Wednesday, March 05, 2008

And Your Bird Can Sing

Starting in Summer 2002 and working through Spring 2003, I put together a set of seasonally-themed mix CDs. Now, I’ve always been kind of precious about my mixtapes, but I’ve gotta tell you—this was peak-of-my-career stuff; the Winter disc, in particular, has been in heavy rotation from first snow to spring thaw for five solid years now.

Half a decade seemed like a decent interval to revisit the process. But rather than compilation CDs or playlists, I’ve taken to making DJ mixes—seamless 75-minute mp3s, each one a snapshot of what’s going on in the space between my ears at the time. It’s a grand exercise in creating and sustaining mood, in playing out emotional threads to a payoff. Listening is like taking a little trip—literally; I’m using ambient and found sound and field recordings (many poached from the invaluable One-Minute Vacation site) to bridge the songs. Each mix is painstakingly sequenced and edited, and they take a long time to make—after weeks of tweaking, I just finished the Winter mix.

Thing is, I’ve got to be careful about playing them over the computer speakers, because the parakeet starts flipping out over some of the field-recordings come up. The tree frogs and the Higurashi cicadas don’t seem to bother him, and he doesn’t make a peep at the Wisconsin loons. But when he hears the songbirds in the park in Spain, he won’t shut up; he hops down onto his lower perch to listen better, and yammers and squawks the whole time—and when it’s done, he stays agitated for minutes afterwards.

I’d love to know what he thinks he’s saying to them.

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