Avant-Pop [ was: RE: Postpostmodernism: sometimes sampling can go

Joe Barrera (joebar@MICROSOFT.com)
Mon, 25 Aug 1997 22:42:21 -0700

Speaking of postmodernism... Is this FoRK's charter, or what?

"In an Information Age where we all suffer from Information Sickness and
Overload, the only cure is a highly-potent, creatively-filtered tonic of
(yes) textual residue spilled from the depths of our spiritual
unconscious. Creating a work of art will depend more and more on the
ability of the artist to select, organize and present the bits of raw
data we have at our disposal."




By Mark Amerika

1. Now that Postmodernism is dead and we're in the process of
finally burying it, something else is starting to take hold in the
cultural imagination and I propose that we call this new phenomenon

2. Whereas it's true that certain strains of Postmodernism,
Modernism, Structuralism and Post-Structuralism, Surrealism, Dadaism,
Futurism, Capitalism and even Marxism pervade the new sensibility, the
major difference is that the artists who create Avant-Pop art are the
Children of Mass Media (even more than being the children of their
parents who have much less influence over them). Most of the early
practitioners of Postmodernism, who came into active adult consciousness
in the fifties, sixties and early seventies, tried desperately to keep
themselves away from the forefront of the newly powerful Mediagenic
Reality that was rapidly becoming the place where most of our social
exchange was taking place. Despite its early insistence on remaining
caught up in the academic and elitist art world's presuppositions of
self- institutionalization and incestuality, Postmodernism found itself
overtaken by the popular media engine that eventually killed it and from
its remains Avant-Pop is now born.


8. Postmodernism changed the way we read texts. The main tenet of
Postmodernism was: I, whoever that is, will put together these bits of
data and form a Text while you, whoever that is, will produce your own
meaning based off what you bring to the Text. The future of Avant-Pop
writing will take this even one step further. The main tenet that will
evolve for the Avant-Pop movement is: I, whoever that is, am always
interacting with data created by the Collective You, whoever that is,
and by interacting with and supplementing the Collective You, will find

In an Information Age where we all suffer from Information
Sickness and Overload, the only cure is a highly-potent,
creatively-filtered tonic of (yes) textual residue spilled from the
depths of our spiritual unconscious. Creating a work of art will depend
more and more on the ability of the artist to select, organize and
present the bits of raw data we have at our disposal. We all know
originality is dead and that our contaminated virtual realities are
always already readymade and ready for consumption! In a nod to
Duchamp's Armory Show scandal, the questions we need to ask ourselves

1. who are we sharing the cultural-toilet with and
2. what are we filling it up with?

- Joe

Joseph S. Barrera III (joebar@microsoft.com)
Phone, Office: (415) 778-8227; Cellular: (415) 601-3719; Home: (650)
The opinions expressed in this message are my own personal views and do
not reflect the official views of Microsoft Corporation.

-----Original Message-----
From: I Find Karma [SMTP:adam@cs.caltech.edu]
Sent: Monday, August 25, 1997 7:40 PM
To: FoRK@pest.w3.org
Subject: Postpostmodernism: sometimes sampling can good.

The extraordinary Richard Goodman writes:
> Well, the rip off jobs continue: I saw a new Notorious
B.I.G. song start
> to play and I was going to see how long it took for me to
> recognize a sample. As soon as the song started. Right
away. This was
> a direct swipe of the Diana Ross song 'I'm Coming Up'- the
> beats, the chorus, the style. I'm not sure if that offended
me more or
> the fact that the two people watching with me didn't know
that. They
> then procede to say "But it's a good song anyways." That is
> reasoning- if they steal a good song and don't change it,
that doesn't
> mean they have then created a good song.

The real question is, of course, the question posed by
in postmodern thought: is the simulation good enough to
a new "real" experience?

For example, if Rohit reads four reviews of the book _Maus_ by
Spiegelman, reads a Web discussion of the themes in the book,
and talks
about the book with friends who have read it, is that the same
approximate experience as reading the book?

For, in that old Baudrillardian challenge, if one stages a bank
and carries the performance all the way to the bank, fooling
even the
teller and guards, one arguably has succeeded in redefining
oneself not
as an actor, but as a bank robber. With Baudrillard, the
simulation *IS*
the reality, and this philosophy applies to everything,

Pop-Up Video


Howard Stern




Las Vegas


Beavis and Butt-head


Commodity Capitalism


Shopping Malls


the Vatican




Martin Amis


I Ching


Aaron Spelling soaps


Coca Cola Classic


the Real World


Virtual Reality


and of course, the Internet.

The question you need to ask yourself, of course, is: does the
new thing
add something above and beyond the original. If "Seinfeld" uses
Junior Mint in a way it's never been used before, and that adds
value in
a way Junior Mints alone never could have (in this case, the
value being
humor), that is a good thing. If Howard Stern simulates a crude
(again, for the sake of humor), then again the value-added is
Pop Up Video adds a different kind of experience -- adding
information to
an otherwise braindead source (music videos).

And, in their own way, the rap stars you name add something to
each of
songs they sample from.

> Let's run down the recent list as I recall it:
> Men in Black: Forget Me Nots
> B.I.G.- Hypnotize: Herb Alpert
> B.I.G.- the new one: Diana Ross
> Mariah Carey- Fantasy: Tom Tom Club
> tribute song for B.I.G.: Every Breathe You Take
> Wyclef from Fugees- Trying To Stay Alive: Staying Alive
> Fugees- No Woman No Cry: No Woman No Cry
> Fugees- Kiling me Softly: Killing Me Softly
> what's her name- I Can't Stand The Rain: I Can't Stand the
> God's Property- Stomp: Stomp
> Snoop Dogg- Snoops Upside Your Head: Ooops Upside Your Head
> Lightning seeds- You Showed Me: You Showed Me
> Aqua- Barbie Girl: Just Another Night

The new B.I.G. song is called "Mo Money Mo Problems", and he
uses the
catchy riff from Diana Ross's "I'm Coming Out" to make the point
just because he has money does not mean his life is free from
In fact, it reigns true: he was shot and killed earlier this
presumably from a jealous rival or fan.

Similarly, if Coolio samples from Stevie Wonder, he can produce
amazing (and catchy) portrait of the life of a 23-year-old
living in the
inner city, complete with his hopes and fears. The song becomes
anthem of sorts, propelling an otherwise-mediocre movie into the

Coolio shows us as well that rappers need not sample from modern
He riffs off Pacelbel's "Canon in D" in his latest single, "C U
When U
Get There", which is an insightful ditty aimed at people who
want to
learn before their "mind is prepared." Again, the sample
provides a hook
that attracts an audience to a song.

If they take an old riff, and use it to a new end, is that
simulation of
a new experience not as good as a brand new experience generated
scratch? I would say so.

It's not limited to rappers, either. George Michael produced a
1996 dance song, "Fastlove", from the same song Will Smith's
"Men in
Black" was sampled from: Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots."
Both songs
have gotten substantially more airplay than the original. Why?
they take the original and extend it in an original way.

Likewise, if the Beastie Boys sample a wide variety of sources
out the album "Paul's Boutique"), it makes for a more holistic
experience. If Madonna samples a line from Socrates ("The
life is not worth living" is in "Now I'm Following You"), it
makes the
song better than it might have been. If Stephen King samples a
from Blue Oyster Cult ("Don't Fear the Reaper"), it makes "The
Stand" a
better novel. If the Fun Lovin' Criminals sample lines from
Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs" in their song "Scooby Snacks", it
the song sound more authentically criminal. If a post to a
mailing list like FoRK samples from web sites and newsgroups
(and yes,
even private emails), and then adds interesting commentary, then
we experience is a post that transcends and improves the
original bits.

Sampling works. The good rappers are not hacks; they take
catchy riffs
and craft a new song around that familiar yet fashionable theme.
I, for
one, happen to like the new Notorious B.I.G. single, and I'm not
only one: it's been #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the past 7
second only to the tribute song the Puff Daddy and Faith Evans
penned to
the riff on the Police's "Every Breath You Take", which has been
#1 on
the Billboard Hot 100 for the past 10 weeks.

- ----

The truth is, you're weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men.
But I'm tryin'. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd.
-- Pulp Fiction