Sampling is a production tool that is fundamental to electronic music. A seemingly simple act – taking small bits of prerecorded sound, often from an existing composition, and incorporating them into a new piece of music – has in the past few decades proven to be a revolutionary cultural force. An essential element for the development of hip-hop in the 1980s, as well as for electronic music scenes concurrently taking shape around the world, sampling helped lower the barrier of entry for potential music makers: No longer did a producer need studio access or a group of musicians to make full and rich productions. Instead, they could dig for loops and breaks from a wealth of existing material and use the pieces they found to create new compositions. The process also allowed the artists to insert themselves into a different type of musical timeline, traversing and connecting decades of sounds in a way that would have been impossible before the dawn of sampling.
With the proliferation of digital production technology, the creative possibilities of sampling are virtually limitless. Today, producers can generously manipulate pitch and time, completely edit and rearrange the order of sounds, focus directly on certain frequency bands or fractions of time and apply a wide range of powerful audio effects, rendering a sample completely unrecognizable. And as sampling techniques continue to evolve, so too does the debate over the validity and the artistic merits of sample-based music. While courts in the United States have continually attempted to rule on its legality, the art and craft of sampling has hardly been diminished, continuing to serve as an essential tool for electronic musicians in particular and as an influential cultural force in general.
Presenting diverse methods of gathering and manipulating samples as well as providing more philosophical musings on how the use of samples fits into today’s production landscape, the artists featured in this edition of Modern Approaches give a wide-ranging picture of the current state of sampling including Prequel Tapes and submerse.
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