Today, a mixtape carries more than a hint of nostalgia, whether as a cassette or CD.
Crafting the perfect mix for a crush or friend involved countless hours and followed golden rules around subtlety, theme, and structure. It was - and still is - an avenue for personal expression.
If you could make a soundtrack to your life, a mixtape, which songs would you choose?
That's the premise for a new show premiering at The Tathra Hotel, created by Dr Kirsten Krauth and based on her novel, Almost a Mirror.
The book is written as a mixtape, Dr Krauth explains.
"Each chapter revolves around a pop or post-punk song from the late '70s and '80s.
"When I was writing the book, I started off with the song, for example Wide Open Road or Planet Earth, and used the lyrics or mood or even video clip of that song to bounce off and set the characters and story in motion."
As a live performance, Almost a Mirror brings the music that Dr Krauth was inspired by to life with the help of musicians.
"There is a Side A and a Side B. Side A is the character Mona: pop, Duran Duran, Countdown, new romantic. Side B is the character Benny: the Crystal Ballroom, Nick Cave and The Birthday Party, bands, drugs, touring the US. By the end of the mixtape their lives and the music collide.
"We have nine musicians on stage who will play some songs in their entirety, while other songs will feature an interweaving of song and words, that sometimes complement each other and sometimes confront too."
Musicians involved in the collaboration include Angie Hart, Michael Simic, Heath Cullen, and Michael Mooney. Dr Krauth also worked with Inga Liljestrom and Zoe Barry.
"I always wanted to collaborate with musicians and bring the book to life as a mixtape featuring many songs from the era.
"Music from the '80s can place audiences in a particular time and bring up a lot of memories from the era. It's wonderful to experience this with a live audience, especially after the past couple of years in lockdown," said Dr Krauth.
But it isn't all set in the 1980s or about '80s music, Dr Krauth points out.
"It skips in time to the present and is also about contemporary life - motherhood, grief and how art can heal us all."
This deeper story is what caught the attention of critics and readers in 2020 when Almost a Mirror was published. The novel was listed as one of the top 20 books by The Guardian and shortlisted for both the Small Press Network Book of the Year Award and Penguin Literary Prize.
Almost a Mirror is part of the extended programming of Headland Writers Festival and is supported by South East Arts.
"We hope to tour the show," said Dr Krauth.
"I'm an '80s tragic and fan so I can't wait to hear all these voices and the band come together to play the songs, to offer something enriching for the audience. There may be a few bad dance moves!
"Working as a writer on novels and poetry often means long stretches on your own, which I enjoy, but collaborating with musicians brings a wonderful new dimension.
"While the show has sadness and grief, it is also about joy and transformation. And given the state of live music these past years, I hope it gives everyone the opportunity for play and fun and connection."
Tickets available through Headland Writers Festival.
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