A little bloglet for muzak and nerdy things. Expect Goth, Witch House, Memetics and other curious bits I find here and there.
Posts tagged music
On the distaste of remix and sample culture
“So did you make this, or did you just use samples?”
“Yeah he’s good, but he’s just a remix artist.”
“I heard he doesn’t even both to make his own patches, just uses presets and a buttload of samples and chucks effects on them!”
Any of these look familiar? In a whole range of music-creation social spaces – from facebook groups, to messageboards, to even basic bar-talk – these sentences are uttered countless times to denounce the newest up-and-comers, or to look down on the n00bs of the field, usually touted by folk with a penchant for analogue gear (with, it must be said, usually the disposable income to afford such devices), and a dearth of knowledge about the relative arguments of sonic (though not compositional) superiority. The facts are that large amount of creators decry sample usage in music, as well the remix culture that the technique originally spawned. These detractors have respect for the cannon – if someone cited their influence in Afrika Bambaataa and only sampled from vinyl onto an MPC, everything would be deemed kosher. However, using sample packs of drums, synths, voices etc, and incorporating them into an FLStudio- or Ableton-created track is a no-no.
Although this prejudice has largely passed in the modern era, and only clings on in the minds of old school purists, confined to sneering shop-talk in the aforementioned messageboards, there are still vestiges of anti-sampling rhetoric floating around. My gripe with it is this: in any other medium, artists that make use of pre-existing materials (be it wood, ocher, metal etc) are universally accepted as artists. However in music, one is also expected, by and large, to create their palette from scratch,too, or at least heavily modify all parts of the materials to ensure they’re unrecognisable. This, to me, is quite stupid. The recombination and mastery of materials into aesthetically pleasing structures and combinations – human, wrangling elements into something more human-like – is the basis of art. This takes skill and taste. That’s all it takes. And in all honesty, the latter matters much more than the former (in spite of what the snobs say).
In many respects creating your own sonic materials can be considered a whole separate discipline unto itself. I mean, how often in recordings of rock bands are sound engineers brought in? They’re there to assist the performers and composers in getting the sound they want. It’s a well-known separate discipline, and in many respects entirely analogous to someone preparing wood for the outside of a building. They are there for the preparation of the materials, and although this stage is necessary, it’s not what one would consider utterly integral to the overall beauty of the finished product. Assembling and designing is the work of the architect, the one who eventually gets the praise for assembling these materials into a beautiful object.
Architecture, art, and music, are have massive overlaps in terms of development and construction.
Using this analogy, audio composers/musicians should be free to source their sonic materials from wherever – some are of inherently higher value to the task at hand, yes, but no-one should look down on you for your design to include some prefab elements, or items that are bought off the shelves. It doesn’t necessarily diminish the end product any. And therein lays my main point: these detractors from sample packs and presets seem to hardly give a damn about the end product, only process. And the final finished object is the main point of construction in the first place, is it not?
I wrote a thing on music and remixing. It may or may not be very good, but I haven’t written longform for a while. Feel free to inbox me for critique or arguments if you read it.