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On Sun, 3 Aug 1997, Kim Flint wrote:

> You're not one of those people that gets all bent about sampling are you?
> :-) 


> What difference is it really if the sample is recorded on a hard disk
> or recorded on your brain? 

The difference is that if it's sampled, you've got a recording of somebody
else's music.  If it's "sampled in your brain,"  then it's being filtered
through your own sensibilities.  

If you have five different people sample the same Zeppelin riff on the
same sampler, you're gonna get five identical samples.  If you give five
different people the same guitar, and have them play the same Zeppelin
riff, you're going to get five subtly (or not so subtly) different
versions of that riff, because the riff is being filtered through the
basic fundamental aspects of what makes each one of us a seperate and
distinct human being. 

I'm well-aquainted with the argument that since everybody is influenced 
by something, then sampling is no less original of an approach than any 
other.  My above paragraph is my first line of response to that.

Of course, you can take that sample and tweak it to make it sound
different, but you can do the same thing with that riff an a guitar as
well.  If you're sampling, you've got to deliberately go in and change it. 
If you're actually playing, however, the "editing process" takes place
automatically -- and it takes place in a manner that no other human on the
face of the earth can precisely duplicate. 

> The loop is a sample of something. If its a
> sample of you playing, chances are the thing you played is heavily
> influenced in some way by "somebody else's music"!  
> The things I've listened to are definitely there. But that's fine!
> Using something familiar gives music a starting point.

See above.

> A lot of electronica involves recontextualizing something familiar. So 
> a lot of other kinds of looping. I think it is a stretch to say there is
> some fundamental difference between creating a loop based on some funky
> riff I play or some funky riff I sample off a p-funk album. 
> The musical
> purpose would be the same in either case. 

I can't disagree more!  The Zeppelin example is exhibit A.  Here are 
several more:

Look at the John Lennon song "Come Together."  There's a line in there
that goes, "Here come old flat-top, he come groovin' up slowly."  This is
a quote from a Chuck Berry tune.  Now then, there's a world of difference
between Lennon singing that line himself, in his own voice, in the context
of his own song, as opposed to him suddenly dropping in a sample of the
Berry original. 

What we're talking about is the difference between quoting somebody 
else's idea, as opposed to out-and-out taking that idea and inserting it 
into a different context.

Here's a different take on the issue.  In a _Musician_ magazine interview
from about a year ago, the techno group Orbital mentioned that a lot of
the sounds which appeared to be fairly standard analog synthesizer bleeps
and drum machine presets were, in fact, very elaborately altered sounds
that the group had meticulously constructed themselves.  They'd sample a
trash can being hit, and then run it through all manner of processing in
order to produce a sound that, by the group's own admission, didn't sound
significatly different from most preset sounds.  But for them, their art
is largely about taking those kinds of sounds and then reconstructing
them, sometimes to the point of making highly unlikely sounds come across
as ordinary!  Of course, it would be much faster to just use those synth
presets, and they might be the only people on earth who could tell the
difference, but that's how they make their art. 

Look at a band like Rage Against the Machine.  To me, a big part of what 
that group is about (from a musical standpoint) is the fact that they're 
a rock band that takes aspects of hip-hop's instrumental language, but 
applies it to a rock instrumentation.  They play loops all over the 
place, but they actually *play* them, rather than simply sampling them 
and then looping them.  It's a different sound, and a different artistic 

A lot of guitarists I know (including myself) think that Tom Morello's
solo on "Bulls On Parade," wherein he imitates the sound of a DJ
scratching a disc by sliding his hand up and down the fretboard while
toggling his pickup selector, was one of the hippest things to come out
last year.  Sure sounds like a DJ scratching a record.  So why not just 
bring in a DJ to scratch?  If you have to ask...

I'll give one more example: I'm presently in the process of putting 
together some tracks on a hard disk recorder.  Now here's an interesting 
thing about hard disk technology: If I have a two-bar phrase, it takes up 
no more space in the hard disk's memory to have that phrase repeat for 
ten minutes than it does to have it repeat for two seconds!  This has to 
do with "non-destructive editing," and the fact that if I cut-and-paste a 
phrase a few hundred times, I'm really sending info to the hard disk to 
tell it to read the original data from a certain place.

Now then, since a lot of my parts repeat, it's much more economical (both
in terms of hard disk space, and in terms of actual money when it comes
time to buy more memory) to cut and paste those sections.  But there's a
part of me that would actually prefer to play the parts over and over
again, because my ear likes hearing those sorts of subtle variances!  I
might be the only person in the world who notices this difference, and the
only significant difference may well be in terms of how it's done, but
it's still a big difference.  I'm likely going to copy them anyway, for a
variety of reasons, but it's only recently that I've started to really get
into music that loops in this sort of manner.  

I used to write off the last Tricky album as a bunch of two-bar loops over
which a stoned-beyond-belief guy mumbled three stanzas of lyrics over and
over.  I still think of it like that, but I'm actually starting to dig it
now.  ;}

> And what happens when I sample
> something off p-funk and add my playing to it? Am I some kind of
> mixed-breed, shunned by all?

No, you're just five years behind the trend of all those rap producers 
who sampled "Atomic Dog" in 10,000 different hip-hop songs.  ;}

More to come!