Molnar Daniel on Fri, 16 Jan 1998 01:45:26 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Pop Muzik

Pop Muzik - how did sampling technology
affected contemporary popular muzik

- thoughts and associations related to the matter,
not comprehensive, nor high art in any way,
just to raise some questions and thoughts -

(transciption from XCHANGE2, Riga, 1997)

   In the age of Mozart he has written and played progressive
contemporary popular music. That's surely true. He used
instruments, melodies and rhythms to express his feelings.
This is what we could call 'music' in a traditional sense.
What is 'music' now? Scepticists say that Mozart has done
everything with that 12 notes that could be done. So what
else left for the eagerly waving pop-hunger crowd? Same old
shite? Perhaps you could say 'yes', but if you take a closer
look at the new archetypical circus you can see that the
concept has changed a lot.
   The first common used electronic instruments were mostly
keyboard based ones and 'pop' musicians could use these
as smaller, more practical virtual models of the original.
Ray Manzarek of Doors and Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer
could be mentioned as the wizards of the electronic organs
and the first synthesizers those were manufactured by Dr. Moog.
This modelling scheme was the basic idea for the mentioned
Moogs: remodell an existing sound of an existing instrument
by using electronic devices, construct real sounds from
a constant flow of electrons. The first machine that has any
common to a 'sampler' was the Mellotron. This instrument
looked like a keyboard with each key has a short dedicated
magnetic tape. You could record sound events to each tape
- you could 'sample' - and later play it back with the pressing
of the key. Of course the quality, the liability and
the effectiveness of this thingy could not be changed to
the contemporary used digital ones and truly they were very
expensive. Even the first generation of digital smaplers
made by Fairlight and EMU Systems costed a lot and just
state-of-art studios could buy them at the time of their
manufacture. Such experimental artists like Brian Eno
made the most relevant works not really with this technology,
but with this way of thinking, as they made a soundscape
from bits, events and layers of sound, not a real composition
with a strictly used term 'melody' or 'rhythm', but a texture
that of course had some way of flowing. From these early works
from the seventies - such as 'Music for Airports' - the so-called
'ambient' style has been born. (This term is commonly used in
contemporary dance music.)
   Returning to the pop, the first hit which was based on this
technology and idea of music was Paul Hardcastle's 'Nineteen'
in 1983. The number of sample and sampler users started to
grow, but the next quality change was done by the hands of
Jonathan Moore and Matt Black, the Coldcut duo. The sampling
pioneer pop producer team has started the carrier of Lisa
Stansfield, Yazz and many more. Their 1987 released 'What's
That Noise' made their fame to became the world's first real
remixing artists. Furthermore they have founded Ninja Tune
Records and Hex experimental multimedia firm. The real
groundbreaking song was M*A*R*R*S' 'Pump Up The Volume' in the
same year - evidentally with some Coldcut sample. The cause
of the importance were: 1. this was the first pop house tune,
2. this song was made only of samples, no instruments, nothing
new and additional material has been recorded during the making
process. Surprisinly or not, at this time not so many people
has realised the importance and the possibilities of this musical
concept, but after 'The Manual' almost everything has been
explained and done. The two of Jim Cauty and Bill Drummond have
decided to form a pop group and make a hit a month. They did it
and documented it in the previously mentioned book. The band
was the JAMS (Justified and Ancient of Mumu) and the song was
'Doctorin' the Tardis'. Sampling Gary Glitter and the Doctor Who
series they provided an easy step-by-step guide to contemporary
pop music, giving every one a chance to score a number one hit
in just a month. Their first common known album, 'The White Room'
released under the pseudonim KLF (Kopyright Liberation Foundation)
was entirely done with one sampler, one synthesizer and
one guitar. This album included the single 'What Time Is Love'
that made a Guiness record with its almost 700 different remixes
available. They have been the most controversive pop band ever
with their appearance on Top Of The Pops (premiere English pop music
TV programme) with the Extreme Noise Terror and that infamous
British Awards version of 'What Time Is Love' in noisemetal.
Publishing whole page ads in Guardian and high art magazines
questioning the 'art'. (Their truly weird story and concepts would need
lot more space and time than I have, so take a look at them by yourself,
it do worth it.) The latest pop phenomenon I would like
to mention in the sampling business is the Utah Saints. No, it's not
a football team, but two youngsters who provided us a very ambivalent
way using of pop an unfamiliar artistic samples, their songs could
contain Slayer, Eurythmics and Kate Bush samples at the same time
bringing together an excellent and organic sound.
   Now let's get back to my generation. We can put all buzzwords in
one bowl: industrial revolution, information revolution, desktop
revolution, revolution revolution. Ok, solid, we all know this,
we all have lived this personally, so how can we get in focus in
this whole stuph. If you all mix up these previous buzzwords
the sum will be something avout reproducing and replacing the
natural, the original by human inventions, making the convergence
better and better, smoothing the human boundaries' analogue and
digital approximative errors. Really I'm not interested in those
pioneering artists and talents who revealed the hidden secrets
and treasure of sampling technology in the ancient mist of the
Seventies. Truly I've one of the boys who didn't really bothered
the ADSR synthesizer of the good old Commodore 64, because we
considered melodic music as a thing of past and in a silly bipolar
way it could have been either cheesy easy listening pop or
unlistenable Bartók-like mathematically designed soundsculpture.
Sorry we were not curious about neither of them. But receiving
the Commodore Amigas the most obvious way of using them was to use
them as a sampler tool. Basically an Amiga could be considered
as a 4 note polyphonic 8 bit sampler with 512 kilobytes memory.
That time this machine was huge! Using samples as tuned instruments,
using them as 'noise' or manipulating them - we thought that we had
been born to do this. Okay, we missed the real time feature, but
don't forget the fact, that the high end real time algoryhtms had
been developed and optimised by these demo groups - I've come from
one of them -, so the last buzzword, the desktop revolution was
done by these people - or could I say _us_.
   Our generation was the first one growing up _in_ an information
overflow, that's why we are into sampling, perhaps. I could cite
Gibson short stories, but let that be enough if I say holistic
world view. I'm just trying to sample the world, I ain't try to
synthesize any part of it, I'm just stealing the interesting pieces
and put them together. I think that some of the Kraftwerk had
mentioned the realm of the ultimate German kid with a synthesizer
and a sampler, who's coming home from the school builds his own song
from his favourites, chopping bits and pieces, taking the bass from
here and the chorus from there. Considering the availability of free
multitracker sample oriented music editor softwares (the so-called
'trackers', FastTracker for instance) and the cheap PCs plus the
soundcards anyone can join the new 'folk' music movement. This new
concept of pop music gives back the music in the hand of the common
people, I only can think about it as a new pseudo folkmusic.
We've left specially prepared sample discs behind, we have online
sample stores, free archives, the most successful acid jazz act,
the US3 scored their hits with a free entrance to the Blue Note
Records jazz archives - they could use any sample they'd found.
World music goes to mainstream with sampling and Deep Forest.
The ex-Depeche Mode icon, Alan Wilder stated that he made his last
album home with one PC and a CuBase Virtual Studio. If you look
around carefully on the net, you can bounce into illegal software
archives providing you the latest high tech programmes, filters,
workstation. These softwares like Sonic Foundry's Soundforge
or Steinberg's Wavelab provides 24 bit oversampled quality and so
tough and heavy digital processing features that could only be
compared to a Russian military ICE-cracker.
   Straight consequence of the sampling fair is the remixing industry
with its saints and sinners. Pet Shop Boys' 'DJ Culture' has known
something for years... Look at that Brooklyn kid, DJing since 1984
whose name is simply Todd Terry. This freak of remixing has done
the EBTG effect. The Everything But The Girl has been an average
post wave intellipop duo, playing the same music for almost
10 years with some not relevant Top 40 hits, then came this Todd
guy, remixed their single 'Missing', and it has sold in 3 million
copies worldwide, overselling their all previous records. Fast
enough it was a hip to have a 'Todd Terry' or a 'Tee's Freeze' remix
on singles, so the price of this work has gone too high, the act
called Freakpower denied to have a Todd Terry remix as it has costed
20.000 pounds in 1996. If you add to this that Todd Terry is using
the _same_ groove - I'm just calling it the 'One Groove' like the
'One Ring' from the Lord of the Rings - for 3 years, and he rips off
everyone a lot of money for putting that 4 seconds in, it's crazy.
There's only one more crazy thing around: it works. Todd Terry
remixes do work! They sell records! The other one who's 'doing jobz
for da mob' is Mr. Armand Van Helden. He's from Boston, he's been
DJing since 15, his Tori Amos remix made his worldwide success,
as a musician he has just two samplers and he's making a remix for
60.000 dollars. Only one groove, some basslines, last time for the
Rolling Stones 'Anyvbody Seen My Baby'. The song is not the melody,
nor the rhythm, but the sample. (I'm just waiting for the ultimate
sample-videoclip, as the Emergency Broadcast Network and Coldcut's
Hex done some very nice experimental works in the field.)
   Okay, let's put and end to this mutating association line.
You can decide! If you're passive, take some time, let them render
your sociogramme and provide you the ultimate idoru, the non plus ultra of
your desires who will sing you the Song of Your Inner Desires. By myself I
think I choose the other option that has sterted somewhere on Axl Rose's
T-Shirt in a Guns'n Roses videoclip: 'Kill Your Idols'. If you feel real
enough, join the new folkateers. Grow your own! E-mail us, we give you
tools if you need some. Only one thing can stop us: a new Recording Act
from the States or the just recently signed - poor Clinton - Act against
digital thievery. I'm not really scared about it, if David Bowie could
release 'Telling Lies' in MP3 for full free, then 'the brothers gonna work
it out.'

(cj.b2men at


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