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Dave Stagner wrote, in part:

> Recontextualization isn't limited to sampling.  Hell, I've been
> recontextualizing a Zeppelin tune myself lately... my solo acoustic
> version of "No Quarter" (DADGAD tuning).  If I can find a good,
> reliable percussionist, I want to form a band doing nothing but
> acoustic covers of rock tunes.  That's a whole band concept formed
> around recontextualization, without a hint of electronics.  And

Timbuk 3's acoustic "Born to be Wild" is devastatingly powerful; the
words "heavy metal," in this context, might jolt some folks.
> recontextualization isn't just "musical"... it can work on entirely
> different levels.

I hated Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man."  Lyle Lovett's version
totally transformed the song.  Wynette's version came across, to me, as
a spineless, none too bright woman urging other women to stand by their
men, even if they're treated badly.  Lovett's implored _a_ woman to
stand by him (even if he treated her badly).  Worlds of difference!

> I like playing "I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls.
> Songs about masturbation take on a whole new meaning when sung by a
> man rather than a woman!  (The next step... making it a medley with
> Joan Osborne's "Right Hand Man".  Think about it).

I began my career as a singer doing exactly this.  In the early 1980s I
played pedal steel guitar in a country and western band which played
exclusively in gay bars.  I liked to sing, but was seldom given the
opportunity; the other band members preferred my steel guitar playing to
my singing, (not without justification).  For my rare singing
opportunities, I carefully chose songs originally sung by women, and
sang them without changing pronoun genders.  I was rewarded by strong,
positive audience response and a demand for more. 

> Recontextualization plays with the audience's
> expectations, takes advantage of their preconceived notions.

Hrm... I'm not sure this is necessarily true.  My own test for
successful recontextualization is, is the result valid art even if the
audience is unfamiliar with the original context?

For a possibly familiar example (in the same vein), consider Melissa
Etheridge's version of "Maggie Mae" (?sp). IMO, this is a great piece of
music, even if you've never heard the Rod Stewart original.  The gender
reversal, and the astonishing similarity of their voices, are flavorful
icing and sprinkles on what's already a very tasty cake.

One of my "successes" in gay bars was the song "Someday Soon," recorded
originally (I think) by Judy Collins in about 1967.  When I was singing
it, fifteen years later, many of the people in the audience had never
heard it, though they might well have inferred it was originally sung by
a female.

"My parents do not like him, for he rides the rodeo," says the song;
"My father says that he will leave me crying..."

Sung by a female, these words portray rather normal parents.  Sung by a
male, they suggest parents who accept their son's sexual orientation,
but are fearful of the consequences of his choice of partners-- a home
life, in other words, very different from those experienced by most
members of my audience in 1982.

Straying even farther off-topic:  Recently, through no fault of my own
(blame Douglas Hofstadter for writing _Godel, Escher, Bach_; it's been
said before on this list, but this is required reading for any loopist),
I began experimenting with the creation of tiled (looped?) graphics and
"canonic" MIDI music, using identical or very similar transformation
processes in both disciplines.  My ultimate goal is the creation of a
Web site presenting the graphics and music together.  This project is
still in infancy, but a couple of very primitive early examples of the
graphics are at
http://www.hotwired.com/members/profile/troubtech/ if you're interested.

If I had a digital camera or scanner, I'd probably have used my own
images as source material for the graphics from the beginning.  Lacking
both, however, I'm using readily available material-- from the
alt.binaries.* Usenet groups.  Capriciously, I've chosen to limit myself
thus far to images of human bodies.

So-- I'm a self-confessed recontextualizer, shamelessly using "samples"
of other people's work as source material for my own.

So-- Why am I still very uncomfortable with using samples of other
people's music in my own?  Why do I so intensely dislike most of the
sample-intensive music I've heard (admittedly very little)?

Part of it, I'm sure, is Sturgeon's Law ("Ninety per cent of everything
is crap").

((Ob (condensed):  Warhol's soup can had me screaming, "Fraud!")  

Part of it, I'm sure, is what Sean T Barrett aptly termed "an issue of

In the graphics I've done so far, I'm confident that no human eye could
recognize the source material without having it displayed beside my
transformation of it-- and likely not even then; the "sample" is too
small, and too completely transformed.  The level of granularity of the
sample seems to me to be equivalent to  a word of text or a note of
music-- probably not a legal copyright infringement, and certainly not a
moral one AFAIC.  A section of an image large enough to be recognizable
despite my transformations would bother me, though-- as would a phrase
of text or music, if it were the basis of the entire work.  A quote, on
the other hand, could legitimately be fairly extensive, if it didn't
dwarf the recontextualizer's efforts. 

But I even quit using my drum machine, in part because it uses other
people's sounds.  Probably the level of granularity of a sampled drum
hit would be that of a pixel or a letter of the alphabet; there's no
sensible reason for me not to use it.  I simply decided that I wanted to
be responsible for creating every sound my audience hears, and to do so
before its eyes and ears (not even any prerecorded samples of my own

Does that make me a bad person? :-)

John Pollock
http://people.delphi.com/johnpollock (Troubador Tech)