Day 274: Great Lakes Mixtape Project

Have you ever stopped and thought about what kind of music creates Michigan’s sound? Which artists and genres really capture the essence of what Michigan is and translate those ideas through melodies and harmonies? It seems like an impossible task to pinpoint exactly what Michigan sounds like, yet that is a task the folks at Wake: Great Lakes Thought and Culture, an electronic journal based out of Grand Valley State University has asked its readers to consider. They even take it one step farther and include the entire great lakes region, in their program called The Great Lakes Mixtape Project.

In an explanation of the project, Intern Dale Johnson states: “To be fair, this question initially seems too open-ended to even ask. But prompted by folk-pop singer Sufjan Steven’s albums Michigan and Illinoise, whose tracks claimed to represent the respective states they refer to, it seemed possible to try. If a region can be clearly defined by a sound, then perhaps some conclusions can be drawn about the region itself, its members, and their values.” The Wake reached out to its readers and asked for them to submit songs and artists they thought defined the great lakes region and the response they got was enthusiastic.  Submissions displayed a great range of diversity showcasing many different aspects of the music scene in this region of the world. The end product is now displayed on their website in the form of two mixtape playlists, the first titled “Rock and Soul, Feels like Home” and the second being: The Newtown Sound”.

These playlists capture two very different ideas about the region’s musical identity. Rock and Soul, Feels like home celebrates artists ranging from The Temptations to Ted Nugent, each song, as Johnson puts it “reminder listeners of the impact an area has on the  musical acts working within it.” The second of these playlists, The Newtown sound, which brings into consideration newer techniques introduced into the music scene as of more recent years.  This playlists brings to attention artists such as Sufjan Stevens, who as Johnson mentioned earlier, sparked the whole idea of the project.

While this project isn’t strictly Michigan focused, it is interesting and enlightening to listen through these musical selections and make personal judgments on which ones are more heavily influenced by Michigan and what kind of dynamic Michigan has in the great lakes sound as a whole. What the good people at Wake have compiled is a very thought provoking and enjoyable selection of talented artists and I highly encourage anyone with a love of music to check out their collections. From one Michigan celebrating publication to another, I highly commend them for this innovative project!

While you are on a playlist kick, check out our own Michigan Music Playlist on Spotify! You can go and just listen to Michigan artists, or if you know of any that aren’t on the playlists yet, go ahead and add them onto it yourself!

Wake: Great Lakes Thought and Culture:

~Jessie Elliott, Music Director