A couple of years ago I was invited to participate in an annual mix-CD swap. It’s a fun thing to do. Making a mix CD means a bunch of focused listening, and it’s good to have a commitment to make time for that, and it’s nice to hear what other people want to share.
I was really happy with the first mix that I did for this group. But I felt like the one that I did last year wasn’t quite as good. It wasn’t bad, but it suffered from not having a clear theme. It ended up being less coherent as a finished mix, than the previous one.
So I’m happy to report that I have a plan for this year.
I was listening to a recent Judy Collins tribute album and two songs really impressed me, one of which was “Since You’ve Asked” sung by Joan Baez. I hadn’t listed to any recent recordings by Joan Baez and it’s a pleasure to hear her sound that good. Her voice great, and she just sings the song really well. She’s able to combine intimacy and forcefulness in a way which suggests the benefits of experience. She sounds really comfortable knowing both her voice and her own abilities as a performer.
So I’ve decided that my mix for this year will be songs by people who, at the time of the recording, have at least 20 years of experience as professional musicians.
I’m curious to see how it turns out, and looking forward to working on it. One of the interesting things about the process of working on a compilation is how it can focus ones attention on hearing similarities between songs from different artists. The sequence, by creating a connection between one song and the next, forces you to think about what elements make that a smooth or difficult transition. I’m hoping that doing an mix of strictly veteran performances will be an interesting exercise in listening and paying attention to the similarities between what skills different people learn as they accumulate experience.
I may have to work to keep the whole thing from being too cautious. Part of the fun of recordings from earlier in people’s career is that they can have so much more at stake and that can push them in interesting ways. But I’m optimistic that it will work.