Blog Post 7: This is the Remix

Hi all,

Here’s a blog post for our upcoming week of reading and listening on sampling, DJ culture, and the remix.

As I mentioned in class yesterday, since we’re heading further into the semester, these prompts will start becoming more open-ended and self-driven — think of our goal for the coming week as being figuring out what the remix can do, musically, aesthetically, culturally, historically, politically. To that end, how you pursue this post is largely up to you — you’re free to follow where your interests lead you, with a few guiding constraints:

  • You should discuss both some sonic material from our texts for Wednesday and some textual material (including Copyright Criminals) — think about how you might put those different forms together.
  • In discussing sonic material, try to think carefully and microscopically about what these songs are doing — to close-read the workings of the remix, so to speak. Think about how particular sonic details and actions are creating meaning here, and what those have to do with reuse and recontextualization — the “Paid in Full” transcript might be a useful resource for this.

Have a good weekend, and happy listening, reading, and writing!

Reminder: Your writing should go in the comments section for this post — click on the link near the top of this post where it says “Leave a Comment.” It should be at least 300 words, and is due by midnight Tuesday, October 17. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

21 thoughts on “Blog Post 7: This is the Remix”

  1. From all the material and music we read and listened to, the remix’s power is in its ability to make the destruction of “new” traditional creative structures palatable. As Ulf Poschardt wrote, “of all the arts music was the most abstract and immaterial” (Poschardt 220). Notes and melodies do not actually belong to anyone, and that idea was accepted way back in the classical age. Even songs were not perceived as owned by anyone in the early days of recordings, since famous folk songs and musicians like Woodie Guthrie essentially covered and used whatever they heard without fear. The structure of capitalism required the elevation of an individual who, by their own merits, rose above the rest. Record companies bought into this structure and profited by selling individual musicians or individual bands, and validated these individuals as pure creatives. What the remix and DJ culture has done is to show how faceless this self-realization narrative actually is. Grandmaster Flash calls his music and “himself” as a DJ “good times” by using another band’s words in Wheels of Steel. The sample is purposefully over-the-top to demonstrate the false narrative of true creativity in art. The sample calls attention to itself as a sample in the same way a clip in a found-footage film calls attention to itself as a piece of film; the listener becomes aware that they have listened to something unoriginal and can then make the connection that everything else in the song may not be original, and then go one step further and think that nothing is original.

    This idea of no originality whatsoever is scary in a capitalistic society, since (as mentioned before) for it to work individuals must believe they are unique. Yet the “fun factor” of a remix or mashup proves there is plenty of room for creativity in using other people’s works. The Grey Album as shown in Copyright Criminals is deliberately in-your-face in this regard. Linking disparate threads into an overall argument is the basis of academia, why not make it the basis of music as well? As the voice from the start of the 7 Minutes of Madness remix says, a mashup is the “journey which will bring you to new values” that are replacing the old, creatively-chilling power structures of capitalist America.

    Like

  2. Music sampling is something I find very interesting. Particularly in recent years, sampling has become such a ubiquitous part of music that we might not even realize it is happening. Sampling comes in many forms: a few notes, a beat, a voice, or even a whole song. Even some of our favorite, wildly successful musicians do it. I think that many of the same questions we brought up in our discussions of authorship and appropriation are relevant in our discussion of music sampling. Is there a difference between using a piece of something and using a whole object, meaning is there a difference between using a part of a song and a whole song? Is there a difference between using a guitar riff, for example, once in a song and using it as the baseline for an entire song?
    In “Copyright Criminals” Matt Black and Steven Albini bring up two interesting points that relate to our discussions of context. Black says that a sample is “A reference that evokes cultural resonance” (around 5:00) and Albini says “In sampling, the way it’s conventionally used, you’re supposed to be able to understand what you’re listening to and that’s because what you’re listening to has it’s own qualities and its own importance” (around 5:07). These quotes would suggest that samples then are supposed to be seen as a separate, identifiable part of a song and not an integrated part of the new song. But I think it is worth discussing that, perhaps, unless the sample is really recognizable (think Ice Ice Baby and ‘Under Pressure’ or Can I Kick it and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’), the sample might go completely unnoticed. Because I somehow manage to relate everything back to Beyonce – one of the most popular songs from her album Lemonade, Hold Up, is comprised completely of a sample of an old Andy Williams song (links pasted below). Because, I’m assuming, most of Beyonce’s audience is not listening to Andy Williams, this sample is rarely talked about. But, when Vanilla Ice sampled Under Pressure, it was a huge controversy because many people were familiar with Bowie’s work.

    Hold up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeonBmeFR8o >>> from about 1:40
    Can’t Get Used To Losing You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZgW8T2IIqU

    I also really like the following quote from Matt Black at around 8:20. In discussing the claim that sampling is a valid instrument for music creation, Black says that’s ridiculous because “No other instrument allows you to take someone else’s life work and put your name on it”. This made me reflect on the previous section of our class and the “instruments” through which the other artists copied work.

    Like

  3. Music sampling is something I find very interesting. Particularly in recent years, sampling has become such a ubiquitous part of music that we might not even realize it is happening. Sampling comes in many forms: a few notes, a beat, a voice, or even a whole song. Even some of our favorite, wildly successful musicians do it. I think that many of the same questions we brought up in our discussions of authorship and appropriation are relevant in our discussion of music sampling. Is there a difference between using a piece of something and using a whole object, meaning is there a difference between using a part of a song and a whole song? Is there a difference between using a guitar riff, for example, once in a song and using it as the baseline for an entire song?
    In “Copyright Criminals” Matt Black and Steven Albini bring up two interesting points that relate to our discussions of context. Black says that a sample is “A reference that evokes cultural resonance” (around 5:00) and Albini says “In sampling, the way it’s conventionally used, you’re supposed to be able to understand what you’re listening to and that’s because what you’re listening to has it’s own qualities and its own importance” (around 5:07). These quotes would suggest that samples then are supposed to be seen as a separate, identifiable part of a song and not an integrated part of the new song. But I think it is worth discussing that, perhaps, unless the sample is really recognizable (think Ice Ice Baby and ‘Under Pressure’ or Can I Kick it and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’), the sample might go completely unnoticed. Because I somehow manage to relate everything back to Beyonce – one of the most popular songs from her album Lemonade, Hold Up, is comprised completely of a sample of an old Andy Williams song (links pasted below). Because, I’m assuming, most of Beyonce’s audience is not listening to Andy Williams, this sample is rarely talked about. But, when Vanilla Ice sampled Under Pressure, it was a huge controversy because many people were familiar with Bowie’s work.

    Hold up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeonBmeFR8o >>> from about 1:40
    Can’t Get Used To Losing You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZgW8T2IIqU

    I also really like the following quote from Matt Black at around 8:20. In discussing the claim that sampling is a valid instrument for music creation, Black says that’s ridiculous because “No other instrument allows you to take someone else’s life work and put your name on it”. This made me reflect on the previous section of our class and the “instruments” through which the other artists copied work.

    Like

  4. In the reading for today, Grandmaster Flash talks about how one can only really understand hip-hop or at least what it was at the time from someone who was either living in it or rapping about it. It is quite experiential. Listening to “Paid in Full” by Eric B and Rakim, I can understand the words and I can move my body to the beat but I do not fully, without the help of Rap Genius, understand the cultural references and spatial markers. In the beginning, specifically, the rappers discuss Norby Walters, Cara Lewis, Zakia, and Rush of Rushtown Management. They give descriptors for these names but, in some ways, I feel lost without cultural context. This is not to say I do not enjoy the song—I am just not a part of that cultural—due to my age. However, despite my lack of knowledge, I can still enjoy what I am listening to.
    Some of the references I understand—dead presidents mean cash. Jay Z and Nas later adopted the term which is why I can grasp its meaning. I understand things now because hip-hop is the dominant genre, but it wasn’t back then. The music was accessible but not understood by all—it was, in some ways, niche. In almost all of the music I listen to today I can understand the cultural references. However, some of the people who enjoyed Eric B. and Rakim’s music during its release might not understand “my” music.
    The music can be looked at as a cultural collage or a reflection of the “then”, that era. Though it survives sonically, a lot of what the music speaks about is lost. Rush or Russell Simmons is now more renowned as the vegan rap mogul. Times change and so does culture. The collage that rap is, reflects the collage of culture.

    Like

  5. The concept of remixing and sampling music brings about an entirely new component into the music industry that hasn’t been part of the dialogue in the past. This new style of music brings to light a tension between the artistic side of and the industry side of music. The narrator of Copyright Criminals calls out, “will anyone figure out how money and art can get along in the 21st century? Or will we all end up being copyright criminals?” Remix, on a technical level, is an exciting new tool to use. It often involves a lot of repetition, which allows the listener to be transcended into a sort of trance and zone out. Yet, it simultaneously promotes the listener to be more alert because the track could drastically change at any moment. This is intriguing because it makes it more difficult for listeners to guess the direction a song will take. Arguably, most of the time songs have a certain tone to them, and that tone typically does not change very much throughout the time. Whereas in remixing, it can be assumed that the tone will not stay the same.

    Sampling is a little different from remixing because it draws on already existing pieces of music in a different way. An artist will directly take a line or melody from another song, and incorporate it into their new song. I’ve always had mixed feelings about sampling because a lot of the time it feels like a form of stealing. Sampling can be a cool way to be creative with past art and make it your own, similar to appropriation in art. However, if the listener is unaware that there is a piece of sampled content in a certain song, they assume that the artist wrote it. This feels unfair to me, as if one artist is claiming authorship over musical expression that is not actually theirs. When a song is being remixed, the original artist is typically still called out, but with the new artist of the remix as part of the title. With sampling, there is no credit being given to the original artist, and unless the listener is already aware of the song that came before, there is no easy way to know that a song was sampled. From personal experience, I always know when I am listening to a remix of a song, but there have been times where I have heard a song containing sampled content, and not known until long after that the artist took a piece of an older song.

    Like

  6. Though my post for today admittedly does not connect with the prompt as much as I would like it to, I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on a number of instances in “Copyright Criminals” in which the issue of race could have – and should have – been touched upon. Not being knowledgeable about remix culture outside of the texts we’ve read for this class, I cannot claim to possess a comprehensive knowledge of race relations within DJ culture, so I am making the assumption, based on the information from these texts, that it is a phenomenon rooted in African American communities. I am not about to argue that the act of remixing itself is appropriation of black culture, nor do I think that a non-black artist should not be allowed to sample music by a black artist. What’s more, I think that the special did not neglect to bring up DJ/remix culture’s connection with hip hop, as well as with racial justice to some extent. That being said, there were several moments during “Copyright Criminals” that I thought warranted at least a mention of racial power dynamics. For instance, about halfway through the film, one of the speakers says that the songs that were a product of remix culture were seen as an “underground, urban phenomenon.” While that certainly may have been true, he then goes on to describe the music of the artists who were popular as “more traditional” and something you could “wrap your arms [head?] around.” I found it a bit unnerving how they juxtaposed only black, and then only white, musicians to represent the former and the latter over the narration. The speaker also mentioned that the “traditional” artists soon realized that there was money in the “urban” musical styles that correlated with their rise in mainstream popularity. I was surprised that there was not mention of any sort of “Elvis effect” that might have taken place in that moment, as well as several other points during the special. Again, they did not neglect to mention race as a cultural factor in the history of DJ/remix culture, but it felt as if they did not believe that racial politics had any place in how the style of music making developed and changed, and the ways in which it continues to do so. In fact, during several of the songs they sampled, I actually caught myself thinking “did Seth and Carter make these?”

    Like

  7. Poschard speaks at great length about the death of the author as it relates to the DJ culture that grew out of the Bronx in the late seventies and early eighties. His most interesting point is his idea that the DJ occupies the position as a listener long before being an artist. He says, “The DJ as a listener is only very distantly related to that ‘someone’ [the Barthesian reader] because he has a particular history and biography that is generally explained with reference to the subcultural environment” (Poschard 379). This difference relates to the DJ’s status as a grey area between reader and author. They have a background, and a clear sound, as Grandmaster Flash reveals in the videos we watched. He uses his records like an instrument. Though, without the benefit of footage, it appears to be a simple remix of sounds, the recording of him going about his work shows the amount of skill and craft required to not just create but reproduce that sound. As Sage Francis says, “You don’t just go to a store and grab one record, sample it, bang it out, and that’s it” (Copyright Criminals 10:54). The claim that sampling music is less artful than recording original instrumentation is like the argument that editing is an inferior artform to recording footage. While sampling is not as democratic an artform as editing found footage was in Connor’s medium, due to the technical understanding necessary to run a turntable, it does have other similarities, mainly the idea that the most famous DJs were those who listened to a lot of music, much like Connor watched many movies. Sampling as an artform requires a greater knowledge of the music they sampled than the original musicians themselves. Rather than a cheap artform based on theft, sampling is a highly skilled medium that requires as much skill to perform well as traditional instrumentation.

    Like

  8. Someone in Copyright Criminals (my notes don’t say a name or time code, whoops) says that all music is just an assemblage of sounds, and that you can’t copyright a sound. This, I think is the bottom of the issue – similar to our cut-ups last week, all words have already been written, so all works are essentially cut-ups; all notes have already been played, so all songs are essentially sampled. Need evidence? Just watch these:

    Are James Blunt or Aqua sampling Journey (or whoever used that chord progression originally)? Are Justin Bieber and Slipknot sampling Marvin Berry? And are any of these artists doing anything different than Eric B and Rakim sampling Clyde Stubblefield? That is, why is recycling a popular chord progression treated differently than recycling a popular drum line?
    Personally, I don’t think they should be treated differently. It is culturally accepted that many songs contain the same notes and chords (as they should – there are a finite number, after all), and as of 2017, I think it should be culturally accepted that many songs also contain the same beats. My only caveat in this sticky ethical issue is that if an artist takes directly from another artist (as, say, De La Soul), credit should be given where credit is due.
    This is why I think society chooses to ignore one of these issues of song recycling and to aggressively police the other – in general, when a popular chord progression is used, it is recreated by the artist in question during the recording process, rather than sampled directly from another artist. However, then where can the line be drawn between sampling and covering? In Biz Markie’s alleged ‘sample’ of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Alone Again (Naturally), Biz himself sang the song rather than sampling O’Sullivan’s track directly – so why is this being treated as an act of sampling? True, in my eyes credit should have been given to O’Sullivan regardless, but for him to have been so aggressively pursued by the court without a true act of sampling having taken place seems ludicrous to me.
    In any case, remixing and sampling are clearly here to stay, and a great deal of ethical grey area with it.

    Like

  9. Today’s meme:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1OKtIm_DL51SvcOAstHh8XREaBjRqk8_oNZfYlXKD3e0/edit?usp=sharing

    I usually find myself torn in the argument of whether DJing should be considered an art form in its own right. As a guitar and piano player who has spent years learning these instruments, there is no shred of doubt in my mind that learning to DJ requires less discipline and time. With that said, I do see the merit of sampling, particularly when it is used to enhance one’s own creation. The use of Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” in “Famous” by Kanye West is a good example. The Bam Bam chorus sounds fantastic in this context but make no mistake, that is mostly because Bam Bam is a fantastic song on its own. Personally, I believe that the original creation has to come first, and then it is appropriate to use samples to bolster that creation. For example, without the “Bam Bam” chorus, “Famous” would still be a pretty damn good song and therefore, I support its utilization of Sister Nancy’s work. In Copyright Criminals, one of the interviewees says “It is cheaper, easier, and more predictable if you want to cover somebody’s song entirely, than if you want to take 3 seconds of somebody’s song…” (Copyright Criminals). With regard to the complicated legal loopholes that surround sampling, this quote also does well to show that, by comparison to mere covering, using samples does require more creativity.

    With regard to the reuse aspect of remixing and sampling, Ulf Poschardt addresses how music and sound is more readily accessible for this kind of (re)creativity, for unlike a painting or statue, music is not stuck in place or time. In Copyright Criminals, this aspect of the art is also addressed: “We kind of looked at music as and assemblage of sounds and we felt that you couldn’t copyright a sound” (Copyright Criminals). This highlights the music/aesthetic implications of sampling—the fact that musical sounds and rhythms are readily accessible and are therefore utilized to enhance musical creations. Historically and politically, the implications become more complicated. The politics of sampling involves an interesting interaction between cultures, which is something I think the documentary seemed to gloss over.

    Like

  10. I think that in terms of remixes, mashups, and samples, there is an implicit materiality at play that needs to be addressed. I understand the intellectual property issues raised in Copyright Criminals, but I think their approach to the legality of the art form is coming from the wrong place. Anthony Berman, one of the lawyers featured in the documentary cites that remixes, mashups, and samples are often considered “lazy attempts at songwriting.” This opinion is largely founded on the basis that people believe that this process is not a form of artistic appropriation, but rather plain stealing—an offense that can and at times, should, be prosecuted.
    The issue here is that I feel that if one is to take a Barthesian approach to music, and observe the death of the author, songs, once they enter the canon, are then able to be thought of as materials in the same capacity that art can be used for collage.
    The concept of music as potentially appropriated material is further reinforced by it’s original inherent performativity. One of the Grandmaster Flash videos that we watched for class is referred to as a “routine,” and the original analogue process of sampling is put on full view. Here, the process of appropriation becomes a performance much in the same way that the music itself is a performance—it’s just as entertaining to watch as it is to listen. Today, I feel that much of the animosity within the industry towards sampling is stemming from the diminished performativity that we originally saw with Grandmaster Flash and other DJs: computers have ushered in an age of automation that presumably makes it perceived as easier and far lazier to sample, remix, and mashup.
    If we are to think of published work as material, one need only to look back at our previous read of Montage as Conflict: “I confronted him with my viewpoint on montage as collision. A view from the collision of two given factors arises a concept” (Montage is Conflict, 30). Like the collision in montage, there is a collision going on much in the same way with sampling and mashups wherein the collision yields a work that is entirely new.

    Like

  11. I would like to approach this topic from a more general sense of what the remix can do, musically, aesthetically, and culturally. Musically, the remix changed the game because the main concern was to “transform the track into a magical dance number with an even, rhythmically monotonous pattern of melody and beats”. So it creates a vibe and atmosphere, that set a tone for the party. Aesthetically it creates a pleasing ambiance because it takes a familiar song and elevates the kind of appreciation that people already had for the song. It focuses on the “break” — the part that people don’t want to end — and extends it; or move into a new break altogether. In a sense, its analogous to how A MOVIE was created by piecing random bits of what would make up a movie. The DJ would piece together breaks in order to keep the party intensified. Culturally, I think this is an act of translation that pays homage to the “original”. However, I’m not sure how to grapple with remixes that become more famous than the original, resulting in an erasure.

    Like

  12. Music sampling has become so popular in recent media culture and particularly within the confines of the “appropriation industry”—perhaps a more appropriate name for the music business. It’s not that I think sampling music is wrong, or that it somehow diminishes the original artists’ purpose or intent, but it is essentially taking something that does not belong to you.

    A line that really struck me in Poschardt’s piece was: “Gloria Gaynor’s voice was reduced more or less to a marketable irrelevance.” It’s songs like: “I Will Survive” that survive—might I joke—too long in the DJ culture that permeates the way society understands music. The amount that this song has been used or sampled in some way, in some piece, is: realistically astronomical. Literally thinking about Gaynor’s song for just a minute brings to mind all of the places, commercials, spinoffs, and remixes that I’ve heard the words and melody echoed from. The song has become corporate and political gold.

    “Will anyone figure out how money and art can get along in the 21st century? Or will we all end up being copyright criminals?” This is the question. Although Grandmaster Flash would disagree. His work is more than just sampling and remixing, as mentioned in the videos; it’s his art form and his life. It’s what he’s been able to mutilate into something beautiful that makes it great—not just the fact that people dance to it.

    And Grandmaster Flash is why I don’t think taking something that doesn’t belong to you is stealing. But so many artists today make me feel so conflicted and angered. The music they take, regardless of if credit is given or not, fundamentally strips the original producer or artist of their creative intent.

    Like

  13. Remixing and sampling go hand in hand. On the one hand sampling seems like “lazy song writing” as Anthony Berman says in Copyright Criminals however, as others in the same text point out it that sampling can teach us about history, culture, and politics. This is not to say that just anyone has a right to sample. Grandmaster Flash points out that many samplers “fix it so it’s comfortable for the reader, which is really dangerous.” (Poschardt 160) So, while Grandmaster Flash was a sampler and a hip-hop pioneer it is clear that he had an understanding of the history of the music he was sampling. This harkens back to the questions that White Tears provoked regarding responsible sampling and appropriation.
    Race has to quickly enter the conversation because of the rise in the popularity of hip-hop, DJ-ing, and rap. What is the difference between a black artist sampling James Brown and a white artist sampling James Brown? For instance, the Beastie Boys are generally considered one of the most influential groups in early hip-hop. However, this is false. To correctly label the Beastie Boys we must situate them within the dominant culture. The Beastie Boys are one of the most influential groups of mainstream early hip hop but they sampled work from hip hop pioneers. So, it is irresponsible to give them all the credit. This is not to say that white groups should not be able to sample the music of black artists but it is important that this be recognized. Furthermore, sampling has proven to be a powerful tool of activism. Public Enemy did this effectively through sampling sounds from the Black Panthers and Martin Luther King Jr. This methodology continues on today as we can see in Moonlight by Jay-Z and in other songs. By sampling real world moments and putting them into music artists force listeners to acknowledge real world problems.
    Sampling is a confusing version of appropriation because of who samples what and how. I have no idea how to decide who gets to do what type of sampling and how that fits into a larger conversation about responsible sampling/appropriating. However, I think that this is a conversation that needs to happen and should be ongoing because our understanding of oppression and appropriation is rapidly changing.

    Like

  14. As Ulf Poschardt said in one of his writings, “DJ-ing is writing, writing is DJ-ing. Writing is music, I cannot explain this any other way.” This quote is a reflection of Grandmaster Flash’s song “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” which is completely created out of sampled sections of other famous songs. Grandmaster Flash’s song is like writing, in that it uses various samples to create a narrative.

    Music is a narrative, it tells a story, it is art, therefore it has meaning. The heavy use of samples is significant in “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on The Wheels of Steel” because it is a remix of several other musicians’ stories. Yet, the creation of this type of narrative is supported by Mark Ronson, producer of “Uptown Funk,” who said in his TED talk said that sampling is “…about inserting yourself into the narrative of the song while also pushing that story forward.”

    Previously, in class we have discussed that all new writing pieces are just remixes of old ones. Poschardt has linked his creative process in making music to his style of writing, however, Mark Ronson solidifies this by linking remix culture into the formation of a narrative. Grandmaster Flash’s song serves as a magnum opus for this linkage because it creates a completely original story out of samples from different songs from multiple different genres.

    Not only does “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on The Wheels of Steel” serve as a means to link writing to music, but it also set a precedent for future musicians, especially DJs, that sampling can transform the meaning of a song. This tradition, which has been prevalent in hip-hop almost since its inception, has since spread to other genres, and a focus on sampling-forward music production has become staples of several other musical acts, such as the Death Grips.

    Like

  15. Eric B. and Rakim preface “Paid in Full” as a “journey into sound.” The connotation of “journey” is quite apt considering the ways in which the song utilizes sampling and repetition to transition from one sound to the next, and from one image in the video to the next. In a sense, “Paid In Full” is a curation of a variety of sounds into one single text. The progression of black and white footage into full color also invokes an image of change and progression in culture and music that remixing and sampling helped to bring about.
    Sampling and remixes, for whatever reason, are seen as more favorable than appropriation within other forms of creation. In “DJ Culture,” Ulf Poschardt describes how early DJs and mixers were heralded as heroes of the people, creating accessible music and bringing a portable pop culture wherever they go. Remixing serves to blend various styles and eras of music together, incorporating old and new patterns and trends in music, such that culture cycles. Today’s remixers turn to works of the 1980s for inspiration; genres such as vaporwave rely on synthy melodies from decades ago, and re-contextualize them such that the sound is more appealing to a younger generation and that the original song is barely recognizable. Aesthetically, the remix is the simplest way for a content creator to mold a song with elements they desire into a song more streamlined for a particular genre or audience. Remixing involves adding new artists, rap verses, slowing a song down, speeding it up, rearranging elements of the music (such that a vocal harmonizing in the chorus is instead the first thing heard, for example), and otherwise revamping it such that the song serves a new purpose, often detached from yet still reliant on the source from which it came.

    Like

  16. DJ culture and sampling has changed the way we listen to music; we are all used to hearing snippets of oldies through rap or other pop music while creating an entirely different song. The evolution of DJ culture created communities where homemade remixes were praised and people didn’t care that DJ’s were stealing from the original artist. This breaking apart of original music and recreating it with a turntable made for music fit for the club. Poschardt writes how remixes were “‘a monotonous piece with few breaks or melodic hooks could, for example, be reconstructed in such a way that you lengthened the breaks or incorporated catchy tunes at the right places’” (Poschardt, 123). Original disco or other kinds of music weren’t lasting at clubs, and these remixes acted as a platform for people to dance all night to. Because they are so long and filled with multiple hit songs, they are catchy and easy to dance to.

    Grand Master Flash uses “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Good Times”, songs that were top hits during the time that created a fluid and upbeat way to transform a piece. The technological developments of creating turntables and experimenting with the music brought backspinning to life. Artists could now highlight certain aspects of the song (like vocals) while still keeping the beat and picking out the best parts to suit the style of their song. Eric B. and Rakim’s “Paid In Full” incorporates famous lines from Frankenstein, Middle Eastern folk and more to result in an extremely catchy and well written song. Although there are tons of random aspects in it, “Paid In Full” flows and makes sense as a remix. These remixes reminded me of DJ Earworm’s “United States of Pop” that were famous especially in 2009. Mixing together all of the top songs of the year, DJ Earworm produced long remixes that included our favorite artists at the time, rising to popularity. In “Copywright Criminals”, a man says “you think the people doing it should be embarrassed”, however, these artists are creating new music that involves an entirely new sound and beat – they do not just steal and take credit for an original song that was not theirs (Copyright Criminals, 7:45). Overall, remixes evolved into a new type of culture fit for discos and clubs where the songs are easy to dance to, enjoyable to listen to and extremely catchy, dismissing the sampling that’s been done.

    Like

  17. The quote from Copyright Criminals—“If you sample one note of someone else’s recording, it’s copyright infringement”—challenges the moral and legal issues behind sampling. The rest of the documentary, however, defends the use of sampling in new forms of music. This quote is counteracted with other quotes like, “The laws have to change in order to help that culture do what it has to do.” Like with laws affected by other cultural adaptations, copyright laws should be malleable. The film also brings us the quote: “By ignoring the rules, they came up with a whole new way of thinking about music.” Evidently, change in artistic expression often requires change in social legal requirements. When copyright laws were created, sampling did not exist. Why must we adhere to rules set up for a different generation?

    If laws were adapted to give way for more sampling, the creative world would flourish. Already, hip hop consists of qualities unmatched by musical instruments. A DJ in Copyright Criminals defends digital music by referring to remixed bits and observing that “No guitar player can play that fast.” People even point out that rock and roll is “lazy,” as it only uses three chords. Clearly, sampling only expands upon music rather than stealing music from the past.

    While listening to the “Paid in Full” remix and following along with the transcript, I noticed some connections between the spoken samples and the idea of sampling as a whole. For example, I was struck by the bit from Frankenstein, “When all is ready, I throw this switch,” because remixes are akin to Frankenstein’s monster—bits and pieces thrown together to create an original life. There’s something delightfully self-aware and meta about using sampling to comment on sampling. This occurs in another instance, in which a male voice says, “A journey which along the way will bring to you new color, new dimension, new value.” While some may argue that sampling is plain stealing, remixers would probably tell you that effectively using samples from the past yields new value, as it is an original idea from a new artist.

    Like

  18. Considered independently of the other texts assigned for Wednesday’s class, “Copyright Criminals” seems remarkably incomplete and neglectful. While the addition of the Poschard text and the listening samples— as well as lyrics— provide context that fills in the gaps of “Copyright Criminals,” I was compelled by the film to believe that the legal war on DJ culture was initially not entirely about listening samples. The failure to directly mention the racial motivations of this distain for sampling culture is disturbing but hardly surprising.
    Around 22:13, entertainment lawyer Anthony Berman states, “At that time [of the copyright war’s beginning], the big-selling artists were Fleetwood Mac and Springsteen and things that are more traditional, that you could wrap your arms around. And it turned out that all the traditional who people were so miffed by this, way back in the early days, quickly realized there’s a huge amount of money to be made here,” while the Aerosmith-RUN DMC collaboration “Walk This Way” plays in the background. It is hardly discreet that by “traditional,” Berman means white. Other not-so-covert words like “conventional” are also used as a meaningless point of comparison by producer Steve Albini (who, by the way, ridiculously refuses to be labeled as a producer, because he insists that he merely “records” bands). As Berman directly alludes to and as Albini does indirectly, “traditional” bands were upset and threatened by Black success, and became defensive of allusions to their own music in order to deter it. Though not completely without grounds, a profound hypocrisy exists within these complaints, as beats and melodies used by white artists until that point (and still today) are often lifted from the work of minority artists without any true retaliation.
    As Bobbito Garcia notes of sampling within DJ culture, “It was always a culture of borrow and take because it was a culture that was founded upon a lack of resources.” Sampling started as a cross-cultural and nostalgic exploration by DJ Kool Herc that he played with and spread throughout The Bronx, and continued as such. DJ culture, especially in its early stages, encouraged cultural exchange and exploration, as well as encouraging accessibility. DJ culture, then, is a truly American art form: it emerged because of the diversity and openness New York City. It is, and historically has been, radical. From the direct, self-referential lyrics of Eric B & Rakim’s Madness to the obscuring of words and combination of languages in Fab Five Freddy’s Change The Beat (and throughout all of Fab Five Freddy’s work as well), early DJs and hip hop artists projected radical and thoughtful messages with their work. But that was neglected because of their socioeconomic status. Anthony Berman puts it best when he smugly says: “Look, no one took hip hop seriously until it started making a lot of money.”

    P.S. — I know there isn’t really a place for this in my actual post, but I think Albini’s general resentment and desperation to claim ownership of In Utero are pathetic manifestations of his anger at the fact that he only found real success in recording bands other than his own, each of whom were markedly more successful themselves than he ever was as a guitarist in any of his own crappy hardcore groups, Shellac, Big Black, and Rapeman.

    Like

  19. Considered independently of the other texts assigned for Wednesday’s class,“Copyright Criminals” seems remarkably incomplete and neglectful. While the addition of the Poschard text and the listening samples— as well as lyrics— provide context that fills in the gaps of “Copyright Criminals,” I was compelled by the film to believe that the legal war on DJ culture was initially not entirely about listening samples. The failure to directly mention the racial motivations of this distain for sampling culture is disturbing but hardly surprising.

    Around 22:13, Entertainment Lawyer Anthony Berman states, “At that time [of the copyright war’s beginning], the big-selling artists were Fleetwood Mac and Springsteen and things that are more traditional, that you could wrap your arms around. And it turned out that all the traditional who people were so miffed by this, way back in the early days, quickly realized there’s a huge amount of money to be made here,” while the Aerosmith-RUN DMC collaboration “Walk This Way” plays in the background. It is hardly discreet that by “traditional,” Berman means white. Other not-so-covert words like “conventional” are also used as a meaningless point of comparison by producer Steve Albini (who, by the way, ridiculously refuses to be labeled as a producer, because he insists that he merely “records” bands). As Berman directly alludes to and as Albini does indirectly, “traditional” bands were upset and threatened by Black success, and became defensive of allusions to their own music in order to deter it. Though not completely without grounds, a profound hypocrisy exists within these complaints, as beats and melodies used by white artists until that point (and still today) are often lifted from the work of minority artists without any true retaliation.

    As Bobbito Garcia notes of sampling within DJ culture, “It was always a culture of borrow and take because it was a culture that was founded upon a lack of resources.” Sampling started as a cross-cultural and nostalgic exploration by DJ Kool Herc that he played with and spread throughout The Bronx, and continued as such. DJ culture, especially in its early stages, encouraged cultural exchange and exploration, as well as encouraging accessibility. DJ culture, then, is a truly American art form: it emerged because of the diversity and openness New York City. It is, and historically has been, radical. From the direct, self-referential lyrics of Eric B & Rakim’s Madness to the obscuring of words and combination of languages in Fab Five Freddy’s Change The Beat (and throughout all of Fab Five Freddy’s work as well), early DJs and hip hop artists projected radical and thoughtful messages with their work. But that was neglected because of their socioeconomic status. Anthony Berman puts it best when he smugly says: “Look, no one took hip hop seriously until it started making a lot of money.”

    P.S. — I know there isn’t really a place for this in my actual post, but I think Albini’s general resentment and desperation to claim ownership of In Utero are pathetic manifestations of his anger at the fact that he only found real success in recording bands other than his own, each of whom were markedly more successful themselves than he ever was as a guitarist in any of his own crappy hardcore groups, Shellac, Big Black, and Rapeman.

    Like

  20. As expected with any new genre of music, there were many people who were resistant and criticized these new forms of music, including sampling and deejaying,o based in technological advancements of the time. In Ulf Poschardt’s book, DJ-Culture, he provides a detailed history of the origins and birth of hip-hop music and DJs, starting with their influences from disco. He discusses how disco DJs would place samples from a variety of different music over a repetitive dance beat geared towards those dancing in underground clubs in New York. Some musicians whose works were sampled in such genres expressed a great deal of contempt for disco. Poschardt quotes both Nelson George and James Brown who felt their works were being butchered and simplified by disco DJs. He further describes the contrast in reception between“trance-like states of happiness for the audience, and, for the recipients of an old idea of music, a state of anxiety about the preservation of value” (Poschardt 125). Those who listened to the music to dance could enjoy the clear and simple rhythms, but those who were more attached and invested in other genres felt these forms were crude in comparison.
    Even when sampling and remixes found more life through artists such as Kool DJ Herc, Afrika Bambaata, and Grandmaster Flash, there was still hesitance and criticism of sampling and the effort of DJs, that still exists today. In the documentary, “Copyright Criminals” a variety of producers, DJs, and lawyers discuss their views and experiences with DJing and sampling. Steve Albini, who is a musician and recording engineer for a number of famous rock bands, expresses sampling as “an extraordinarily lazy artistic choice” (7:00) stating there is much less effort in using sounds from someone else’s work than to create your own with an instrument. A majority of the other people interviewed for the film address such prevalence of criticisms and argue for the effort placed into finding specific sounds to sample and the process of incorporating them. Listening to Erik B and Rakim’s song “Paid in Full” along with the music notation, shows the scratching of the vinyl as an instrument in itself. I am interested in how such conversations have extended to today’s DJing, in which the technology has become more sophisticated and has often replaced vinyl allowing some to use even less effort to mix and sample songs.

    Like

  21. I’m interested in how DJ culture and sampling has influenced and triggered anxieties over use of original content and how this content is given a new meaning (or maybe keeps the same meaning?) in a new context or remix. We had a similar discussion to this when talking about appropriation and appropriated art; does it still keep the same meaning? Do we still know how to value original artistry?

    In the DJ Culture reading, Poschardt discusses this need and anxiety surrounding whether “true” disco and soul music has been lost. Poschardt writes, “The tendency of disco remixes to use rigidly monotonous repetitions of tiny rhythmic patterns meant trance-like states of happiness for the audience, and, for the recipients of an old idea of music, a state of anxiety about the preservation of value” (125). Just because people take patterns and pieces from other people’s music and make a remix, does it mean we do not value the original soul of music/where those pieces came from? I would argue that adding new pieces and samplings of old music to create a remix out of them does not simply cut off our abilities as listeners to disregard where the original pieces came from. Once we start listening to a remix, we immediately can hear lots of bits and sounds from other music. There is no way to cover up the cut off sound that implies there are pieces of other music infused in the remix.

    In the drum track in Eric B. & Rakim’s song, “Paid in Full”, is looped from the song “Ashley’s Roachclip,” created by a funk group called The Soul Searchers. Around 1:25 of “Paid in Full” you can distinctly hear a fast drum and flute sound. In “Ashley’s Roachclip” around 2:00 you can hear the similar original sound. If I had listened to these songs back to back, I would have recognized that drumbeat from the original right away, not thinking that Eric B. & Rakim made it, but knowing it was taken from a different song.

    I don’t think there should be anxiety surrounding the works of funk and soul being lost to the creation of remixes, because we will always have records and archives of funk and soul. I still listen to a ton of old soul music that I’ve heard remixes use parts of, but I know that I can always return to the original music. Additionally, I think remixes push the boundaries of the way we understand old music by allowing us to reinterpret that old music in a different context, while not forgetting the original sound.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: