MICHAEL F. GILL
The process for “Cultural Diffusion” actually started over five years ago, as I was listening to Playgroup's "Party Mix," a seamless megamix of ‘80s dance cuts that switched tracks every 20 seconds. Originally, I had set out to make my own private version of Trevor Jackson's set just for my own enjoyment. But right upon starting, I was struck by an idea I had read in a recent record review: "the itchy Ipod finger." The idea being that someone using the shuffle mode on their Ipod to search for a good song was the modern equivalent of someone channel surfing with a TV remote. So this became my new M.O. for the mix: it would be a simulation of someone shuffling through songs on their Ipod, hearing just the introduction of a track and then quickly changing to a new song after a few seconds. It seemed like a good commentary on the overload of musical choices people have today, and the shortening attention spans that result from it.
As with most of the music or mixes I make, I took a hands-off approach to the sequencing here. If you listen to the Playgroup mix, or even the old “Grandmixes” by Ben Liebrand, you can tell they were highly labored over, where each transition had to be as smooth and flawless as possible. I wasn't interested in doing something like that. I have thousands of MP3s on my hard drives, including a ridiculous amount that I've never listened to. I found the most exciting way to do this mix was to load up all these MP3s in my media player and then record myself manually shuffling through them. In this process, I got to hear introductions and bits of songs I've never heard before (and may never hear again!) bumping next to classics I've worn out. That's the main reason this mix is called "Cultural Diffusion," because it's forcing all these different cultures, styles, and personalities to intermingle with each other.
So over the past five years, I've been building this mix from these media player recording sessions. When I say five years, I don't actually mean I've been toiling on this nonstop since 2002. I basically worked whenever I felt like doing it, which could be as little as a few times a year. I would take my favorite parts and transitions of the recordings, maybe throw in a loop or an effect here or there, and then add this chunk to the main piece of work.
Besides ending the mix in a more quiet fashion, the only theme I had in mind while editing the sequencing was to have it loosely mimic the flow of language or conversation: sometimes its elegant and structured, sometimes it goes off on random tangents, sometimes one stutters and mumbles through it. By the time I had finished, it was interesting to see what lyrical phrases and vocal tics I had left in or gravitated to. Even when the words were silly, or not in English, I feel there is a subconsciously written poem in this mix if you write each lyrical fragment down in the order they appear.
In the end, this mix is composed of the introductions to about 500+ song clips (unless it was a track from a DJ mix, which throws things off nicely) that run the genre gamut from techno to disco, to reggae, rock, soul, bossa nova, world, pop, and so on. I don't even know the titles of half of the tracks here, but I've been living with (and exercising to!) this mix and these transitions for such a long time that I feel like I know them well.
I don't know how many other people will love this mix or even listen to it more than a few times, but it's taught me some insight into myself and how I create. I was recently thinking back to when I was about 12 or 13 years old, when I first started buying music. The first musical "work" I created was with my boombox, where I would record 10 to 20 second segments of songs, stitch them together onto a blank cassette tape, and then listen to them as a side long "mix." Nearly 15 years later and here I am again, doing roughly the same thing.