Re: Samples

I Find Karma (
Tue, 26 Aug 1997 15:39:06 -0700 (PDT)

Rob made a good point about 4 Cellos playing Metallica. Man, that is
just an awesome album. It's not a Metallica ripoff; it transcends the
original art in a new and meaningful way.

Tim made a good point about the Chemical Brothers sampling the Beatles
being sampling put to good use, but the point is not to judge. You may
think that Coolio's sampling of Earth Wind and Fire on "Fantastic
Voyage" sucks, but that's your opinion. Other people might think it's a
great use of sampling in an art form. The point is to let everyone try
their hand at sampling, and pick your own 3% best.

And I forgot to make the point that sometimes an artist can sample
himself and make new, more compelling art as a result. Michelangelo and
Picasso knew this. So did Mick Jones, who took a riff from a song he
did with the Clash in "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" and sampled it in
a creative, interesting way in his song with Big Audio Dynamite II, "The
Globe". (In an ironic bout of self-indulgence, he even says "Bless you"
to himself when the sampled voice goes, "Woooo!").

And when Natalie Cole takes her father's songs, remasters them and sings
along in harmony, the result is very impressive. "Unforgettable," if
you will.

Or when "When Harry Met Sally" samples dialogue and movie bits from
"Casablanca," is makes the movie itself more accessible.

Hamlet's play-within-a-play works well as a metaphor both to increase
dramatic tension and to push the plot forward.

Al Pacino's making-of-a-movie-within-a-movie shows off features not just
of the showing of Richard the III he's making. It also gives us nuances
about the characters portraying the characters.

Sort of like the play _6 Characters in Search of an Author_ and _Noises
Off_ both play off the fact that their characters are boxed in a play
within a play, giving you a multidimensional view of what's actually

So when Howard Stern in his movie plays Howard Stern, and is in the middle
of a simulated on-air discussion about what words you can and cannot say
on the air ("The question is: blank, willow..."), the levels at play can
be mind numbing but the situation itself is amazing. You can be amused
by it on so many levels. writes:
> > The real question is, of course, the question posed by Baudrillard:
> > in postmodern thought: is the simulation good enough to approximate
> > a new "real" experience?
> Having hated my philosophy class, I'm just going to say yes, simulation
> can evoke a new reality. It doesn't even have to approximate it, since
> it will by virtue of existence have its' own reality, whatever it's origins.

I can agree with this.

> > For example, if Rohit reads four reviews of the book _Maus_ by Art
> > 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?
> No. He will have experienced the book, but not the same way as having
> read the book. Unless of course, his thoughts exactly mirrored those he
> distilled from other sources.

All I'm saying is that the experience of "reading the book" is
adequately approximated by the sum of reading the reviews, reading the
jacket, talking with friends about it, and checking out Web pages about it.

It's like when you go to a movie. You've seen 2 or 3 different previews
of that movie. You've read 6 different reviews (and man is Janet Maslin
are insightful!) of the movie, plus an Entertainment Weekly cover story
on the making of the movie. You've seen the actors and actresses in
the movie on Leno, Letterman, Rosie, and Oprah, all hocking the movie.
In some cases, you've read the book the movie was based on. You've seen
the best 30 seconds of the movie in the commercials. You've heard your
friends talk about the best parts of the movie and the issues that it raised.
Web pages and usenet news give you more details about the movie, and the
newspaper has Op-Ed pieces about the issues in the movie.

Before you've even seen the movie, all these other experiences
essentially have approximated the experience of seeing the movie
itself. Perhaps even transcended it.

Rohit uses this sometimes as a justification for not seeing movies.
And I can't say it's entirely wrong. After all, if you've approximated
an experience closely enough, why should you HAVE to live through it?

> > For, in that old Baudrillardian challenge, if one stages a bank robbery
> > 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, including:
> This sounds familiar. You really like this example, don't you??

Yes, I do.

> > the Real World
> >
> > Virtual Reality
> >
> Now you are just trying a mindfuck.. Describing the simulation of real
> experiences in the context of simulated reality.

And yet, when you think about it, they create entirely new experiences
which work as art on multiple levels. It's extraordinary.

> > The question you need to ask yourself, of course, is: does the new thing
> > add something above and beyond the original. If "Seinfeld" uses a
> > 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
> That's not simulating a Junior Mint- unless they are dress in chocolate
> minty coverings. The are using it as a plot device, or an elements of a
> story. You would be saying that a word simulates experience because it
> is used in a book. (Don't start!) It is just Deus Ex Machina.

No, it IS simulating an experience. It's sampling an item (in this
case, a junior mint) in an environment in which it's never been used (in
this case, surgery), yielding an entirely new simulated experience that
approximates the reality of such an experience actually happening from

So when Notorious B.I.G. samples an item (in this case, Diana Ross' "I'm
Coming Out") in an environment in which it's never been used (in this
case, with a hard bass and backbeat and rap lyrics about the problems
that more moneys are associated with), he yields an entirely new
simulated experience that approximates the reality of such an experience
actually happening from scratch.

> > If Howard Stern simulates a crude experience (again, for the sake of
> > humor), then again the value-added is good. VH1's 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 the songs they
> > sample from.
> Yeah, their names on the royalty checks.

:) In logic reasoning, resorting to humor is an indication of the
realization of defeat.

> > Similarly, if Coolio samples from Stevie Wonder, he can produce an
> > 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 an
> > anthem of sorts, propelling an otherwise-mediocre movie into the
> > limelight.
> You are glamourizing Gangsta's Paradise again, aren't you??

Yes, why? Should I instead glamorize Weird Al Yankovic's parody "Amish
Paradise", which is a sample of a sample?

> You shouldn't have done that- Coolio actually is what is right with the art
> of sampling. Coolio, Will Smith, God's Property, Mariah Carey all do it
> up proper. They take parts of songs that have a significant tone or beat
> the artist wants to utilize. They don't take a song and outright
> shoplift it for their crass commercial purposes. The space between the
> samples on Puff's songs show some talent, the samples used do not.

I don't see how you distinguish. Mariah Carey blatantly rips off the
Tom Tom Club in her "Fantasy" single -- how is it any different than
what the Puff Daddy did? Naughty by Nature totally ripped off the
Jackson Five's "ABC" in their anthem "O.P.P.", but like "Fantasy" and
"Mo Money Mo Problems", it works.

> > 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 from
> > scratch? I would say so.
> If it creates a new experience. If it would have been as likely created
> by listening to the orignal, than it is not.

But I'm saying it DOES create a new experience. In some cases, the new
experience will be very similar to the old experience. In other cases,
the new experience will be more recognizably new. There's a spectrum
here, not any absolute. (Rohit, you should post the "Rules of Three"
hypothesis someday...)

> > It's not limited to rappers, either. George Michael produced a cool
> > 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? Because
> > they take the original and extend it in an original way.
> They don't extend it, so much as make original variations on it.

Semantics. We mean the same thing.

> Besides, that is also a sociological arguement- Rushed was a black female
> singer in the mid 80's, not a prime time for that type of artist, at
> least not compared to international superstar George michael or box
> office powerhouse Will Smith. The playing field was not equal.

Wait, Whitney Houston was big in the mid 80s. Donna Summer was big
before the mid 80s. Aretha Franklin was big both before and in the mid
80s. Patti Labelle, too.

The playing field was just fine. The song by itself was just not all
that intriguing to people. It was repetitive, and that grates after a
while. But add a backbeat and some additional rapping, singing, or
"smoothing out", and a repetitive experience becomes more interesting.

> > Likewise, if the Beastie Boys sample a wide variety of sources (check
> > out the album "Paul's Boutique"), it makes for a more holistic
> > experience. If Madonna samples a line from Socrates ("The unexamined
> > 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 line
> > from Blue Oyster Cult ("Don't Fear the Reaper"), it makes "The Stand" a
> > better novel. If the Fun Lovin' Criminals sample lines from "Pulp
> > Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs" in their song "Scooby Snacks", it makes
> > the song sound more authentically criminal. If a post to a public
> notice how all these examples describe the use of small, evocative parts
> to make the whole a much better effort.

If this were entirely true -- if everyone sampled like Sting samples his
"Every Breath You Take" in his solo effort "Love is the Seventh Wave" --
then you would rule out experiences like remakes.

Sometimes remakes transcend their originals as well. The remake of
"Cape Fear" is much better than the original. Wasn't "Star Wars"
originally some Japanese samurai film? Isn't Naked Eye's version of
"Always Something There to Remind Me" better than the original? Isn't
Guns n Roses' version of "Knocking on Heaven's Door" better than
Clapton's or Dylan's? For that matter, isn't Hendrix's version of "All
Along the Watchtower" better than Dylan's? Heck, almost any Bob Dylan
song is better when someone else does it. (only kidding...) And tell
me you don't like the Mike Flowers Pops version of "Wonderall" better
than the version by those crude apes Oasis...

It's true that sometimes the remake is worse than the original. Look at
"La Femme Nikita" when compared to "Point of No Return." Or Marilyn
Manson's creepy version of the cool Eurythmics song, "Sweet Dreams are
Made of This." Or that most book and movie sequels are worse than the
originals. (Okay, "Aliens" was better than "Alien" and "Empire Strikes
Back" was better than "Star Wars", so there are exceptions...)

> > mailing list like FoRK samples from web sites and newsgroups (and yes,
> > even private emails), and then adds interesting commentary, then what
> > we experience is a post that transcends and improves the original bits.
> > Sampling works. The good rappers are not hacks; they take catchy riffs
> Why did you say the good "rappers"?? Are you willing to concede there is
> a difference between rapping and sampling??

Absolutely. Rapping on top of a sampled riff is but one form of

> > 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 the
> > only one: it's been #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the past 7 weeks,
> > 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.
> Adam, I'm ashamed of you. Using public opinion such as sales charts to
> determine your criteria for quality. 50,000 Elvis fans can't be wrong??

Um, million.

> So, where are my slaves? What, slavery is over? Says who?

Says society. Society makes the rules, I don't. I just want to stay
out of jail if I can help it. And do the right thing according to my
moral code.

> Public opinion and morality can't change!!

Public opinion is always changing. The morality of society as a whole
is dynamic, too. My own morality changes whenever I get better
information, but I keep striving toward moral improvement.

> If it is right and good now, it is always so.

I'm tryin', Richard. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd.
Sometimes the "always right and good" is hard for a person to know.
I do the best I can.


Well, at least you are doing recreational activities. If I had people
around that I could sail with, or raft with, or take to a reunion as my
lesbian date, I probably wouldn't spend as much time watching movies
-- Richard Goodman