Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

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Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby socynicalsohip » Sat Apr 26, 2008 11:40 pm UTC

Before commenting please download this little folk ditty by David Ford [it's a legit download]:
http://originalsignalrecordings.com/videos/Ford/GoToHell.mp4

I appreciate that this is neither the most common usage of sampling technology nor it's most prevalent genre however I feel it shows how sampling is both: A - A valid tool for live performance B - Flexible enough to genuinely create brilliant music regardless of the source material.

In genres where samplers are more traditionally used I believe there is no less talent to sculpting together an amazing sound. Now quite often it may be hard to tell in many genres of electronica and indeed hip-hop whether a sample is original or a borrowed sound but should this make it any less valid as music? I'd agree with critics of electronic music that sampling can be flat out exploited [Vanilla Ice, Kanye West, Eminem] to the point where it is *sounds* little more than a remix of the original track but I would not dismiss it so easily.

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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby diotimajsh » Sun Apr 27, 2008 12:19 am UTC

I listened to the David Ford song, and I only heard maybe 3-4 loops that sounded like they might have been sampled from other artists, and even then they easily could have been recorded by David Ford et all. So I'm wondering whether you mean...

(A) The use of samplers or sampling within one's own original work--to layer sounds, manipulate them, or trigger recordings from otherwise inaccessible sound sources (E.g. suppose I think my song really really needs the squarking of penguins in the bridge, but I just can't quite get the zoo to go along with it...).

(B) Sampling from other artists' prerecorded work and using those sounds in an otherwise original piece? This could be a case like Vanilla Ice or MC Hammer, where essentially an entire song is looped through with only minimal additions, or it could be done with more finesse, a la DJ Shadow or RJD2 (or any number of other hiphop/electronica/techno producers who sample from other musicians--the number is probably much higher than you think).

(C) Both of the above?

(D) Otter/duck

B, from what I understand, is where the real controversy of sampling hovers. I honestly don't think anyone gets upset over A, except for the most hardcore of luddites who think live performances should never be augmented with any technology whatsoever--or in cases like lip-synching.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Antimatter Spork » Sun Apr 27, 2008 2:43 am UTC

diotimajsh wrote:B, from what I understand, is where the real controversy of sampling hovers. I honestly don't think anyone gets upset over A, except for the most hardcore of luddites

You called?
I don't really have a problem with people using samplers, I just think that they would be producing better music if they got some other musicians in to actually play all those other parts. This would allow them to do such exciting things as
a) change the texture in the middle of the piece!
b) modulate!
c) add an ebb and flow to the time of their piece according to the musical sensibilities of the performers!
and so forth.

I personally think that it's a shame that people cut these elements out of music by using samplers.

It's not even a matter of your own work vs. sampling another's music (though the latter is despicable and really should be considered plagiarism, in my opinion)

(I haven't made it all the way through the David Ford piece yet because my internet is a bit slow. I've listened to the first two thirds or so, and, while it is among the better uses of loops that I've seen, I still think that he's limiting himself by confining his entire piece to conforming with the same three seconds of rhythmic and harmonic material, albeit with additions to the texture layered over them)
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby diotimajsh » Sun Apr 27, 2008 10:15 am UTC

Antimatter Spork wrote:You called?
I don't really have a problem with people using samplers, I just think that they would be producing better music if they got some other musicians in to actually play all those other parts.

Sure. But what about cases where it's simply not possible due to lack of resources? Not everyone can afford to split a check 20 ways, and it's a major hassle to bring that many musicians around in the first place. Or, suppose it's a sound that's infeasible to replicate in a live performance (such as my afore-suggested squarking of penguins--or some recognizable sound effect from a movie, for example)? Furthermore, what about the things samplers can do that people can't?

With a sampler, for example, you can:
    * Play back the same sound many times faster than a human could ever do.

    * Change the pitch artificially (drums can sound awesome played back at an unnaturally lower pitch--this is done a lot in trip-hop).

    * Run it through all kinds of processing that isn't always possible from the live feed of a mic (such as time-stretching, granulation).

    * Change loop length (so that, for example, a musical phrase loops shorter and shorter and shorter until it turns into its own single pitch)

    * Employ amplitude modulation (so that the sound cuts in and out rapidly--sure you can do this with the volume knob on an electric guitar, but what about purely acoustic instruments?)

    * Reverse sounds.

    * Hold notes longer than physical instruments are capable of (wind players and vocalists need to take a break at some point; guitar strums and piano notes don't last forever).

    * Use unnatural envelopes (what if I want a piano chord that gets louder after its initial attack instead of decaying? We could mic it with an amplifier, I guess, and have someone raise the volume manually after each note, but that sounds like a pain; especially if this is done in rapid succession).

    * Create a texture out of the very same sound--what if you wanted to use your own voice? You'd have to seek out a group of singers who sound similar enough to you. It would be even more difficult to build up a texture from spoken words, since the individual qualities of your voice would be more recognizable, and the differences would stand out more.

I do agree that we lose a lot of flexibility with sampling, but it's a sacrifice that opens a lot of other creative possibilities. (And some music doesn't call for what's lost anyway--when, uh, *cough*, was the last time you heard a popular rock song modulate?)

[Edited to make that long list readable instead of a ZOMG-WALL-OF-TEXT]
Last edited by diotimajsh on Sun Apr 27, 2008 10:23 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Dream » Sun Apr 27, 2008 10:17 am UTC

Antimatter Spork wrote:This would allow them to do such exciting things as
a) change the texture in the middle of the piece!
b) modulate!
c) add an ebb and flow to the time of their piece according to the musical sensibilities of the performers!
and so forth.

I personally think that it's a shame that people cut these elements out of music by using samplers.


I'm going to bet you've never used a sampler. Or at least never in any depth.

a) changing texture with a sampler is trivially easy. Literally any definable parameter of the sound source can be altered at any time, but the decision to do so or not is entirely up to the artist. The most popular sample based genres tend not to do this as part of a performance, but any sampler worth it's salt is very capable of it. Analogy time! A songwriter like Leonard Cohen isn't going to spend a great deal of time on instrumental texture. They do it, but not in a big way. That doesn't for a moment mean that the guitar or piano isn't capable of it, just that the artisit isn't doing it. It's the same with samplers. An act like Kraftwerk are going to do a lot more with sample textures than the average commercial hip-hop act. You can't judge the sampler as an instrument if the artist isn't using it fully.

b) The modulation matrix in a modern sampler is... vast. The number of sources and destinations is far beyond the potential of a physical instrument. Once again, they are very underused in popular music. But that doesn't mean the sampler itself is deficient in any way.

c) This can be controlled by clock speed, tempo tap, or by beat detecting algorithms in a recorded piece. Alternatively the entire sampler could be slaved to timecode stamped vinyl and controlled like a DJ performance. None of these methods are the same as following a live bandleader or rhythm section, but different is not necessarily worse, and to say a sampler isn't capable of it is just wrong. Also, I personally play my sampler from a master keyboard, not a MIDI sequence. I have as much control of ebb and flow as any "live" player.

I, personally, think it's a shame you're so blinkered to a technique of music making you are not familiar enough with to write off as you do.

It's not even a matter of your own work vs. sampling another's music (though the latter is despicable and really should be considered plagiarism, in my opinion)
It's just making music from found sounds. As long as the artist creates something unique and new, the source material is irrelevant. You could easily use a sampler to rip off a song. It would be trivially easy. But the sampling process is not relevant to the debate about creativity vs. plagiarism. It is a process, not an act.It can't be despicable, only used despicably.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby socynicalsohip » Sun Apr 27, 2008 1:19 pm UTC

diotimajsh wrote:I listened to the David Ford song, and I only heard maybe 3-4 loops that sounded like they might have been sampled from other artists, and even then they easily could have been recorded by David Ford et all. So I'm wondering whether you mean...

Everything was recorded and sampled on the video on the fly. That´s how he performs. My slant was that it is a not so common use of the sampler and would challenge people´s preconceptions of the topic
diotimajsh wrote:B, from what I understand, is where the real controversy of sampling hovers. I honestly don't think anyone gets upset over A, except for the most hardcore of luddites who think live performances should never be augmented with any technology whatsoever--or in cases like lip-synching.

My point of view is that the sampler however it´s used is valid as both a tool and an instrument (although I´m sure it won´t match classical definitions). The only controversy would be the methods of the artist using it.

Lets take Kanye West´s sampling of Daft Punk as a case in question. He chose to sample a song which for many was immediatly familiar and liked. Was that a cynical and lazy act? Should it be viewed as a new song or merely a remix?

Before answering above lets discuss Norman Cook AKA Fatboy Slim. His career (at least as ´slim) was built upon finding hooks on records and building them into an overall track along with other samples. Let´s look at his single "Praise You" he based the track upon the vocals from "Take Yo' Praise" by Camille Yarbrough. Just because the song wasn´t in the public mind does it make it any less cynical or indeed lazy as Kanye?

I am stuck on this matter, I would probably say (from the ear of a music fan) that the Norman Cook song underwent far more production. But that said Kanye´s production is never anything less than slick.

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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby elros » Sun Apr 27, 2008 4:36 pm UTC

Sampling is here to stay, that much is obvious. It has its uses, as has been mentioned, and can do things that are beyond the possibilities of real (meaning physical) musical instruments.

However, it will never replace the real (physical) instruments. Especially not in a live performance situation. Why? Because it would be impossible to re-create the infinete variations inherent in the physical nature of the real instrument the way these variations will occur naturally.

I do like the added possibilities offered by sampling (and other digital sound technology) a lot. Particularily I like the way Pat Mastelotto uses sampling and various machines to augment his drumming.

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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby wery67564 » Sun Apr 27, 2008 6:58 pm UTC

I think that while sampling may not be the creation of original "parts" the contribution to the arts in a whole composition is not "lazy."

Ok, I'm not a kanye fan, but artists such as daft punk, dj shadow, cut chemist, and especially dj spooky are prime examples of not re visioning an old song, but using old sounds to make a new piece. I think that there are exceptions but if all the samples in one song are from a diverse base, where can you say that the new piece is dependent on the musical qualities of the old.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby diotimajsh » Sun Apr 27, 2008 9:48 pm UTC

wery67564 wrote:Ok, I'm not a kanye fan, but artists such as daft punk,...
*Ahem* I have my own opinion on just how creative Daft Punk's sample use is. You might want to listen to this song and see if it reminds you of anything:
Edwin Birdsong - Cola Bottle Baby (On YouTube)
(Hint: it sounds a hell of a lot like this).

I do think Daft Punk's take on the sounds is much better and much catchier than Edwin Birdsong's. And, overall I think it's a better piece. Still, I almost get the feeling that it's a case of "Lets stick in some vocoded vocals and profit!" But then again, their particular use of vocoding was very, very well done in this piece--and they take it to some fascinating extremes. After a while, the song stops piggy-backing off the looped sample, and becomes more about the awesome vocal manipulation (and there's a little bit of chopping to give the original sample some variety). I have mixed feelings, I suppose.

If we're going to compare Kanye West's sampling of Daft Punk with Daft Punk's own sampling in that song, I really don't feel that Kanye was less creative than they were in the first place. The only difference is that he was sampling a really well known song, while they sampled something more or less completely unknown.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Antimatter Spork » Mon Apr 28, 2008 4:20 am UTC

Okay, there's a lot to respond to here, so forgive me if my responses to your individual point are a little brief.

diotimajsh wrote:Sure. But what about cases where it's simply not possible due to lack of resources? Not everyone can afford to split a check 20 ways, and it's a major hassle to bring that many musicians around in the first place. Or, suppose it's a sound that's infeasible to replicate in a live performance (such as my afore-suggested squarking of penguins--or some recognizable sound effect from a movie, for example)? Furthermore, what about the things samplers can do that people can't?

With a sampler, for example, you can:
    * Play back the same sound many times faster than a human could ever do.

    * Change the pitch artificially (drums can sound awesome played back at an unnaturally lower pitch--this is done a lot in trip-hop).

    * Run it through all kinds of processing that isn't always possible from the live feed of a mic (such as time-stretching, granulation).

    * Change loop length (so that, for example, a musical phrase loops shorter and shorter and shorter until it turns into its own single pitch)

    * Employ amplitude modulation (so that the sound cuts in and out rapidly--sure you can do this with the volume knob on an electric guitar, but what about purely acoustic instruments?)

    * Reverse sounds.

    * Hold notes longer than physical instruments are capable of (wind players and vocalists need to take a break at some point; guitar strums and piano notes don't last forever).

    * Use unnatural envelopes (what if I want a piano chord that gets louder after its initial attack instead of decaying? We could mic it with an amplifier, I guess, and have someone raise the volume manually after each note, but that sounds like a pain; especially if this is done in rapid succession).

    * Create a texture out of the very same sound--what if you wanted to use your own voice? You'd have to seek out a group of singers who sound similar enough to you. It would be even more difficult to build up a texture from spoken words, since the individual qualities of your voice would be more recognizable, and the differences would stand out more.

I do agree that we lose a lot of flexibility with sampling, but it's a sacrifice that opens a lot of other creative possibilities. (And some music doesn't call for what's lost anyway--when, uh, *cough*, was the last time you heard a popular rock song modulate?)

Pretty much all of that can be done with real instruments (I find the suggestion that real instruments can't change amplitude or pitch to be laughable. Are you sure you actually mean to say that?) (except things like unnatural envelopes/holding notes for a really long time, in which case you'll want to use a synthesizer or organ, respectively, which is different from sound sampling)

As for penguins and sound effects, I have yet to see anything like that used as anything more substantial than a gimmick, though I'll allow an exception to my argument against prerecorded sounds if anyone ever finds a way to artfully include natural sounds in a musical piece. (The general solution to this problem (wanting to include penguins but not being able to) was generally solved by having an instrument imitate desired sound, which puts the sound under control of a human musician and removes the gimmicky aspect from it).

Dream wrote:a bunch of stuff

I think we're using different definitions of the terms involved. I'm using the terms as a classically trained musician would use them, and you're using them as a electroacoustic engineer would. I'm referring to texture as the different elements in the piece (notice how in the OP's example, each new loop that he created remained for the entire piece, limiting his ability to actually change the texture, whereas even a small ensemble of musicians could easily create a texture of similar complexity that could also change at a moment's notice). I'm also using the term "modulation" in the sense of changing the tonal center in the middle of a piece, again something that the OP's example artist could not do.

Dream wrote:It's just making music from found sounds. As long as the artist creates something unique and new, the source material is irrelevant. You could easily use a sampler to rip off a song. It would be trivially easy. But the sampling process is not relevant to the debate about creativity vs. plagiarism. It is a process, not an act.It can't be despicable, only used despicably.

Taking someone else's music (especially when they are a professional musician who makes a living off of the marketing or performance of that work) and using it as part of your own work without any prior agreed upon compensation is equivalent to an author stealing passages from someone else's book. It is a despicable practice. Of course (to continue the metaphor), that doesn't mean that computers are bad, just that using them to plagiarize is bad.

The problem with using "old sounds" to make a new piece is that they are NOT YOUR SOUNDS! It's one thing to be influenced. It's another thing entirely to plagiarize. I don't even see why there is a debate about this. If I assemble a book by taking particularly clever phrases or snippets of dialogue from all of the Times Bestsellers from the past year, I'm still a plagiarist, even if I assemble a new story out of them and throw in a chapter of my own writing. Why should it be different for musicians?
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby diotimajsh » Mon Apr 28, 2008 6:46 am UTC

Antimatter Spork wrote:(I find the suggestion that real instruments can't change amplitude or pitch to be laughable.

I'm sorry to say that is because you seem to have misunderstood me. Of course real instruments can change amplitude and pitch--but they cannot do so in the same way that a sampler can. Please review my post and note all the places where I say "unnaturally" or artificially. There is a huge difference in timbre and tone quality between, say, a guitar playing a passage beginning on E3, versus taking a passage originally recorded on E4 and transposing it down an octave via pitch shifting. If you want natural sounding results, of course this won't sound good to you, but if you want that unnatural quality, there's really no way to replicate it without electronic assistance. Conceivably you could run an electric guitar's out through a pitch-shifter to create changes on the fly, but that could create latency issues--and again, what are we going to do about purely acoustic instruments?

Furthermore, you glossed over quite a few of the other things I said: repeating a sound faster than a human could possibly play it back; time stretching (taken to extremes, this can create a wholly different sound from simply playing a passage faster or slower); loop length; reversing (playing a musical passage backwards is completely different and yields a completely different end product than actually playing a waveform backwards); the fact that vocalists and wind players need to take breaths; creating layered textures out of the very same sound.

As for long notes and amplitude changes: yes, we could use an organ or synthesizer. But, let's look at the organ first. The organ has a rather limited ability to change volume. If I want a crescendo/decrescendo, basically I've got two options: the swell box, or the crescendo pedal. The swell box has a rather limited range--it works by closing shutters over a group of pipes, and this will only allow so much volume change from completely open to completely closed. Also, it typically only operates on a select few ranks of pipes, so it's useless to go from the quietest organ sound to the loudest. Furthermore, when the shutters are closed it muffles the sound slightly, altering the organ's timbre--which may not be desirable. The crescendo pedal works by gradually pulling stops to achieve a crescendo (or replacing them for decrescendo)--but this will change the timbre even more drastically than the swell box, since organs typically consist of a number of different pipe families, such as flutes, principals, reeds, etc. But suppose I want to have a sound grow louder without that accompanying change in timbre? I don't really have a lot of options. Not to mention the change will always be more "digital" and less flexible than using a volume knob or envelope thanks to the nature of organs.

Also: how do you expect musicians to cart gigantic pipe organs around with them for every performance?!?!?

The bigger issue is this (and this applies to the suggestion that we use synthesizers as well): the sampler allows us to do these things to sound sources which can't normally achieve that effect. The fact that there is a small group of instruments capable of doing these things doesn't change the fact that there is a huge group of instruments that can't--again, what if I want a piano to crescendo in the middle of a note, not an organ? They're completely different sounds, and they create completely different moods.

As for playing back otherwise infeasible sounds: whether you think the use of penguins (or anything) as a sound-source is gimmicky or not is not in the least the issue. I'm trying to make the point that a sampler expands what sounds are available to composers and performers; and the fact is that using sampled material greatly expands the tonal and timbrel palette, as it were. If you don't happen to find a given use aesthetically pleasing, okay, that's fine; but why should you then dictate to composers that they ought to restrain themselves only to noises reproducible in person?

[Edited slightly for clarity and to sound less hostile]
Last edited by diotimajsh on Mon Apr 28, 2008 9:58 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby TheAmazingRando » Mon Apr 28, 2008 6:57 am UTC

Depends what you sample and how you sample it. If your version enhances the sample and just uses it as a building block, yeah, fine. If the reason your song is good/catchy is because the sample is good/catchy, you can't really claim it as your own success.
Good sample: I sample a guitar phrase for a piece of my song, which is an original take on it and good on its own.
Bad sample: I sample a guitar riff, people like the song because of that riff. It wasn't anything I created that made the song successful, I don't deserve credit for its success.
It's the same with books. You can quote another author as a sort of homage, to prove a point, to be ironic, whatever, that's good. But if you quote another author because it's a good quote and they phrase it better than you can, you're stealing their work and capitalizing on their success.
Even done right, I think musicians should be honest about their sampling and give credit where credit's due.

I disagree that samples are the future, because I don't think electronic music is the future, and outside of it (in many areas, at least) there seems to be a large movement towards a more raw, less produced sound.

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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Dream » Mon Apr 28, 2008 11:49 am UTC

Antimatter Spork wrote:
Dream wrote:a bunch of stuff

I think we're using different definitions of the terms involved. I'm using the terms as a classically trained musician would use them, and you're using them as a electroacoustic engineer would. I'm referring to texture as the different elements in the piece (notice how in the OP's example, each new loop that he created remained for the entire piece, limiting his ability to actually change the texture, whereas even a small ensemble of musicians could easily create a texture of similar complexity that could also change at a moment's notice). I'm also using the term "modulation" in the sense of changing the tonal center in the middle of a piece, again something that the OP's example artist could not do.


I actually was a trained musician, quite some time ago, until I gave it up. I'm still fairly conversant with the terminology, though I'd need a refresher course before I'd claim any real knowledge. I was aware of how you were using the terms, but I wouldn't have presumed to define them for you. There is a gap in our use of terminology, but I think it is in the definition of "sampler". They come in many, many different forms, and I think I know the kind to which you are referring. It is different to the one I am.

Sampler A is usually referred to as a phrase sampler, and is tailored towards sampling and looping from existing recorded material. They are often designed specifically to fit into a DJ rig, and do the kind of production that someone like DJ Shadow does. The Akai MPC range is the definitive example of this kind of sampler. I think this is what you are thinking of, and it is certainly the way to make the kind of music you're thinking of.

Sampler B is usually just called a sampler. This is the kind that is capable of recreating (or attempting to) physical instruments, like a keyboard does. In fact, these samplers are the basis of stage pianos and such things. They don't record input (although they can if you want them to), they use complex banks of individually sampled sounds to make up a naturally playable instrument. Were you to listen to a jazz trio where the keys player was using a digital piano, this is what he's playing. As such, samplers can be used in the very way you contend they can't. They can be human controlled, with the same virtuosity as any other keyboard instrument. Much of this is done in software today, or locked into a hardware keyboard. Try the Vienna Symphonic Library, or Native Instruments Akoustik Piano for this kind of sampler. They can also be used with samples created by the user themselves, which is how I work.

Fundamentally, both these machines are doing the exact same thing. They have prerecorded sounds mapped across MIDI note messages, which are played back when the Note On message is recieved. But one is the sample looper that you are criticising, and the other is a human controlled instrument. That a looped musical phrase is less "performable" is open to debate. But what is not debatable is that a sampler is in any way constricting of musical expression. There is much more to them than you might be aware.
Dream wrote:It's just making music from found sounds. As long as the artist creates something unique and new, the source material is irrelevant. You could easily use a sampler to rip off a song. It would be trivially easy. But the sampling process is not relevant to the debate about creativity vs. plagiarism. It is a process, not an act.It can't be despicable, only used despicably.

Taking someone else's music (especially when they are a professional musician who makes a living off of the marketing or performance of that work) and using it as part of your own work without any prior agreed upon compensation is equivalent to an author stealing passages from someone else's book. It is a despicable practice. Of course (to continue the metaphor), that doesn't mean that computers are bad, just that using them to plagiarize is bad.

The problem with using "old sounds" to make a new piece is that they are NOT YOUR SOUNDS! It's one thing to be influenced. It's another thing entirely to plagiarize. I don't even see why there is a debate about this. If I assemble a book by taking particularly clever phrases or snippets of dialogue from all of the Times Bestsellers from the past year, I'm still a plagiarist, even if I assemble a new story out of them and throw in a chapter of my own writing. Why should it be different for musicians?


There is a debate because samples have to be cleared, and as such their use is no more plagiarism than building on another scientist's previous work is plagiarism. You have to claim the material as your own before you can be accused of plagiarism, and sampling musicians (except Vanilla Ice) acknowledge the provenance of their work.

Your Times Bestseller analogy takes place in real life all the time. It's called an anthology, and the person who makes it is the editor. They would be stealing if they called themselves the author, but they don't. They still created a book, and as such they are still paid for their contribution. In the same way, the musician who uses samples of the work of others references them, and is given permission to use the recordings. If they use samples extensively, they are editors rather than authors, but they are still making music. They still deserve plaudits for their creation, though they should be plaudits for editing samples into a new song rather than for writing a song of thier own.

I read a book recently that was made entirely of cuttings from decades old women's magazines. But instead of being about whatever the magazines were about, it was a murder mystery and an investigation into gender politics in 1950's Britian. The author wrote that book. Not the journalists who contributed to the magazines he cut up.

You seem to be assuming that sampling musicians are pulling a gigantic fast one on all their listeners and sources, and pretending that they created their samples themselves. They don't do that. If anyone did claim not to have sampled, but to have written music created from sampling others work, you would be correct in your castigation of them. But that isn't how it works.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Antimatter Spork » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:59 am UTC

Re: samplers = editors: Fine. Have them credited on the album as editors instead of musicians then. And start calling the albums "anthologies". When it's called "Best loops of 2007" instead of [whatever the album is called] and the people who use samplers start calling themselves editors instead of musicians, I'll buy that argument. Until then, I see people claiming to be musicians when all of their work is built off of other people's actual creativity.

Re: Sampler A and B: I generally lump sampler B in with synthesizers, since using prerecorded notes is basically equivalent to synthesizing a new sound. It's sampling larger segments (like a drum or guitar loop) that I have problems with.

Dream wrote:There is a debate because samples have to be cleared, and as such their use is no more plagiarism than building on another scientist's previous work is plagiarism. You have to claim the material as your own before you can be accused of plagiarism, and sampling musicians (except Vanilla Ice) acknowledge the provenance of their work.

The difference here is that, unlike science, which is a description of the universe, creative work, while it is necessarily influenced by previous work (since it's created by humans and not randomly generated by computers), does not necessarily use bits and pieces taken verbatim.


diotimajsh wrote:a bunch of stuff

I see we have a difference of opinion here. I believe that real instruments are in fact capable of the radical changes of pitch and dynamic level that you say that only samplers are capable of. Humans can play music quite fast. I have never heard a sampled loop that would be unplayable by a human musician (though it would probably sound different if it were played on the normal instruments, though you could use different instruments (higher pitched drums and smaller cymbals, for example) to create the effect of a loop being played back at a faster speed).

diotimajsh wrote:Also: how do you expect musicians to cart gigantic pipe organs around with them for every performance?!?!?

I don't. Electric organs (such as the Hammond) or synthesizers are much more portable than pipe organs, and pipe organs are present in more places than you might imagine. Getting a keyboard instrument that can sustain a pitch isn't that hard. They've been around for ages. (Portative organs predate the piano; another example of an early sustaining keyboard instrument would be the Glass Harmonica (which was sometimes equipped with a keyboard, though not always, and could sustain pretty much indefinitely)).

I think the problem is the dual meaning of sampler. I'm arguing against use of prerecorded loops, and a bunch of people in this thread seem to think that I'm arguing against synthesizers. (That's a completely different thread, which is probably around here somewhere.)
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Dream » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:09 am UTC

Antimatter Spork wrote: Until then, I see people claiming to be musicians when all of their work is built off of other people's actual creativity.
Actual creativity? Does that mean that the only creativity worth crediting is that which starts from zero? I think you'll have a hard time arguing that music is only created out of nothing. Derivative work is still work, and the credit for it should be directly proportional to the amount the new work develops the source. So if your song is just two or three loops and a vocalist, I wouldn't see as much creativity as in a song written from scratch. But you can't pretend the artists didn't write the vocal just because they didn't write the bass line. You still have to give credit where it is due, however small that credit is. And if the artist does enough editing and creating with enough diverse source material, and if they add enough of their own work, I think they really did write the song, just as the author in my example above wrote the book. (Graham Rawle, Woman's Own, as I now remember.)

Restated for emphasis, they can't and don't claim they wrote the source material. If they did, that would be theft, plain and simple. But they do acknowledge their sources, so they are not claiming to be anything they aren't.
Re: Sampler A and B: I generally lump sampler B in with synthesizers, since using prerecorded notes is basically equivalent to synthesizing a new sound. It's sampling larger segments (like a drum or guitar loop) that I have problems with.


Your intial comments addressed samplers in general, and asserted their inability to do a, b, and c. Your assertions were incorrect for all samplers, especially "B" type, but also "A" type. The real difference is that when changes of timbre, pitch, crescendos, vibrato, whatever are applied to a loop as opposed to a single tone, they tend to have unpredictable, often unmusical effects. So sampler "A" isn't suited to doing that. But it can still do it. There is no point in asserting the opposite, as it is demonstrably untrue. Your issue is with looping and with samples cut from existing music. It has nothing to do with samplers themselves, and your criticism of them is completely unfounded.

Dream wrote:There is a debate because samples have to be cleared, and as such their use is no more plagiarism than building on another scientist's previous work is plagiarism. You have to claim the material as your own before you can be accused of plagiarism, and sampling musicians (except Vanilla Ice) acknowledge the provenance of their work.

The difference here is that, unlike science, which is a description of the universe, creative work, while it is necessarily influenced by previous work (since it's created by humans and not randomly generated by computers), does not necessarily use bits and pieces taken verbatim.

My point was that you can use, say calculus, as and when you like without having to prove it works from first principles, and without name-checking Newton (or that other dude) every time you do. No one thinks you're claiming to have discovered calculus, and you don't take any credit whatsoever for the discovery. But then you use it to discover something new, and are rightly credited for the new discovery. That you used calculus extensively, and could never have done it without calculus, is nothing to do with what you are cliaming credit for.

You really seem hung up on the idea that using any part of someone else's work in your own negates all of your own creativity completely. Why is that? Could you explain where you place the boundaries of creativity and of fair derivative work lie? That might clear up a lot.
I have never heard a sampled loop that would be unplayable by a human musician


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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Antimatter Spork » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:28 am UTC

I'm going to try to make this post less of a wall of text. We'll see how that works out.

The problem with taking other people's work and sampling it for your own is that, as a musician, that's the stuff you're supposed to be actually doing yourself. If you go around taking other people's drum patterns, or bass lines, or snippets from their song, then you're a hack. Because you should get your own drummer (or play drums yourself) and write your own bass line (there are some bass lines (and drum patterns, for that matter.*) that are cliché and have been used a billion times. There's nothing wrong with that. But at least have the decency to play it yourself and make it your own).

I think that part of the disagreement here comes from a continued misunderstanding (either on my part or yours, I'm not sure) about what exactly we're calling a sampler. I'm using the term sampler to refer to a device (mechanical or software, it doesn't matter) that takes a recorded snippet and plays it back either singly or as a loop and applies various changes to it. I'm differentiating it from a synthesizer (which is an instrument that uses electronic means, which may include some things that you would consider "sampling") to create sounds that don't exist on non-electronic instruments. I have no problems with synthesizers as an instrument (though the way in which they are used is another thing entirely). I do have a problem with both the concept and use of samplers (as defined above***) as they often times lead to what I consider dishonest creative activity.

*Take the Jazz ride pattern. It's a complete and utter cliché and it's used almost constantly. That doesn't mean that someone is less of a drummer if they use it. (It probably means they're a better drummer, since the ride pattern is part of what defines the jazz "style") It does mean that if someone samples someone else playing that ride pattern, the person with the sampler is less of a musician because they couldn't be bothered to get a drummer of their own**

**At this point it's probably a good idea to point out that we're not arguing about the use of recorded music in live performance (in the general case) but rather in the specific case of sampling someone else's work and incorporating it into your own piece.

***I realize that my definition may not be technically correct, but I want to be clear about what I'm arguing here.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby CircleTriangles » Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:22 am UTC

Sampling was 'the future' a long time ago. I believe the Beatles did a bit of it?

I'm fond of DJ Shadow, the Avalanches, Cornelius, Girl Talk, MF Doom, and many other sample-heavy artists.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby socynicalsohip » Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:11 am UTC

CircleTriangles wrote:Sampling was 'the future' a long time ago. I believe the Beatles did a bit of it?


Yeah, on the track "tomorrow never knows".
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Dream » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:53 pm UTC

Antimatter Spork wrote:The problem with... ...But at least have the decency to play it yourself and make it your own). *It does mean that if someone samples someone else playing that ride pattern, the person with the sampler is less of a musician because they couldn't be bothered to get a drummer of their own.

I have a bit of trouble with this part. If we're talking for the moment about totally cliche parts, like a 4/4 backbeat or something, why is it better for the author to have someone else play it? From the point of view of the author, isn't there no more creativity in saying to a third party "play it like everyone else ever did", than in sampling any of the existing uses of it? Purely from a writing point of view, rather than a performance point of view. The drummer at issue could well add a great deal to the performance, but for the writer there seems to be little creativity expended in either case. Yet you think one is inherently better writing than the other?
I think that part of the disagreement here comes from a continued misunderstanding (either on my part or yours, I'm not sure) about what exactly we're calling a sampler.... ...as they often times lead to what I consider dishonest creative activity.

Don't worry, we're on the same page about the kind of sampler use at issue. Earlier in the thread you did pass judgment on samplers in general, and I still think those comments were demonstrably untrue. But I now know exactly what you're saying, and how it differs from samplers in general. (As an aside, the kind of synthesizer you're thinking of is called a wavetable synth, and is still different from a sampler in that it uses tiny fragments of recorded material as a base from which to extrapolate a sound. It's the basis of the synth string sound that I think you said you hated in a different thread. The samplers of this kind use separate sounds (sometimes many sounds) for each individual note. But that's aside from the point here.)

The "dishonesty" thing is also a problem for me. Looped samples don't normally try to approximate an original performance, they are usually very easy to spot and have their own characteristic sound that is nothing like a complete performance. As such, the sampler isn't intended to be a replacement for an original performance, but is actually a particular aesthetic feel that is desired by the artist. Many (most?) sampling artists wouldn't want to replace their sampled grooves with live performances. Some (Beck comes to mind(and me!)) deliberately sample their own recordings and create the finished song from samples of their own playing. So if sampling isn't really a replacement for a studio recording, and it is cleared and paid for where appropriate, and is acknowledged by the artist, where is the dishonesty?

Finally, you said above that the artists should really call themselves "editors" rather than musicians. Well, they normally call themselves DJs (Like DJ Shadow) or producers (like just about anyone you care to mention). In this regard they are no more tacitly claiming the performances as their own than David Bowie claims the guitar performance on Rebel Rebel as his own. Just because some people aren't fully aware that Bowie used session artists extensively doesn't mean he's claiming their work as his own. The same goes for sampling artists. It's not "Legendary Drums Piano and String Player Shadow", it's DJ Shadow. That should be more than enough to dissasociate the artist from the performances.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Angelene » Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:12 pm UTC

My tiny two cents: If one wants to make use of the genius of another to create a work of genius in its own right, giving due credit to the original then where's the harm?

Anyway, yummy.
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Dream » Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:27 pm UTC

Angelene wrote:Anyway, yummy.


:) Yeah... that and everything else on that album. But especially that...
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby grant » Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:38 am UTC

Some thoughts:
Music and ownership: I have a hard time believing that people can own sounds. While I very much hope that musicians such as myself can make some income off of musical ventures, I do not feel like sounds made by me, and the machines in the immediate area, somehow belong to me.

Italian futurists and musique concrete: Two early/mid twentieth century projects emphasizing the creative possibilities of industrial/man made noise heard in a musical context. While these projects didn't result in any personal favorites for me, they are worth checking out.

Music as craft: there is a certain technical mastery involved in live instrumental performance. There is a mastery of a more technological sort that goes on when someone is working with/manipulating recorded material.
The fact of the matter here is that technology is playing a very big role in music today whether it be the Berlin Philharmonic or Kid Koala. A good orchestra sounds pretty crappy if the engineer sucks. The sound engineer has 'joined the band' so to speak.

musical quotation in history:
While quoting, or referencing and quoting popular song works its way right back to Ockeghem and earlier, it is worth noting that some kind of change happened in the 20th century. I am thinking in particular of (the very much forward looking) Erik Satie and his 1917 ballet "Parade". In the scene that introduces the rather ridiculous "American Girl" Satie includes an sizable excerpt from the popular song "That mysterious Rag" which had been popularized and published years prior in Paris. By placing this excerpt in a very different context (salon music a the Ballet' Satie achieved quite an interesting new effect.

Thread participants (esp. Antimatter Spork) What do you make of Stockhausen's "Gesange der Jünglinge" (electronic sounds and recorded Boy's voice) and "Hymnen" (electronic sound and excerpts of National Anthems)?

I would love to get some suggestions of some more "non-classical" electronic music (not so much the dance variety, but more the avant-garde variety)

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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby CircleTriangles » Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:38 am UTC

grant wrote:I would love to get some suggestions of some more "non-classical" electronic music (not so much the dance variety, but more the avant-garde variety)


You should definitely check out Venetian Snares. Ridiculously prolific electronic artist from Winnipeg, Canada, he works mostly in odd time signatures and his music, which is rather harsh, often takes electronica to its natural extreme.

Also:
(artist - album)
Boards of Canada - Music Has a Right to Children
Múm - Yesterday Was Dramatic -- Today is Okay
Add N to (x) - Avant Hard
Polmo Polpo - Like Hearts Swelling
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Cai » Sat May 03, 2008 10:20 pm UTC

sampling is the past.

less than 100 years ago guys like Strauss and Varese were sampling without samplers
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby Dusty Chalk » Tue May 06, 2008 2:47 am UTC

I remain,
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Re: Sampling: Love it or hate it it's the future! [IMHO]

Postby aleflamedyud » Thu May 08, 2008 7:57 pm UTC

Don't be so damned negative!

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