Music Sampling

I have a long-standing debate with a friend of mine about music sampling. He contends that it’s nothing but theft, and that it shows no artistic ability whatsoever. I, on the other hand, think that in this modern age, a snippet of digital code can be a musical instrument every bit as much as a violin is. You’re still manipulating sound, just as you would when you run a bow across strings. I know that I personally couldn’t take a music sample and turn it into anything melodious, so I believe there’s talent there.

Granted, if you’re stealing huge chunks of some other artist’s work, you should be paying them for it and giving them some credit, but a lot of minor sampling is an homage to the original artist and should be taken as such. It also probably drives listeners to the original composition, thus generating revenue.

I couldn’t even begin to tell you when you’ve crossed that fine line and taken too much, however. I don’t know when your composition stops being yours and starts being someone else’s. I don’t think anyone has come up with a clear distinction. I’ll let the brilliant legal minds out there conduct the copyright debates, and a simple Google search will pull up thousands of articles on that very subject.

But as I keep telling my friend, I once saw Stomp in concert. They make percussive music using everything from trash cans to buckets to cigarette lighters, and no one who sees them will ever dispute their musical talent. Why should that be any different for people whose music is electronic? You’re still creating, and to make this creation you are compiling a lot of sounds. There are no sounds on earth that haven’t been heard before. It’s how you combine those sounds that constitutes creativity.

So, no, I’m not opposed to music sampling. I look forward to hearing what people can do with what already exists. I’m a strong proponent of recycling in all its forms, so more power to them.

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