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THE MadameFLY MIX MANIFESTO including a short treatise on transition types in mixing downtempo sets.

Whoa ... what's this?

Well, initially, the idea for this page grew out of an online conversation I was having with a friend in Amsterdam ... we share a lot of the same musical impulses and were talking about how we craft mixes ... especially those intended to be heard on internet radio, not in a club or at a party.

So, I'm thinking back to a time ... before TV and before recorded popular music started to be presented as albums of discrete songs ... back to a time when concerts or programs of musical entertainment were attended and, by those who were well-disposed to the experience, were as closely attended (that is to say, focused upon) as a film might be for those of us in modern audiences.

It's not done that way, now, of course -- and even if it were, an audience likely to attend closely to such a program is no longer much in evidence ... the listening habits of the audience have fundamentally changed ... you may want to thank the TV's remote control for a lot of that change. 

Nonetheless, the mixes I do are intended as programs ... certainly, they aren't meant to mimic a dancefloor experience ... they are distinctly radio programs which have a narrative flow and an emotional arc ... some are a bit more light-hearted than others, but they are essentially programs which hope to merit your attention.

(Actually, there are groups of people who have the opportunity to listen to a program all the way through and give it their attention ... long-distance drivers, people who work at a desk for long stretches without telephone interruptions, such as coders and graphic artists; people who work in kitchens or darkroom lab technicians ... I relate to this type of worker, because I have actually done all these sorts of jobs, and music was always great company for me.)

I believe you don't need to know this to enjoy the selecting you will hear on BeatConscious ... I believe in the tracks I choose, that they are worth hearing, that they (or many of them) will move you and please you, regardless of what you think about my conceptual approach to mixing ... regardless of whether you even know about it.

Topic:  Your musical preferences:

As I've pointed out from time to time, for most everybody in the straight world, music appreciation more or less hangs at the playlist you had between the ages of 13 and 20 puberty, y'know:  Your first big romance and all the other high-intensity social stuff that makes you the adult you come to be. Your soundtrack is the soundtrack of the most emotionally-important years of your life and once it's locked in place, and you go on to earning a living and raising a family, there's really not much new that gets added to that playlist things in the culture drift in and out of focus, but when you listen to music on the office computer while you work or in the den at home while you're relaxing, it's probably a CD from back in the day, or the 'greatest hits' playlist you made for your iPod.

But if you're in the music game -- an artist, a producer, a DJ or a club owner -- music means something different to you, something you never stop discovering and your playlist keeps expanding in a way that seems to defy personal metaphysics (how can there be a list of 1,000 Top Ten Tunes?) and yet is deeply satisfying the way moving water is far more intriguing than a still pond.

I'm one of those for whom the world of music offers the opportunity for constant discovery ... and this activity shares time and energy with the BeatConscious mission to keep all the most excellent songs in circulation ... please me and I will work to ensure your immortality -- it's one way I can show my gratitude.

Next topic:  Transitions, and laying down a base....

Mixing is about two things primarily: selecting and transitions.  If you've been around awhile, you may be familiar with the jazz / RnB phrase "them changes" ... signifying that so much of the energy of tunes is in the transition from one to the next, just as so much of life's energy is about the changes we go through.  While beat-matching is the most well-known element of mixing, for downtempo at least, there are a number of other options -- the downtempo DJ knows that not everything has to blend -- or, not for 32 measures, anyway.  Here's a brief run-down on transition options in mixing:

The Interval -- Never underestimate the power of the interval ... it may be a microsecond pause, it may be a heartbeat or the time it takes to register the shock of what you just heard ... but that silent beat creates a tension that heightens the impact of whatever follows it.

The Drop -- With or without a pause (or breathing space) between the tracks, this simply means that Track A stops (or reaches a proper audio moment) and Track B begins with no ramp-up from a lower volume.  All musical types employ this option sooner or later, in particular with tracks that have no "DJ-friendly" intro/outro segment.

The Pivot -- Like the Drop, this usually has minimum or no ramp-down / ramp-up in volume at the point of transition, but matches a tone or a chord in the outgoing track with the same audio value in the incoming track.  It's relatively rarely used because a poor match will sound too abrupt ... when it works, it is a seamless transition from one track to the next.

Tonal Mist -- Creating a blend through an extended match of tonalities takes the Pivot to the next level, increasing the length of the actual moment of transition.  It's akin to Catch the Crescendo, described next, but the 'mist' of tonality has no actual direction the way a crescendo does ... it's most similar to an extended dissolve in cinema.

Catch the Crescendo -- Another kind of extended Pivot, where the chord / tone has some substantial length and can support a cross-fade into the next track.

Cross-Fade / Beatmatch -- In Ambient, you are generally going for the long cross-fade, in livelier music like House, you are looking for a long beat-matched section to transition between tracks, but basically both of these refer to a gradual morphing from one track to the next along with a volume exchange and are meant to be seamless or transparent to the listener.  Transitions of 32 measures (particularly beat-matched transitions) are rare in downtempo compared to House or Trance, but it's still the gold standard of mixing.

Scratch or other effect -- When all else fails, use of a scratch or other loop or effect can cover a difficult transition or provide a bridge where there can't be a smooth transition.  Why would you be mixing two such incompatible tracks together, then?  Well, it might be important for the narrative flow of your mix, or it might be (in a live situation) that someone has requested a specific track ...

The Dovetail -- This I think of as the holy grail of downtempo mixing, where two tracks interweave / interlock, with vocal and/or instrumental peaks alternating in a way that creates a "third music" out of the blending of two tracks.

Is that everything?  If I've missed your favorite technique, by all means let me know -- contact me via email to "talkback" *at* BeatConsciousDotOrg or via the BeatMixingDotCom site (and please excuse this spammer dodge, but they do make online life a trial, don't they?)


I draw attention to these artists and tracks in hopes that you will enjoy learning about them.  If you enjoy the music, support the artists who created it -- whenever possible, buy their music.  The Make Contact page of this website has links to music retailers for your convenience.