Photo of a music mixing board

Music Mix

Due: 9/25

This week, I want you to think about using audio for particular rhetorical situations by creating a mix playlist with a group of songs. 

Rules (all of which are breakable, if you have a good justification for why):

  • I usually think of a mix tape as about an hour of music, but for our purposes let's aim for 45 minutes or so
  • Preferably no more than one song by a single artist
  • Create some kind of consistency and an audio progression as someone listens from beginning to end

A rhetorical situation is the context of a rhetorical act, made up (at a minimum) of a rhetor (a speaker or writer), an issue (or exigence), a medium (such as a speech or a written text), and an audience.

Just as giving a speech, writing an essay, or publishing a photograph are rhetorical acts, choosing particular pieces of music in particular situations can also be a rhetorical act — and choosing to curate a specific list of songs that you put together in a particular order, with a particular emotional or intellectual affect in mind, is certainly a rhetorical act.  In the case of the music mix you are producing for this assignment, the rhetor is you, the medium is your playlist, and the audience is probably your peers in the class (though you can decide to address some other, fairly specific, audience if you would like).

There is a lot of music in the world, and there are lots of ways to combine music together and lots of people doing so. If you are struggling to come up with ways to craft your mix, I encourage you to either respond to a very specific rhetorical situation (“a mix for my good friend who has been displaced by the hurricane,” for example, or “a mix to apologize to my friend for not locking up his bicycle when I borrowed it and letting it get stolen”); come up with a very specific narrative or emotional hook that you want from the songs you include in your list (“songs about the end of summer and the beginning of the fall” or “creepy Halloween songs” might work well as hooks that are topical right now); and/or to make up some specific rules for yourself to spur greater creativity (“My Halloween mix can only include songs with the word ‘pumpkin’ in the title” or “all the songs need to include the words ‘new’ or ‘old'” or “every song must be 2 minutes and 42 seconds long“). As Robert Frost once said, “Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down,” so creating rules for yourself about choosing songs might help you to structure the game that you’re playing to make it more fun.

Probably using Mixcloud.

What do you have to turn in?

Create your playlist however makes sense for you — it can be a Spotify playlist that you share via a link; you can use Mixcloud (which will also import Spotify playlists) or Soundcloud; or you can record your vinyl onto MP3s and upload those files into your WordPress site and host them there. Publish a post on your site with the link(s) to the playlist and a numbered track listing that names the songs and artists.

Your mix tape needs an image to serve as the album cover. If you were recording your mix onto cassette tapes, I’d ask you to use gel pens to draw a cover that you’d stick into the little plastic case, but you’re not, so instead create a square image that has the title of your playlist and that serves as a compelling visual representation of your mix.

Finally, write a reflection to accompany your mix — explain the rhetorical situation you are addressing, what rules you established for yourself, and how you went about solving the problem your rhetorical situation presents. Articulate the choices you made and why you made them. Finally, think about your mix as an argument (even though it’s not a direct, academic argument) — what are you conveying in your mix and how?

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