June 14th, 2011

No Tape Deck Required: Making the Perfect Mix

tapes“Now the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art, there are many do’s and don’ts. First of all, you’re using someone else’s poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing… To me, making a tape is like writing a letter – there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again… A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do.” from Nick Hornsby’s “High Fidelity”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve categorized things according to music, and have always believed that my life should be accompanied by a soundtrack. Events throughout my day, significant or mundane, often trigger a series of songs to accompany my mood.  An afternoon of cleaning requires either the soulful sounds of Stevie Wonder or perhaps The Black KeysArcade Fire or Florence and the Machine are the best remedy for the stuck-in-traffic blues.  The White Stripes go along perfectly with my morning routine and Beck’s “The Information” is a requirement for any road trip.

Naturally, along with the constant soundtrack in my head, I developed a mini-obsession with creating music mixes. I love the challenge of discovering a song that would seamlessly connect The Strokes “Gratisfaction” with The Flaming Lips “The W.A.N.D.” all while still fitting the mix’s theme. I find endless ways to challenge myself. Is it possible to get Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on the same mix with Owl City “Cave In?” You bet it is. Just throw in some Stevie Wonder and perhaps a Ryan Adams track to ease the transition and you have a flawlessly constructed compilation. I’ve done playlists to see how many different genres I can mix together. I’ve done playlists made from songs all released in the same year. I’ve even heard of playlists made so the song titles rhyme. That seems like a headache to me, but I admire the creativity!

Some may feel that the delicate art of making mixes is reserved for middle schoolers or the hopeless romantics of decades past, but they are missing out on a highly underutilized means of self-expression. Like writing in a journal, creating mixes allows you to express yourself in a unique way, to take what’s in your head and permanently encase it within a CD. I can listen to mixes I made years ago and still remember exactly what I was feeling when I made it.

Cecil County Public Library’s CD collection has been one of the best places for me to get inspired. To construct the perfect mix, I check out CDs from the library, find the right songs, and then buy them online or cue them up with a free site like Grooveshark.  No more buying a whole album just to find that I only like one track. The library’s collection saves me money and gives me the freedom to explore the artists or genres that I’ve been curious about – greats such as Blind Old Dogs and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. And who knew that the “World Music” section had so many treasures? So don’t let the fine art of creating music mixes die with the dust covered tapes in your attic — put a smile on someone’s face and make them a mix! Stop by the library and check out some inspiration.

Want to hear the great songs in this post? Search our collection or you can listen to a special mix for free online.  Now, with the library’s collection at your fingertips, what’s going on your playlist?

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June 8th, 2011

The Golden Age of Radio

Have you ever heard this before? “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

radioIt’s the famous intro to the radio drama The Shadow.  The Shadow was an invisible avenger who learned the “mysterious power to cloud men’s minds, so that they could not see him.” Even though I wasn’t born until long after the show ended, I know that line and so do many younger than me. That quote speaks to the powerful legacy of radio.

Take a step back in time and imagine that radio is an essential part of American daily life – no television, computer, smart phone, ipod, gaming consoles, and so on. Radio is what informed and entertained an estimated 82 out of 100 Americans of all ages from the early 1920 to the mid 1950’s. That, my friends, is the Golden Age of Radio…

Throughout the 1930’s, radio kept people connected to their country and to each other. Franklin D. Roosevelt, president from 1933-1945, delivered his “fireside chats” via radio to keep Americans informed and inspired. During these chats, FDR spoke about critical issues like unemployment, the economy, national defense and eventually World War II. Radio was an essential part of American life, and families and friends gathered around their radios to be informed and entertained.

Some think of radio today as a boring medium, but the Golden Age of Radio showcased a vibrant offering of programs. Radio listeners had options: children’s programs, westerns, comedies, dramas, mysteries, musical varieties, classical music shows, quiz shows and even horror. Shows such as The Shadow, Amos and Andy, Abbott and Costello, Blondie, Dick Tracy, and Little Orphan Annie were immensely popular.

Still think radio sounds boring? On October 30, 1938, thousands of listeners who had unfortunately tuned in late thought that Martians were actually attacking America. Needless to say, they panicked! What they really heard was not a news report, but a radio adaptation of H.G. Well’s The War of the Worlds produced by a young Orson Welles.

On Monday, June 13th at 6:30 p.m., join us at the Chesapeake City Branch for a Golden Age of Radio program presented by Michele Ringger-Weil of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. For those of you who experienced this era firsthand, come reminisce with memorable faces, voices and shows of the Golden Age of Radio. For those of us who didn’t, come learn about fascinating radio programs and personalities from times gone by.

What are your favorite memories of radio?  Is there still a place for radio in our tech-saturated lives?

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