexpected kiss, endless humming of a melody to annoy close friends, the first day of vacation, the death of someone connected to you by music, and all those other spaces in which music happens and intercuts with the longer project of slogging through life. I truly don't understand how I'd make it out without all these sounds- it's way too hard and punishing, with so little rewards, especially lately as the prospects of long-term species survival grow bleaker and either way I'm inching towards what I'd optimistically hope is midlife. Maybe I'm weak and ableist to think such a dry, cliche thought like "without music, life would be a mistake" (a paraphrase, I think, from Nietzche). I'm sure there's other indulgences and escapes that suffice for others (film perhaps the closest at times for me). But to reconcile the idea that a better world is even possible, I think you need to at least glimpse it, not only materially through love, interpersonal connection, laughing so hard at something that you have a hard time breathing, the triumph of achievement, or the dizzying euphoria of a high, but ephemerally and/or metaphysically through something that brings you somewhere totally unfamiliar, where your brain alone couldn't take you. I've always related music as fulfilling the spiritual void left by religion leaving my life in my early teens. Somewhere on that sonic plane that so many artists are able to tap into is a higher order. Biographically, musicians tend to not always be great people, and are frequently narcissistic and solipsistic to boot, but their capacity to create shared experiences that transcend the cultures and personalities that brought them into being allows these sonic artifacts a kind of zen impermanence, a sort of noble truth of its own.

Anywho, with all that wind out of me, here's 1982

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