Vanishing Point A Bookand Websiteby Ander Monson


Mix: "The Exhibit Will Be So Marked"

The choice of "Sweet Home Alabama" is probably obvious, a fuck you of sorts to me, a Northerner, having lived in Tuscaloosa. After several years there it's hard not to develop a real aversion to the song. You look up when they put it on in the bar just to see what asshole played it. And it's almost always an asshole. Or one of your friends. Who may be an asshole. If the friendship is any good, then the asshole playing of the song won't affect it. If.

The Bon Jovi raises more questions. Do I seem like a Bon Jovi guy? Both songs included were "Wanted, Dead or Alive" which is fairly good as far as Bon Jovi songs go, but still.

There are a lot of neurotic traps involved in the listening to the CDs in this project. A lot of the time I spent thinking about the song selection and what this said about me, or the way people perceived me, or the status of the friendship between myself and the mixer. Like a teenager I'd read intention into lyrics, titles, subtle emotional shifts. Someone would put the Nine Inch Nails song "Closer," with the chorus that goes "I want to fuck you like an animal," on the mix, and I'd be, okay, sweet, this person's into me. Then it would turn out that mix was made by my dad, and I'd get set back a couple psychological years.

In point of fact, no one actually put that song on the mix for me. But there's the mix cd that was all in other languages, the mix CD that was a kind of stump the listener by my friend with far more wide-ranging musical taste than my own. There was a bunch of Michigan-related songs that I appreciated. A mix that was 33 minutes and 33 seconds long. I'm sure there were patterns embedded into the mixes that I utterly failed to divine (sorry, mixer, if you're reading this...).

My brother bought me a huge box set of music that he liked in place of a mix.

One mix was a quiz: flowers or guns? A flower song would be paired with a gun song, and I'd have to choose which I liked better, and then tally up the totals. (This was about self-discovery: I thought of myself as a flower man, but I ended up being more of a gun man.)

A lot of the experience was about self-discovery, mainly in terms of trying to come to terms with my own tastes. When I listened to the songs I found them--even the songs I didn't think I liked--to be worthy of examination, worthy of my time. Even "Sweet Home Alabama." I'm not much of a lyrics guy normally, but this experience had me listening closer and thinking about the many mix CDs I made for girls and friends and girlfriends (and then retro-analyzing the lyrics, which actually clears a lot up in terms of their responses).

Sure, this is pretty gonzo. But it became bigger and more comprehensive the more I thought and wrote about it. Almost Ball-like in its increasing complexity and gravity.

I would often annotate my listening experience as I listened and send the notes--usually unedited or even un-re-read--back to the mixer. At least one of my friends found that to be incredibly stressful, and said so, so I stopped doing it. Or at least I stopped sending those annotations back.