Milestones in Music - Pop eats itself: The Impact of the Sampler

ANU School of Music 2014 Public Lecture Series - Milestones in Music

Dr Samantha Bennett

Pop eats itself: The Impact of the Sampler

In Good Vibrations: A History of Record Production, Mark Cunningham declared the sampler simultaneously ‘revolutionary’ and ‘sacrilege [1] Timothy Taylor recognised the sampler â€" and other MIDI devices â€" as being ‘…the most fundamental change in the history of Western music since the invention of music notation in the 9th Century.’[2] Indeed, the advent of the digital recording and playback system in the 1980s created musical, technological, cultural, [3] legal [4] and political [5] divides like no other instrument before or since.

The sampler can be thought of as a musical instrument, a compositional tool and quotation device. Yet sampling practice has a long history, from the early avant-garde, musique concréte practices pioneered by Pierre Schaffer to the composite tape editing techniques performed in 1960s and 1970s psychedelia.

This lecture considers the impact of the samplerdominant, Anglo-American popular music industry? To what extent is a soul and funk canon mediated via house and hip hop musicality? Is it possible to make sample-heavy records, such as Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, today? And how do contemporary ‘replay’ and ‘allusion’ techniques overcome legal boundaries?

Dr Samantha Bennett is a sound recordist and academic from London, UK and Senior Lecturer in the School of Music, ANU. Previously, Sam taught at the University of West London, Goldsmiths College, London and at the University of Westminster, where she was awarded a Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Fellowship. Sam completed her AHRC funded Doctorate at the University of Surrey under Professor Allan Moore. She is published in the Oxford Handbook on Music and Virtuality, Popular Music & Society and in The International Institute for Popular Culture. Her first book, Modern Records, Maverick Methods: Technology and Process in Contemporary Record Production, is forthcoming from Michigan University Press. Sam is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and chairs the School of Music Curriculum Committee. Sam is Editor of the Journal on the Art of Record Production and undertakes editorial duties for Popular Music, The Journal of the Audio Engineering Society and IASPM@Journal.

[1] Cunningham, M. (1998) Good Vibrations â€" A History of Record Production. London: Sanctuary Music Library.

[2] Taylor, T. (2001) Strange Sounds: Music, Technology and Culture. London & New York: Routledge.

[3] Katz, M. (2004) Capturing Sound: How Technology has Changed Music. Berkeley & London: University of California Press.

[4] Morey, J.E. (2012) The Bridgeport Dimension: Copyright Enforcement and its Implications for Sampling Practice. In: Kärjä, A.-.V., Marshall, L. and Brusila, J. eds. Music, Business and Law: Essays on Contemporary Trends in the Music Industry. Turku, Finland: IIPC Publications, pp. 21-45.

[5] Goodwin, A. (1990) ‘Sample and Hold: Pop Music in the Digital Age of Reproduction’. In: Frith, S. and Goodwin, A. (eds.) On Record: Rock, Pop & the Written Word. London & New York: Routledge. pp. 258-273.