Connecting through music: The gift of a mixtape

Feb. 15, 2019, 1:00 a.m.

Since coming to Stanford, I’ve been missing music. Consequently, I miss the people with whom I used to play and discuss music. All these feelings led me to take up a new project: I got some old-fashioned cassette tapes, like the ones people used in the ’90s, and I created covers and titles that I then placed on the inside of the tape’s transparent case. If one opened the case and removed the tape itself, a list of songs could be read, printed on the back of the cover. In essence, they were mixtapes, personalized for each person I gave or sent one to.

While the original intention of giving someone a mixtape was romantic, I decided to shift the perspective. I wanted to appreciate the people that matter in my life, platonic and otherwise. Sometimes, especially in February, people can get caught up in wanting a significant other or thinking they are incomplete without one. While it can be annoying to be single around Valentine’s Day, there are still people you love and who deserve to know that even if it’s in a non-romantic sense. These mixtapes were my way of doing that.

I drew and painted the individual covers, basing the image and title on my relationship with each person. Every song I chose for them was purposeful and founded on a joint appreciation for music. In all honesty, though, one of the mixtapes consisted of only five songs because that friend loves country music; as an opponent of that genre, I couldn’t bring myself to include any on her mixtape. Some of the tunes held significance for me and the recipient. Others were new discoveries I wanted to share. It probably seems like a lot of work to put into something that could take two minutes and a text message to do electronically, but I chose my medium for a reason.

I find that people often show off relationships, platonic and romantic, on social media. Proof of friendship seems to be based on comments and posts. I simply wanted to go off the grid and make each of those mixtapes solely about my relationship with each respective person. Old-fashioned cassette tapes seemed to be a good way to accomplish that. Plus, the iconic ’80s move of giving someone you like a mixtape seemed wholesome and worth the time and effort. It was a call back to simpler days when two people could share a moment without it going viral or needing electronic praise by others.

For the ones I sent to friends at other colleges, I included small notes explaining the whole purpose of the project and why I thought to send them one. One friend sent me a handwritten letter back. Another texted me a five minute long voice message in response. My roommate listened to her corresponding playlist as I laid on her floor and we talked. In my mind, we too rarely appreciate those in front of us or remind the people we miss that we think of them. While this project didn’t require making music, it made me feel closer to that part of myself and remember why music matters to me. It’s a way to connect with people.


Contact Nina Knight at ngknight ‘at’

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