Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Not So New Technique of Sampling

If you are a young composer living in our world today, you most likely have asked yourself this question: What can I do that hasn’t been done before? But young people often don’t realize that their “new” ideas are less than novel. Everything seems new to them because they are young and new to this world, and they have not heard all there is to hear.

Many of my students have brought me compositions in which they use a technique known as “sampling.” They seem to think that sampling is somehow unique and fresh, but it turns out that sampling was invented in 1959, by Dr. Andreas Feryöse.

A psychiatrist by profession and a back-alley cellist by trade, Dr. Feryöse conducted a study in which his subjects were given vast amounts of audio placebos and a box of tissue paper. He discovered that, after about sixteen hours with the audio placebos, 94% of the subjects were deeply affected by the sounds they heard. The experiment proved his hypothesis – that human beings are moved the most by that which they already know.

Many of my pieces from as early as 1971 use TANDY’s QOUDLIB ET200 to sample pure sine waves that occur naturally in outer space. My reel-to-reel tape machine is also a type of sampling device. As a matter of fact, one could consider any cassette tape or CD recording a “sample.” A sample is just a recording of a sound from the past.

In this postmodern climate of making art that refers to the past, sampling might seem like a trendy device, but in fact it is merely a recapitulation – a da capo al fine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn rights! I thought we academics had outlawed musical repetition of any sort in the 1960's. Such lawlessness means that this country is going to hell in a Hovhaness handcar!

10:34 AM  

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