Monday

Mark Ronson at TED



I actually hated this talk.

Mark Ronson's argument seems to be 'people have been ripping off earlier art forms forever, and sampling's no different', which doesn't take into account the wide spectrum of derivity; from inspiring new works to blatant theiving.

He mentions the Rolling Stones as a band who copied the blues, and yes, I would agree; and argue they were terrible thieves, greatly in debt to their inspirators, who largely copied without adding anything (I will concede they had some good lyrics).

Just because everybody does it, doesn't make it ok. But it kind of is ok to see 'sampling' as an art form, as long as people get credit where its due.
Just because some people do it well, doesn't legitimise passed-off crap such as Miley Cyrus as equal to Venetian Snares' Drum & Bartok records.

The problem is, that we now live in a world where if you want to rip off a song, you don't even have to play it yourself. What none of the sample-hogs tell you is that by listening to something, working it out, and playing it back, there's a good chance it's changed in the process somehow. Not always, but somehow. Nirvana spent a lot of time ripping off the Pixies; if they'd had samplers, maybe they'd have been even better at ripping them off, and consequently a less good band. That's not to say that all musicians ever have taken the opportunity to modify their 2nd hand content (see above), or that all people with samplers ever have just recycled without changing the source material. I'm just saying you have the potential to where you didn't have as much potential to before.

It just doesn't mean that Jason Nevins should be put on the same pedastal as RUN DMC themselves. That every Nathan Barley with an immac should be considered 'up there' with Stevie Wonder. That Mark Ronson, with his sampler and libary of ted talks, who turned in a slab of turd at the end of that talk that's massively inferior to any of the pieces he sampled, should be held up as spokesperson for a generation; rather than people like Igorrr, Bong-Ra, Drumcorps, and Sickboy, who really are making the genius post-modern music that Ronson clearly thinks he is making.

UPDATE:
I think I have to add something here, as someone who has both done a lot of remixes and propped up my songs with samples.

In terms of remixing, I know how good it feels to fiddle with someone else's brilliant song and feel like I'm responsible for more than just adding a crappy drumloop over the whole thing. I also like to think that my remixes are a little bit more work than that. My simplest one is probably the Bobby Mcgee's track 'king of england', which was just stripped down and built up again with no editing or cutting up of wave-forms. It's not too different from the original, but then it's just a remix and credited to them as such.

In terms of production, I think it's just irresponsible to not cite your references these days. We don't live in the old days of trad folk songs, where you wouldn't know who wrote the song you're singing, making up new words for, and improvising over. We have the data now, which is why when I completed In Case of Emergence, I listed all the samples used - showing my hand, I guess, I suppose, so if you really feel like it you can go and check up and see what they sounded like before I started fiddling; also serving as a 'further listening' section, with my influences on show; and yet still acting as a show-off 'ooh look, I'm combining the Amen break with a bit of Moonlight on Vermont' self-flattery. The main point is, if you're putting samples on a record and not saying where they're from, you're not able to show what is your own work and what is other people's. I think there's a huge area for fair use of samples, as long as they're properly referenced and don't actually contribute to the song, which is where I think royalties and co-writing credits might need to come in.

Anyway, it's seductive playing with other people's music and thinking that you're the brilliant one. That's the danger.
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