When I was a teenager I made mix CDs and sent them to friends around the world, friends I’d made on music bulletin boards and fanfiction websites, friends I shared all the most important parts of myself with, friends on the early 00s internet, where I lived. I bought albums from Avalanche whenever I travelled from Orkney to Edinburgh, and I downloaded a lot from Audiogalaxy on my 00s Scottish island dial-up (sorry Mum and Dad, sorry musicians, sorry cops, thanks for the music).
Making a mix CD meant picking a theme, saying what I wanted to say in under 80 minutes, making a cover image in Microsoft Word, lovingly cutting it out and trying to get it in the jewel case without crumpling it. I don’t keep CDs in the house any more, except for a handful of mix CDs that friends sent to me in return. I don’t even have a CD player, let alone a CD burner. But the 78 minute mix is still, for me, the ideal length of time to say what I want to say. (I know, I know, folk a bit older than me would say the same about two sides of 45 minutes each, don’t @ me.)
I don’t own an account on the world’s largest music streaming service provider, so I don’t listen to playlists there or know much about how people are working with that new constraint. So when I was asked to make a playlist poem for Book Week Scotland 2021, I couldn’t do it there. But I could make a mix CD, even if I couldn’t burn it for you. Here it is. It reflects as much about who I am now as a mix I made from ripped Audiogalaxy tracks 20 years ago.
The constraints I gave myself to write this poem are that all the tracks be available on Bandcamp (where I mostly listen to music now), that they all begin with “I”, that they form a narrative, and that they would fit on an imaginary CD-R. There’s an additional fifth constraint. All constraints have been broken at least once.
I don’t own the rights to any of these tracks; I just made a mix. The links below stream from Bandcamp, where you can buy the music direct from artists and download it and make your own mixes.