The Library of Congress is launching an open-source archive of hip-hop samples dating back more than a century

Citizen DJ is the brainchild of Brian Foo, a 2020 Innovator-in-Residence Program at the U.S. Library of Congress. The goal of the project is simple: to provide free audio and video samples to encourage creativity through remixing. Or, in Foo's words:

Cultivate the creation of new and transformative music using free-to-use audio and video materials from the Library. Connect the general public with culturally significant, underutilized, and free-to-use audio and video collections available from the Library. Engage communities, such as secondary school students and amateur musicians, that may have a strong relationship with hip hop music, but little to no existing relationship with the Library or the Library’s materials. Provide the general public (in particular, those with little to no formal research training) with the tools and resources to navigate the United States copyright system in the context of sample-based music creation. Contribute to human-computer interaction research and best practices for search and discovery of large audio and video collections.

As for why, specifically, to take a DJ/hip-hop approach to this kind of project?

Today, collage-based hip hop as it existed in the golden age is largely a lost (or at best, a prohibitively expensive) artform.

I believe if there was a simple way to discover and access free-to-use audio and video material for music making, a new generation of hip hop artists and producers can maximize their creativity, invent new sounds, and connect listeners to materials, cultures, and sonic history that might otherwise be hidden from public ears.

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Listen to the sources of Daft Punk's samples

Daftworld compiled some of the killer samples that Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter made their own. Full versions of the tracks heard here would make for a killer rare groove and disco DJ set!

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David Axelrod, incredibly influential soul/jazz/rock composer and producer, RIP

David Axelrod, whose 1960s and 1970s production and compositions melding jazz, soul, and rock had an indelible impact on contemporary hip-hop and R&B, has died at age 83. From Billboard:

Born in Los Angeles in 1933, Axelrod produced his first album in 1959 and went on to become a pioneer in combining jazz, rock and R&B in recorded music. He spent several years working for Capitol Records in production and A&R in the 1960s and went on to release more than a dozen of his own albums.

While a contemporary of, and somewhat analogous to, idiosyncratic composer/arrangers like Van Dyke Parks, Axelrod was much more influenced by jazz, as reflected in his orchestrations and his own compositions. He produced David McCallum's Music: A Bit More of Me, the 1967 release featuring "The Edge," a song that famously turned into the predominant sample in Dr. Dre's 2000 hit "The Next Episode." He also collaborated with the Electric Prunes on their bizarre 1968 album Mass in F# Minor, and when the group splintered in the middle of recording, he finished it with session musicians.

So sad to hear about the passing of musician/composer #DavidAxelrod. He was so immersed in creativity and so pure with his arrangements he WAS hip hop. And understood and appreciated hip hop culture (most cats would get guarded about time moving on & easily take the "NO!!!!!!!!" disposition if they aren't informed. David embraced and often reached out to producers and beatmakers for cool collabos) he appreciation for music and his ability to recognize musicianship is what I'll take from him.

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10 most sampled music tracks of all time

Number 1, of course, is the source of the Amen Break. But a surprise or two lurks in the top 10, as calculated by Who Sampled, a truly amazing website that tells you the when and where and what of samples for singles over the last few decades. Read the rest

Appeals court rules brief "Vogue" horn sample was not copyright infringement

The 9th Circuit Court affirmed today that a quarter-second sample used by Madonna didn't infringe the copyright of the original artist. Billboard reports that 1990 hit Vogue's use of a brass hit from 1976's "Love Break" was so small as to be trivial.

"After listening to the audio recordings submitted by the parties, we conclude that a reasonable juror could not conclude that an average audience would recognize the appropriation of the horn hit," writes 9th Circuit judge Susan Graber in today's opinion. "That common-sense conclusion is borne out by dry analysis. The horn hit is very short—less than a second. The horn hit occurs only a few times in Vogue. Without careful attention, the horn hits are easy to miss. Moreover, the horn hits in Vogue do not sound identical to the horn hits from Love Break... Even if one grants the dubious proposition that a listener recognized some similarities between the horn hits in the two songs, it is hard to imagine that he or she would conclude that sampling had occurred."

The ruling seems to run counter to other recent courtroom action where a song was found to infringe a Marvin Gaye classic despite containing no samples of it at all. But things are complicated in copyright! Note that the court listens to the recordings: subjective similarity is at hand, not just technology. Which perhaps explains why an extensively imitative passage with no direct sampling might be found infringing, but a short sample re-used in a novel and transformative way is not. Read the rest

German court hands Kraftwerk its ass, rules sampling is legal

Today, Kraftwerk lost its vindictive, 19-year-long copyright suit against Sabrina Setlur, whose 1997 song "Nur mir" looped a drum sequence from Kraftwerk's 1977 "Metall auf Metall." Read the rest

Hear Terry Riley's groundbreaking 1968 remix of a soul tune

In 1968, pioneering minimalist composer Terry Riley remixed The Harvey Averne Dozen's soul tune "You're No Good" into a 20-minute tape machine and Moog composition of sampled, looped, and cut-up sounds moving in and out of phase. Strange and beautiful. Read the rest

Oswald's Grayfolded: plunderphonics Grateful Dead now on vinyl

In 1994, "plunderphonics" pioneer John Oswald released "Grayfolded," a nearly two-hour composition made from more than 100 recordings of the Grateful Dead's live performances of their song "Dark Star" from between 1968 and 1993. Next month, Important Records is reissuing Grayfolded on a triple gatefold vinyl with new liner notes containing interviews with the Dead and a map of all the recording's source material. Above, a trailer for the release.

Here's what Oswald said about Grayfolded in 1995: Read the rest

The history of sampling in three minutes

Eclectic Method offers a brief journey through the history of sampling, from the Mellotron to whatever happened last year beginning with the letter "M". Read the rest