The Year Was 1988, The Art: Sampling

05.06.11 Posted in Blog by

Culture has always been a derivative. New art builds upon old art and especially in the art of music this process is visible. We hear music, process it and create something that is a derivative but at the same time something new. Folk songs formed the basis for Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies, Chopin études were reworked to new works by Leopold Godowsky and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s ‘My Favorite Things’ became a John Coltrane jazz classic.

In the 1980s, technology brought this process of cross-fertilazation in music to another level by making it possible to transform sound into data. This data could easily be manipulated and used in a new form. The new possibilities changed not only the production of music but also the music itself. Artists started to deconstruct recordings into separate elements and used these elements like LEGO-blocks to create something new.

These new technological possibilities faced a lot of resistance in the 1980s and until today the art of sampling is still something that is surrounded with complex legal issues.

This week I discovered a great mini-documentary about these discussions on sampling in the eighties. Dating back from 1988, the documentary features people both in favor and against sampling and gives some insight in the thoughts on sampling in the 1980s. It’s sort of like Kembrew McLeod’s film Copyright Criminals avant la lettre. Even if you’re not really into sampling, these twenty year old images of Will Smith, Ice-T and The Beastie Boys make this documentary on sampling a must-see!

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