The Climate Surrounding Sampling

As was briefly discussed in class on digital copyright, and in the assigned reading, sampling is a controversial topic within the music industry. And while the entire idea behind copyright and sampling restriction laws were originally introduced as a means to protect artist’s intellectual property, this article I found articulates how it actually makes things difficult for smaller artists. Dimitri Nasrallah outlines how smaller artists have their work stolen and used by larger artists who turn productions that they are not responsible for in order to make a large process. Often times these smaller artists simply do not have the funds to fight against large corporate entities and their legal teams in a court of law with a chance of winning.

Sampling has also been productive within the music scene as a way in which smaller producers are able to connect with large and more established artists. Amateur producers will often take popular tracks and create remixes out of them, posting them on platforms such as SoundCloud or YouTube, and this has the potential for new artists to be scouted out by whoever made the original song.

Many people within our modern day society would view sampling and creating remixes as a creative outlet, but what would Marx think? Would Marx actually believe that music production using digital and/or analog devices is just another way that machines distance us from creativity and bring us closer to the overarching idea of automation and monotony that is not innate to humans?

Heidegger’s point on how machines are controllable to the extent to which humans allow them to be appears to be more relevant to the burgeoning production scene present in the 21st century. As mentioned in my  previous blog, people tend to view production technology right now as a blank canvas, allowing the artist to use and create whatever they would like to due to the huge pool of sounds made accessible through modern day technology.

While researching my ecology this past weekend, I went to Le Poisson Rouge which is only a few minutes away from NYU to see Youth Lagoon touring his most recent album, Wondrous Bughouse. Youth Lagoon’s first release, The Year of Hibernation, received praise for its lighthearted, comforting atmosphere and aesthetic, and it topically serves as an artist’s reflection on his past and growing up in general. Many appear to dislike Youth Lagoon’s second and latest release, because he essentially threw out the entire aesthetic and lyrical content of the first album, and replaced it with an ethereal and haunting atmosphere reminiscent of space and an assortment of distorted carousel-like melodies. The lyrical content of the album even takes a darker tone as it primarily deals with the concept of human mortality and the artist’s struggle to accept his eventual fate that is death.

He played a fair assortment of songs from both of his releases while on tour. Hearing how explicitly different the tracks were from their respective albums when put together side by side made me realize how incredible audio production technology is in being capable of generating completely different sounds and tones due to its array of potential sounds to use.

While industrial and manufacturing machines found in factories, and other devices used specifically with the intent to make an abundance of physical products to sell to consumers may accurately describe Marx’ point about how machines serve to manipulate human labor into an abstracted form, converting monotonous labor into capital, I’m not so sure the concept applies fairly to machines being used with a creative intention in mind.

In this case I would be more supportive of Heidegger’s idea regarding how machine function is limited to what the human operator allows it to do. The machine only has as much control as the human who created it allows it to have. I feel that music production hardware is an extension of an artist’s creative capacity. They are now made capable of more accurately producing whatever sounds come to mind, or in the case of sampling, are able to manipulate preexisting sounds into a new idea. Perhaps as this mode of technology improves, we will begin to see even more ways in which artists can directly transcribe their creative ideas into crafted sound.

-Derek Kaneko

Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Pub. L. No. 105-304, 112 Stat. 2860 (Oct. 28, 1998), codified at 17 U.S.C. 512, 1201-05, 1301-22; 28 U.S.C. 4001

Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. Print.

Marx, Karl. “The Fragment on Machines .” The Grundrisse. New York: Harper & Row, Print.

Nasrallah, Dimitri. “From Plunderphonics to Frankensampling A Brief History of How Sampling Turned to Theft.” DJBroadcast.Net. N.p., n.d. Web.


~ by detoka on September 25, 2013.

One Response to “The Climate Surrounding Sampling”

  1. The title grabbed my attention!

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