«NG SO R U U T N P D CA k k at z HOW T EC ar H m N O O L IC G Y S MU HA SC HANGED UNIVERSITY OF CALIFOR NIA PRESS BERKELEY LOS ANGELES LONDON ...»
Reinforcing the musical samples are textual references to the music of black Americans (many of them also quoted digitally), including “sound of the funky drummer” ( James Brown and Clyde Stubbleﬁeld), “I know you got soul” (the title of a Bobby Byrd and, later, an Eric B. and Rakim song), “freedom or death” (a Stetsasonic song), “people, people” (from James Brown’s “Funky President”), and “I’m black and I’m proud” ( James Brown’s famous anthem). The track’s title itself invokes the Isley Brothers song of the same name.29 Finally, a more general reference to African American music is implicit throughout the entire song—in its virtuosic sampling and looping, “Fight the Power” draws upon and honors the work of the hip-hop DJ.
In Black Noise, Tricia Rose argues that “although rap music is shaped by and articulated through advanced reproduction equipment, its stylistic priorities are not merely by-products of such equipment.”30 “Fight the Power” perfectly illustrates that claim. On the one hand, it would be extraordinarily diﬃcult, perhaps impossible, to reproduce the dense polyphony and distinctive timbres of the rhythm track without digital sampling. Even if the sampled musicians were to perform their chopped and looped parts in concert (an unlikely prospect!), they themselves could not exactly reproduce the original. It is not simply their voices or their playing that is important, but speciﬁc and well-known performances as mediated through recording technologies and heard on discs of a certain vintage. And even if it were somehow possible to recreate the samples, to do so would be to miss the point of hip-hop sampling completely. As Joseph Schloss has 154 M U S I C I N 1s A N D 0 s demonstrated in his study of the practice, it is the sample—not the live performance—that is the real thing. As one producer explained to him, a live recreation “just doesn’t sound authentic. There’s something about the way old records sound when they’re put together right. You can’t really recapture ’em when you play [live].”31 In other words, it is performative quotation—made available by digital sampling—that allows Public Enemy to call forth a pantheon of black ﬁgures with such vividness. And it is the manipulability oﬀered by recording technology that makes it possible to interweave these sounds into a rich collage.
Yet the structure and texture of the music were not directly determined by the tools used to create them. Rather, Public Enemy employed these tools in ways that served their own musical and rhetorical ends. They would no doubt agree with Stetsasonic’s Daddy O. (cited as a “lyrical inspiration” in the liner notes of Fear of a Black Planet) that “A sample’s just a tactic/A portion of my method, a tool/In fact it’s only of importance when I make it a priority.”32 Sampling serves to continue the predigital, prephonographic practice of signifying that arose in the African American community. Signifying, which can be used to boast, insult, praise, or moralize, generally plays on the many possible meanings and interpretations of a given statement; it is, in the words of Henry Louis Gates Jr., a “black double-voicedness.”33 We can see how in “Fight the Power” sampling is a digital form of signifying. (Recall how in chapter 6 turntablism was invoked as an analog form of signifying.) The double-voicedness of the samples is clear, as two examples will illustrate. In its original context, the opening sample (“Yet our best trained... troops refuse to ﬁght”) most likely referred to the Vietnam War. In quoting this passage, Public Enemy preserves its bitterness and fury, but broadens the message, suggesting that real injustice comes not from without (in the form of the country’s wartime rivals) but from within, in the form of racism, poverty, and crime, attributed here to the white establishment—“the power.” The statement of “people, people” (1:45) is literally double-voiced: Flavor-Flav and a sampled James Brown (from “Funky President”) speak simultaneously. But the double-voicedness is also rhetorical. Flavor-Flav proclaims “People, people we are the same,” while Chuck D. retorts, “No we’re not the same.” On its own, the lyric expresses the conﬂict between assimilation and separatism within the M U S I C I N 1s A N D 0 s black community. The addition of James Brown’s voice taps into his cultural authority, while linking Public Enemy to the less complacent past of the civil rights era.
Yet the power of these sampled statements comes not just from their words, but from their voices, their digitally sampled voices. It is the “grain” of these voices—captured in sequences of 1s and 0s—that truly gives their words such power. And round and round we go: the message cannot be understood without examining the medium, while the nature of the medium is not fully apparent independent of the message. One way of understanding “Fight the Power,” then, is as a four-and-a-half-minute treatise on the phonograph eﬀect, one that reveals, as much as anything discussed in this book, the complex relationship between artist and technology.
Too often discussions of sampling treat the practice simply as technological quotation. However, as I have suggested throughout this chapter, sampling is most fundamentally an art of transformation. A sample changes the moment it is relocated. Any sound, placed into a new musical context, will take on some of the character of its new sonic environment. Every “Funky Drummer” sample, however recognizable, leads a distinct life in its new home. Thus, the sound and sense of a two-second drum break may change radically from song to song, even if the patterns of 1s and 0s do not.
Yet samples rarely leave home unchanged, and it is in the chopping, looping, tweaking, and shuﬄing that the art is truly found. The sampled sounds are really only raw materials, waiting to be mined and reﬁned. This is made most clear in the work of Paul Lansky, whose sources are not songs but everyday sound, and it is up to him to give them musical meaning and syntax. But even ﬁnished compositions are ore in the sampler’s hands.
“Take Yo’ Praise” is still recognizable in “Praise You,” but in changing its sound, Norman Cook has transformed its function and meaning as well.
By contrast, very little of the ore Public Enemy mines in “Fight the Power” is even recognizable, having been transformed so dramatically.
Sampling is also transformative in a less tangible way, in that it blurs the traditional distinction between ideas and expressions.34 As they are typically understood in the discourse of intellectual property, an idea is a conM U S I C I N 1s A N D 0 s cept, principle, process, or system that is independent of any form, while an expression is a particular embodiment of that idea. For example, the concept that sound recording inﬂuences modern musical life is an idea, one that I and many other people share. On the other hand, Capturing Sound is a particular expression of that idea. In practice, the dichotomy is not always so clear-cut, but digital sampling muddies the distinction almost beyond recognition. Trouble Funk’s 1982 song “Pump Me Up” is obviously not an
idea, but a concrete expression. But does the passage sampled in Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” remain Trouble Funk’s expression when it no longer bears any resemblance to its unaltered state? Isn’t Public Enemy’s use of that sound an expression distinct from Trouble Funk’s? And if so, does that make the Trouble Funk song the raw material of an idea (or even a wholly diﬀerent idea) for Public Enemy?
The collapse of the idea-expression dichotomy could have considerable ramiﬁcations for copyright law, for while expressions are legally protected, ideas are not. If sampling can be more like taking inspiration from another’s ideas than appropriating another’s expressions, then sampling— in many cases—should be treated as a form of protected speech immune to prosecution for copyright infringement. My point, however, is not to argue the legal issues of sampling—an area I have intentionally avoided, as I believe it overshadows so many more interesting aspects of the practice. Rather, I raise the idea-expression dichotomy to demonstrate the radically transformative potential of digital sampling.
Finally, sampling has transformed the very art of composition. When composers sample existing works, they begin with expressions, transform them into ideas, and then again into new expressions. Sampling obviates the need for notation or performers, since the ﬁnal product is not a score requiring interpretive realization, but a document of binary numbers requiring electronic conversion. Composers who work with samples work directly with sound, thus becoming more like their counterparts in the visual and plastic arts. As Public Enemy’s Chuck D. explained, “We approach every record like it was a painting.”35 Sampling is a rich and complex practice, one that challenges our notions of originality, of borrowing, of craft, and even of composition itself.
194 N OT E S TO PA G E S 3 – 8 Stenzel Burt, From Tinfoil to Stereo: The Acoustic Years of the Recording Industry, 1877–1929 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1994). (The last two are very diﬀerent editions of the same book.)
2. While this particular scene is of my own invention, it is based on a wide examination of primary documents, including photographs, catalogs, advertisements, and accounts of phonographic listening in the early twentieth century.
3. Quoted in Kurt Blaukopf, Musical Life in a Changing Society, trans.
David Marinelli (Portland, OR: Amadeus, 1992), 176.
4. Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985), 101.
5. Eisenberg, The Recording Angel, 13.
6. Eric N. Simons, “Gramomania,” Gramophone 2 (1924): 89–90.
7. Phonograph Monthly Review 2 (November 1927): 65–66.
8. Nick Hornby, High Fidelity (New York: Riverhead, 1995), 96.
9. Showbiz & A.G., “Diggin’ in the Crates,” Showbiz & A.G., Polygram compact disc 828309.
10. Pearl Jam, “Spin the Black Circle,” Vitalogy, Epic compact disc EK 66900.
11. Hornby, High Fidelity, 54.
12. For more on record collecting, see Will Straw, “Sizing Up Record Collections: Gender and Connoisseurship in Rock Music Culture,” in Sexing the Groove, ed. Sheila Whiteley (London: Routledge, 1997), 3–16;
Patrick Giles, “Magniﬁcent Obsession—Beyond Pride, Beyond Shame:
The Secret World of Record Collectors,” Opera News 63 (October 1998):
28–33; Jay Hodgson, “Unpacking the CD Library,” Discourses in Music 3 (spring 2002), www.discourses.ca/v3n3a2.html; and Lise A. Waxer, The City of Musical Memory: Salsa, Record Grooves, and Popular Music in Cali, Colombia (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2002), 111–52.
13. Peter Manuel, Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 53.
14. Ibid., 63.
15. Ibid., 2.
16. In addition to lower production and manufacturing costs, the Internet has been crucial for the success of these labels by facilitating marketing and sales. See their websites at www.shopsfsymphony.org/home.jsp;
www.righteousbabe.com; and www.artistled.com.
17. R. Anderson Sutton, “Commercial Cassette Recordings of Traditional Music in Java,” World of Music 27, no. 3 (1985): 23–43.
18. My thanks to gamelan performer and scholar Susan Walton for sharing this observation.
19. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Repro
196 N OT E S TO PA G E S 1 5 – 1 9
35. Stephen G. Rich, “Some Unnoticed Aspects of the School Use of Phonographs,” Journal of Educational Method 3 (November 1923): 111.
36. Quoted in Leonard B. Meyer, Emotion and Meaning in Music (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1956), 80.
37. Annalyn Swan, “Itzhak Perlman, Top Fiddle,” Newsweek 95 (14 April 1980): 65.
38. “Gramophone Celebrities: Jascha Heifetz,” Gramophone 3 (1925): 278.
39. Harry McGurk and John MacDonald, “Hearing Lips and Seeing Voices,” Nature 264 (1976): 746–48. My thanks to Richard Lamour for bringing the McGurk Eﬀect to my attention.
40. See Jay Cocks, “Fans, You Know It’s True; Milli Vanilli Controversy,” Time 136 (3 December 1990): 123.
41. Leonard Liebling, “On Preserving Art,” Voice of the Victor 7 ( June 1912): 7.
42. Theodor Adorno, “Opera and the Long-Playing Record,” trans.
Thomas Y. Levin, in Essays on Music, ed. Richard Leppert (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002), 284. Adorno’s other essays on recording, “The Curves of the Needle” and “The Form of the Phonograph Record,” are also in this volume.
43. Nikolaus Harnoncourt, interview with John Harvith and Susan Edwards Harvith, 9 October 1974, in Edison, Musicians, and the Phonograph: A Century in Retrospect, ed. John Harvith and Susan Edwards Harvith (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1987), 198.
44. Janos Starker, interview with John Harvith and Susan Edwards Harvith, 14 March 1977, in Harvith and Harvith, eds., Edison, Musicians, and the Phonograph, 185–86. For similar remarks, see Lorin Maazel, interview with James Badal, October 1981, in Recording the Classics: Maestros, Music, and Technology (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1996), 18.
45. Eugene Drucker, “Recording with Rostropovich: Learning to Let the Music Speak,” Strings 8 ( July–August 1993): 57.
46. For a detailed account of this trend, see Philip, Early Recordings and Musical Style, 6–36.
47. Régine Crespin, On Stage, Oﬀ Stage: A Memoir, trans. G. S. Bourdain (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1997), 153.
48. Suman Ghosh, “Impact of the Recording Industry on Hindustani Classical Music in the Last Hundred Years,” IASA Journal, no. 15 ( June 2000): 15.
49. Rotoglow recording session, Springﬁeld, Virginia, 16 December 2001.
50. Yehudi Menuhin, Unﬁnished Journey: Twenty Years Later (London: