Sampling Music

The art of sampling music has fascinated me for a very long time. It makes music feel like an art form that builds upon its own history, and samples help to track the evolution of the art form in more concrete terms, so to speak. I remember first hearing the word when I began learning how to use FL Studio to make music, and downloaded a ton of these freely available sample packs and sounds to listen to the kind of nuances in sound that helped produce a song. Eventually, I learned how to use tools within that software that helped me create my own samples. One of the nicest things I remember doing was taking a sample from Myon & Shane 54’s Summer of Love remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” and saving it for repurposing in one of the piano tracks I recorded. But those are tales for another day.

Music samples split people into camps quite frequently: one camp who believe that sampling should not be permitted because it takes away originality and discredits effort very frequently, because the creator of the original sample never gets due credit for inspiring another song. The flipside to this is the argument that sampling should be permitted, because once music is out there, it belongs to the creative commons.

Mark Ronson has an excellent TED talk on this that I’d urge you check out. Quite frequently, most songs that you end up enjoying on the radio on most days, or that become chart-toppers, contain samples or pieces of inspiration from prior music.

I was listening to the Vampire Weekend album, Father of the Bride on repeat yesterday. It’s an album that I took to quite quickly and absolutely fell in love with. There’s this song on the album called “Hold You Now”, which I adore – because it introduced me to Haim, but also because it begins the narrative arc of the entire album. In a lot of ways, Father of the Bride, as an album, reminds me of Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown. However, I digress.

That song, “Hold You Now”, contains this crazy sequence that sounds like gospel choir music in the middle. I wanted to figure out what that sequence was, and found out it was indeed a sample of gospel music called God Yu Tekkem Laef Blong Mi. That confused me: I couldn’t recognize the words, although I was quite certain I knew their meaning. Turns out this is a language called Pidgin English. What made things even crazier is that this sample they used is a Hans Zimmer sample.

I’m on the side that samples should enable creative growth. It’s weird if a sample is used to make a note-for-note version of another song. Sometimes, however, the result can be beautiful, as it was here.


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