Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Can't stop the body rock!
Currently interested in baroque music, counterpoint, polyrhythm, early 90s rap, film soundtracks. Learning more about / playing around with sampling.
Live, Reason, X-station, PadKontrol, MacBook Pro
Electronic Music other: Sampling and Hunter/Gatherers
Written August 11 2006 , Tags: sampling, theory
I've been thinking about sampling vs. "original" music as metaphor for hunter/gatherers vs. agriculturalists. Mostly because of this article I read a few weeks ago that I think I'm still processing.
It's extremely long, but you can get the jist of the opposition I'm talking about by reading the first third or so.
"Agriculture is a recent human experiment. For most of human history, we lived by gathering or killing a broad variety of natureâ€™s offerings. Why humans might have traded this approach for the complexities of agriculture is an interesting and long-debated question, especially because the skeletal evidence clearly indicates that early farmers were more poorly nourished, more disease-ridden and deformed, than their hunter-gatherer contemporaries. Farming did not improve most lives. The evidence that best points to the answer, I think, lies in the difference between early agricultural villages and their pre-agricultural counterpartsâ€”the presence not just of grain but of granaries and, more tellingly, of just a few houses significantly larger and more ornate than all the others attached to those granaries. Agriculture was not so much about food as it was about the accumulation of wealth. It benefited some humans, and those people have been in charge ever since."
I find this interesting because we tend to think of hunter/gatherers as primitive, and less evolved, whereas the whole point of that article is that agriculture is catastrophic and is followed closely by war and upheaval. Anyway it seems our culture is shifting back to hunting and gathering: sampling, blogging, parody, even filesharing seem to follow that almost parasitic yet possibly more natural h/g mode and not the agricultural model of growing "original" content.
One of the questions being: could a culture based completely on hunting and gathering previously made works sustain itself? Could bloggers survive without newspapers and such to link to, and could hiphop etc. survive with no new sick jems of vinyl being created? Also, if agriculturalism is closely linked to the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, what's to say hunting and gathering are any different?
As far as commercial hip hop goes, I think that it has helped "kill" vinyl.
As far as the my space youtube type references I agree.
I read an article that said that todays young people are finding most of their creativity and indeed personalities by shareing pop culture and (what I call) Net culture with their friends.
ex: All the animated gifs left for people on myspace, family guy ect.
I wonder where this will put us in say 30-50 years when the pop culture consumers are the ones creating?
I think this is an intreaguing comparison to draw. I see and like the metaphor in terms of how farmers/meldoy writers aquire thier goods as opposed to HG's/samplers and the wealth aspect is also nice when you frame the anti-sampling movement and why it exists. The only sticking point for me is relationship between farming and hunting/gathering vs. "real" music and sample based music. Sample based music really relys on "real" music, "real" music feeds sample based music, yet gathering can still happen without famring.
I guess what I am saying is that there are deffinately some interesting parralells, but I think that there is a more complex relationship between "real" music and sample based music.
p.s. I am a samples man. I consider sampling a way of life/ way of listening/ way of thinking. I think it can be more of an art form than what most give it credit for, so take what I say with a grain of salt becuase I will deffend sampling to the day I die
Hunting and gathering can only go so far, before you have to find a way to start farming. It doesn't have to be agricultural based farming. Battery farming -- different produce, same concept. You could draw a parallel between pre-canned/garageband music vs sampling vs real music.
mechp - yeah, you're right, that's where the analogy falls apart. However, for the sake of argument:
The nice thing about the metaphor is that it positions sampling as something that can be part of your balanced ecosystem. Imagine two different kinds of "real" music - one is spontaneously / naturally produced by groups of humans, the other is intentionally grown according to market goals. To return to that article, the metaphor is that of grassland vs. wheat field. Manning says "there likely were more bison produced naturally on the Great Plains before farming than all of beef farming raises in the same area today".
Yes, sampling needs original music, but not necessarily that produced by the current system of commodification, major labels, etc. In my opinion, if the ability to make money from music disappeared overnight, there would still be plenty of music. In fact, things might get better. And when you look at it, it's already happening. I read a recent estimate that indie labels accounted for something like 20-28% of record sales. Yet most of these indie artists don't support themselves (I was disappointed to find out a couple years ago that Cibo Matto all had day jobs).
Anyway, I'm veering into a completely different argument here...
does that mean synthesis is agriculture?
I like the idea of stasis(agrigultural) as being a precursor to war.
I think that it is true that every time one element of our species attempts to settle or propagate , it creates unrest in another place/space/ideology
That being said. Stasis in the music world is what we use to define ourselves(h/g) against and allows us to redefine ourselves quite succesfully throughout the ages. Perhaps the two things must exist in flux because this is true no matter what type of artist you view yourself as. If you settle into growth for too long, it is no longer growth, only propagation and therefore detrimental to a current mindset. This is good in my opinion as long as you can pick yourself up and find a new direction if only to settle and sow the seeds of dischord for another day.
all things old must one day be new again. And all new things are actually too old to remember.
if you didn't finish the article i highly reccomend reading all of it.
it was very good.
the particular point where you mention where our society is moving back to hunting and gathering is where i find my only contention. we are agriculturalists tried and true and nothing seems to be changing that, really. and it goes beyond food.
even our economics, is developing towards an agricultural style. where a market was once free for anyone to pluck the fruits, we are being exploited and used as commodities for corporations to steal the fruit from our rightful hands. i can't see them giving that up anythime soon, call me a pessimist.
and music is becoming less genuine as well. turn on MTV, what will you see? mostly rap music, formerly the epitomy of what you would characterize as different and non-consumerist attitudes, is being farmed to sell and make more money. really, when it comes to how much money they make, the rappers are given mere trinkets as compared to the people they actually work for.
i'm sorry to squash your analogy, but i'm just not seeing the connect. any group that doesn't define or play their part in this particular ethos of exploitation is and will remain on the fringe of society, because, thanks to the ever oppressive class of capitalists, they have farmed society to be as docile and trusting as they want it to be.
once agin that was a great article.
btw i do consider us and sampling musicians to be on the fringe of society so if the culture you're referring to is EM411 culture then you're right on. i was speaking on mainstream culture.
The idea of corporations farming society is a wonderful one. The only way that I can see to escape from it is to stop with the consumerism. Take my current favourite renegade activity, circuit bending, as an example. Punk electronics. It's creatively empowering people, allowing individuals to create something for themselves rather than consume monumental amounts of disposable pop culture. It doesn NOT matter how it sounds, it's only the act of doing something original for yourself that counts. Compare that to the modern 'creativity' of sharing pop culture with one another. That's DJ'ing culture instead of producing.
The guy who said EM411 exists on the fringe of society should consider how much money is being farmed out of us through expensive musical equipment. Before you hand out the cash for that new piece of gear, consider this, you've already bought the idea that it's necessary. The 'good sound' may not have been created by corporate manufacturers, but they certainly are taking advantage of it. I think good sound does not come from the gear, but from creative expression. And when you are the one creating, it's not important how it sounds to others. If everyone is creative, well, perhaps that's too much to ask..
actually i don't buy new gear, as a rule.
new gear has no soul.
also, generally, as a rule, i only obtain equipment through this site.
cause the people fawkin rock, and i can trust them.
shit, I wish I got mailed or something when someone commented on an old thread... some good thoughts here.
Yes I was thinking of the cultural analogy, i.e. our culture has become more about hunting/gathering than about growing things. And yes the analogy falls apart really, but what are you gonna do. I do like the corporation as farmer idea..
Signup to comment