Syndicate content

Sampling Music on Independent Lens

 Independent Lens on PBS recently broadcast a nice program about ‘Copyright Criminals, Can You Own a Sound’.


What is your opinion of music that is sampled? Before you answer that, I want you to listen to this. It’s the first part of the ‘Grey Album’ by DJ Dangermouse, a mash up of Jay-Z and the Beatles. 

Independent Lens on PBS had a good episode on “Copyright Criminals” dealing with the sampling issues in hip hop, and other genres.  Sampling is simply the idea of using a borrowed sound or recording and using it in a different recording, as in the example above.


What the ethical question of course the program revolves around is the legal aspect of taking that recording and using it in a different recording. Who owns that sample, which might only be a second or two.


While the show deals with the legal issue of sampling, what will happen in the music scene itself?  When Radiohead released ‘Nude’ as a single, the other tracks on the single were the individual instruments as the band encouraged fans to make their own mix of the song and post it to their website.  You did not need any sophisticated software to make your own mix. There is plenty of freeware available or in some cases the software is already provided to you by purchasing said computer.  


And what place do these songs play in our culture? The “Grey Album” above is mash up one of the greatest albums in Pop Culture, that being the Beatles ‘White Album’.


Oh and you have to watch it only to see Steve Albini rip on this, not for the copyright issues but rather calling sampling “Lazy”.  


Being that this is an R.E.M. site, I would ask you R.E.M. fans how would you feel of the concept of this being done to your favorite R.E.M. album?  Murmur? Fables? Monster?


Honestly, I think that songs and sounds when released become part of our pop culture and doing so an artists reinterpretation of that song is being done in plenty of other art forms already.


And if you are thinking that sampling is invariably tied to Hip Hop culture. Animal Collective just sampled Grateful Dead for example on their last EP and more and more sampling is leaving an indelible stamp on pop music.


The issue is staying with us for awhile and this program is a great primer on some of the issues. So check out your local PBS listings to see if it is on in your area. 


Oh, btw, if you liked the youtube clip, you can download the entire Grey Album here.