Re: Hmmmmm

Subject: Re: Hmmmmm
From: Kevin Busby (
Date: Mon May 24 1999 - 11:14:12 EDT

matt kober wrote (and I hope he will forgive me sampling it):

> The incident did cause me to wonder about some stuff though... like
>where does one draw the line?

Surely we have to take up the old refrain: "fair use". The questions I ask
myself are along the following lines:

(1) Is it still the same sound?
If a sound sampled off, say, CD, has been heavily manipulated, there can
come a point at which the sound has been so tranformed as to be
unrecognisable; or it may (with effort) be recognisable but nevertheless be
a "daughter" sound with a life of its own.
Feeding a composition through a wah-wah pedal doesn't count, IMO. ;-)

(2) Has the sample been recontextualised?
The context of a sound can radically affect the way in which it is heard.
Sampling is used to a great degree in popular music, without sound
transformation. Usually this is very unimaginative. But listen to what
bands such as Meat Beat Manifesto manage to do with samples from other
bands: untreated sounds are re-employed in the "orchestra" of the new piece
of music, rather than just being used to produce 5th-rate variations on the
original composition (cf. the inane copying of Kraftwerk's 'Computer World'
LP which characterised so much 80s techno).

(3) Has the sample been put to a radically different use?
The use of film samples, advertisement samples etc. is IMO generally valid,
because the original material is being reused in a different artform.
Similarly, I would not be happy to use an extract of any music which relied
upon sound creation/transformation, but (would) feel no guilt about using
sounds from cynical old C&W tunes - provided (see point 2) I'm not myself
trying to write a cynical C&W tune...

Apologies in advance for oversimplification or poor categorisation in the
above. I just wanted to illustrate off the top of my head my own take on a
"fair use" attitude to sampling in compositions. YMMV!

No amount of debate or legislation can "draw the line" with 100% accuracy,
because intangibles such as "fairness" and "art" are the real issues.
Sampling is just a technology which particularly highlights existing
issues. But let's not open the can of worms labelled "imitative synthesis".
Let alone the one labelled "resynthesis"! :-)

Kevin B.

Kevin Busby, Studio Manager, Department of Music, University of Birmingham,
Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, England. Tel: +44-(0)121-414 5785.
Fax: +44-(0)121 414 5781. If your email to me bounces, please see No to GE crops.

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