Side A, Track 1: Growing Meanings

A tape growing in the vines I want to start by telling you about a recent mix CD I made:

A Mix for the Truck
Show/hide transcript

From a narrow perspective, this project is about me: the choices I made when curating the tunes I included on the mix CD I describe above. After all, that CD was unabashedly personal; I even gave it a hard-to-pronounce title that wove together my name and the name of my new city: ROCK::man / FORD::sted. So on one level this piece is concerned with the choices I made as composer and how that mix continues to surprise me whenever I hear it.

But I also want to move beyond the personal to consider how it would sound to other audiencesto youand the ways you would “get” the things I intended you to get, and the ways your experience would be nothing like what I intended.

My goal is also to suggest new ways of thinking about sonic arrangement when composing musical mixes, whether the source material is on vinyl, cassette, CD, or mp3. When engaging in the rhetoric of making mixesbecause that’s what I’ll claim, that composing a curated collection of cuts is something like rhetorically composing an orationI hope you’ll ask yourself, “What kinds of seeds am I planting for my listeners by choosing these specific tracks?” (The piece ends with questions to ask yourself as you compose mixes on your own.)

And seeds is a word I use very purposefully. I’m remixing it from a talk composer Brian Eno gave in 2011. He contrasts two different analogies for composing music:

Brian Eno on Gardening
Show/hide transcript

Now, Eno is talking about composing sounds themselves, not arranging the tracks of others in a mix. He’s excited by processes a composer uses to put different inputs together in new ways, without quite knowing what the end result will sound like. In the same talk, he even says, “I'm deliberately constructing systems that will put me in the same position as any other member of the audience. I want to be surprised by it as well. And indeed, I often am.”

But we also plant seeds when we make mixes. Seeds that grow into plants that look something like what we expected, but which outgrow our expectations too, dazzling us with their color and height and bumps and tendrils.

Yet before we move into a consider of the seeds I planted with my driving mix, I want to listen to a few songs from rhetorical studies. My hope is that singing those old songs to my seeds will make them happy plants that bloom for us into new meanings, full of unexpected juices.

Return to main article page to comment.