Transforming The Sample

Along the lines of my previous post regarding transformative cover songs, I wanted to delve a bit deeper into the concept of transforming an already completed piece of music. The work of electronic sample-based musicians relies on music made by other people. I'm not referring to the DJ you hire for a wedding or party, but to the true art (and yes it is an art) of mixing music, and transforming ready-made tracks into a unique piece that is distingusihable from its sources.

Girl Talk Girl Talk

The first image that I think usually comes to mind for most people when they hear about electronic, sample-based music is a guy behind a mixer, pressing play on a machine and fiddling with knobs. He will sometime put his hands in the air to show the crowd he's having a good time. Many people dismiss these types of performers because they tend to stay behind a table and are unable to demostrate the prowess of their skills. The result is a visually lackluster attempt to perform.

While I understand critics' frustration with the simplicity of pressing a few buttons and calling it a show, I feel there is a significant misunderstanding in the very root of what these artists are trying to acheive.

The building blocks are different

While music is made using a combination of notes, sample-based musicans tend to approach their work using, well... samples. Clusters of already curated notes. Sometimes they choose to keep recognizable melodies intact, sometimes they cut up musical lines to give them more options in rearranging them. This, in my opinion is a very diffrent way of apporaching music than how we traditionally listen to it. When listening to sample-based music, the intricacies of the melodies deepen as a result of using clusters of notes rather than single notes or structured chords.

Two great examples of sample-based artists are the mash-up DJ Madeon and the Experimental musician Daedelus. This type of music is not for everyone, but I urge you take a listen and try to focus on identifying collections of notes rather than a melody line.

Madeon is a you-tube based musican/DJ that works within the realm of sample-base musicians, specifically in mashups ("mashing" together recognizable popular music tracks to create a completely new work). His song, simple titled, Pop Culture really shows the skill level and attention to detail that is needed within the realm of sample-based music. This song was composed using samples of over 30 different pop songs.

Los Angeles-based Daedelus is a trained jazz clarinetist and works mainly within the realm of experimental sample-based music. His love of Jazz and electronic artists fuel an ever-evolving discography of albums that range from laid-back downtempo music to hard-hitting club thumpers. What I find so unique about his work and performance is that he opens the inner workings of his tracks to the audience. Armed with a laptop and a sampling instrument called a monome, Daedelus actually shows the crowd how he physically triggers each element within the song. The end result is a mesmerizing fusion of light and sound.