Neon Indian: “Sampling Music Is Like Making Collage Art”

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From electronic musician Neon Indian‘s (aka Alan Palomo) recent TEDx Talk: “Auteurs in the Ether”:

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There’s a long line of appropriators like me: Negativland, De La Soul, J Dilla, Emergency Broadcast Network, the Beastie Boys, The Avalanches. These are just a few people who can build entire albums out of samples to make something more beautiful and strange than the sum of its parts. They’re collage artists essentially, the Hannah Höchs of music.

The most prime example of this would be Daft Punk, who started out by celebrating their heroes through sampling their works, and coming full circle a decade later to actually writing an album with them in Random Access Memories. Don’t say you were touched by the hand of god, say you were touched by the hand of Giorgio Moroder.

We all stand on the shoulders of our idols and if we’re really lucky, one day we get to feel the weight of our influence on others. I think a lot of great artists understand this.

George Lucas was heavily influenced by Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress when he made Star Wars. Was Akira Kurosawa bummed that he appropriated the plot points? No! Here’s them hanging out…

…And what’s funny that no one ever brings up about Kubrick is he never wrote an original screenplay, they’re all adapted from novels. But Kubrick gets the credit, they say he’s the genius… and he is!

So celebrate influence. Or as Sonic Youth would say: “Kill your idols“. Or as John Foxx had draped over his studio: “Destroy all masterpieces“.

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See Palomo’s entire TEDx talk below:

 

Nina Ulloa covers breaking news, tech, and more. Follow her on Twitter: @nine_u

35 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “Sampling Music Is Like Making Collage Art”

    Exactly: You need written permission for any content you don’t create yourself unless it is in the Public Domain.

    If you don’t get that written permission, you’re in deep trouble (as in: you’ll lose all your work and all the profits you made from it when the owner sues you).

    And it’s worth noting that content is NOT in the Public Domain just because it’s publicly available for free everywhere. 🙂 (And yes, that’s how a lot of newbs define Public Domain, believe it or not…)

    So always remember this:

    Inspiration is good, unlicensed sampling/copying is bad — not just because it’s wrong, but because it’s going to hurt you a lot.

    Reply
    • vic

      “Inspiration is good”

      In most cases it’s just pure ripping.

      unlicensed sampling/copying is bad

      they know that, but they don’t care to ask their “idols” for permission. also they don’t give credits.

      Reply
      • GGG

        Umm…how much art in the history of the world do you think is born purely out of nothingness?

        Maybe you can argue the first caveman that decided to rub is finger on cave wall. After that, anything you say is wrong.

        Reply
    • Paul Lanning

      Anybody can paste a bunch of other people’s stuff together. That’s hardly in the same league with writing a good song.

      Reply
      • Foucault

        History shows that everything that has been thought will be thought again by a thought that does not yet exist (1966)

        Reply
  2. vic

    Who the f… is Neon Indian?

    He compares himself with “appropriators” like De La Soul, Beastie Boys and Daft Punk?!?!

    Btw Daft Punk gives credits and has permissions to use the samples.

    “Kill your idols“? With lame covers and stolen samples? With tracks that never reach the fame of the original?

    He’s just a lazy sucker with no own ideas. So he MUST rip others music…

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      “Btw Daft Punk gives credits and has permissions to use the samples”

      Nina just doesn’t understand how stuff works in the real world.

      In her mind, stolen samples are the same as legitimate inspiration, licensed novels and cleared samples. What can you do…

      Reply
  3. ja

    the commenters here are very out of touch, draconian, and quite lazy with their thinking. the copyright regime can be changed to accommodate so called collage musicians while still protecting the rights of publishers and labels. let’s look at the facts: publishers and labels aren’t getting rich off other artists who sample, it’s not even a consideration compared to licensing money from advertisers and corporate players. there should be a limit to how much time of a track can be legally sampled, above that is not being creative and an infringement, below that is creating a new product. let’s be honest with ourselves – nothing is created out of nothing, everything is influenced and even the sounds and their pitches are universally shared. however, we also want to protect our business models and give merit to our own creations. there needs to be a compromise.

    Reply
    • ben

      the commenters here are very out of touch, draconian, and quite lazy with their thinking.

      only rippers are “lazy” because they copy others work.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      …only if it isn’t cleared.

      Licensed sampling is completely OK — all musicians use it all the time.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        It’s legal maybe, but it is still theft. Use your own ideas and stop copying others.

        Reply
        • Neon Indian

          but i have no own ideas or instruments, i’m a poor mexican guy! *cry*

          Reply
          • GGG

            Yea, sorry, Prince was inspired by plenty of rock and R&B that was around before the mid 70s.

          • GGG

            Um…pro tip: When arguing against sampling and originality, you probably shouldn’t bring up hip-hop, let alone a guy who outsources almost every beat he raps over.

            You need to learn about how Kanye West makes music. He’s actually a fantastic example of how sampling and curating in a sense, is an art form in of itself that can be utilized to make other great work.

        • Anonymous

          “It’s legal maybe, but it is still theft. Use your own ideas and stop copying others.”

          Um, you sure you know what sampling is? 🙂

          Reply
          • GGG

            If you write music, I’m assuming you’ve created fresh new chords/chord progressions that have never been played before. You’re a genius! Can you share them, please?

          • Anonymous

            “I’m assuming you’ve created fresh new chords/chord progressions”

            Haha, man I could kill for a new chord progression. 🙂

            And to the other Anonymous: “An unoriginal way to create music?” Really? OK, personal question: Wtf are you doing here when you don’t even know what sampling is? Bored much?

          • Anonymous

            And to the other Anonymous: “An unoriginal way to create music?” Really? OK, personal question: Wtf are you doing here when you don’t even know what sampling is? Bored much?

            You don’t know what original music is.

          • GGG

            Assuming you’re the anonymous that also posted “inspiration is a codeword for theft, you DEFINITELY don’t know what original music is. You’re like a child who thinks styles of music just appear out of nowhere. Everyone bites from everyone, whether it’s conscious or unconscious, and that’s not even a bad thing. That’s how music evolves; some person takes some other person’s shit and does something different with it. There is almost no “original” music. The diatonic scale has been used for thousands of years. If you write music with a diatonic scale, you cannot be original by your own measurement.

            Hell, even microtones are thousands of years old in eastern music. You’d literally have to find a new set of tones that the human ear was physically unable to hear and/or the brain was physiologically unable to process before to have truly original music at this point.

          • Anonymous

            Nonsense. 🙂 Musical inspiration comes from within the soul. 🙂

          • GGG

            Sure, but it’s still all just extensions of art you’ve already experienced, whether you realize it or not.

          • Anonymous

            “The diatonic scale has been used for thousands of years. If you write music with a diatonic scale, you cannot be original by your own measurement.”

            Whoa GGG, we completely agree for once.

            The other Anonymous — the wrong one, hehe — isn’t entirely wrong about the ‘soul’ part, though. Inspiration really does exist. But only as the roof of a house already made of materials we’ve known for centuries.

            Still, that doesn’t change the fact that un-licensed sampling is a no-no. Not that I completely agree with the current copyright laws — I actually think it could be fun to be a bit less anal about the whole thing and cut life +70 down to life, or less. But then again, it’s also satisfying to work within a defined set of rules and limitations.

          • GGG

            Yea, I’m not trying to like tear down genius artists or deny the existence of inspiration. But it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about Mozart or Coltrane or whoever, the most groundbreaking things they did were still rooted in something else. Certainly not to the same degree as literally sampling something, but to say “inspiration is a codeword for theft” is to lack a fundamental understanding of how creativity works.

          • David

            I suspect that most artists (unless they are terminally ill and have young children!) would be happy to cut the copyright term from ‘life + 70’ to just ‘life’ *provided* the copyright is vigorously and effectively enforced. At present copyright doesn’t in practice even last 70 minutes. Complaints about the length of copyright term almost invariably come from people who just don’t believe in copyright at all.

            As to the nature of originality, of course all artists are influenced by previous work, if only to react against it. There is a spectrum of originality from those artists who make only minor variations on an existing style to those who create something as revolutionary as The Rite of Spring. But there is an important difference between the general influence of an existing style, and borrowing identifiable elements from a specific work. In the latter case the author of the specific work should be entitled to a share in any financial rewards, and this is in fact broadly where copyright law draws the line.

          • Anonymous

            “I suspect that most artists (unless they are terminally ill and have young children!) would be happy to cut the copyright term from ‘life + 70′ to just ‘life’ *provided* the copyright is vigorously and effectively enforced

            Yes, yes, yes!

            You do raise an important point about ill parents, though. So there’s a lot of variables and details to look into.

            But I think everybody has to give a little now. In fact, I would MUCH prefer to cut the current period way down — perhaps to 30, 20 or even 10 years — IF the laws were enforced, IF Google stopped sending my customers straight to the Pirate Bay, and IF the ISPs did what they’re supposed to do: Block stolen content.

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