Samples Allusions Remixes Appropriations

I picked up a copy of the Fall 2011 Issue of Electronic Beats Magazine today with Björk on the cover. I’m going to say firstly: it’s a great issue–read it! I read it cover to cover.

But the issue did help me think more about this question I brought up yesterday about why not more girl DJs?. So I’m jamming off that theme.

Nowadays when we talk about DJaying we’re talking about so many things–for starters, we’re talking about Selecting, which is choosing a whole piece of music to play most of. We’re also talking about remixing and sampling: selecting sections of musical works to re-use, speed up and mix up and even “rennovate or reinvent.” We’re also talking about creating entirely new beds of music that we then use to lay samples over. Those could be original samples, samples we’ve taken ourselves, but they’re ultimately sounds we’ve heard in the world–a dog barking, thunder clap, woman screaming, or a sound we’ve produced.

In general we’re talking about a field that’s built on the idea of building on itself. (which, in a nutshell, might explain why an overwhelmingly male base leads to more maleness, but let’s get there in a moment.)

Building on a base, we reach each other emotionally by forming and re-fomenting a common base of musical knowledge to which we can refer. A more common base means our audience has an increased chance of emotional investment. (If a DJ has managed to sample the sounds of the womb we’ll probably all feel right at home.)

That’s what makes the music have even more emotional resonance–when a piece is selected, sampled, remixed, or alluded to that we’re already familiar with and reminds us of something specific in our lives.

As a writer I first learned about this same idea in literary terms. So when we speak of this in literary terms, sampling is like quoting and appropriating, and remixing is like making a literary allusion. Making an allusion to The Bible is a common example. It’s one of those things that peppers Western Literature and most young students are told to read if they want to “get it.”

As a teen studying literature, even in the “riot grrrrl and girl power” nineties, I was told that one of the reasons I needed to read all the so-called classics (men) was so that I could understand the context and content of so-called modern day classics. I had to familiarize myself with The Bible, Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Dante to name a few. That’s all well and good, but what most people forget is that there could also be a modern day understanding of literature that has to do with all the women who aren’t included in the Cannon. That is, if one reads women in the modern day, and those women choose to allude to women.

The thing is, the more these same (male) writers are “sampled” “remixed” and “appropriated” in literary terms, the more they’re treated as though they’re the only part of our history, and all those other voices are basically mixed OUT. Same goes for visual arts and music and film, which these days are all becoming integrated.

This act of selection creates a present day body of artwork that miraculously is still male dominated. Truth be told, when given the power to select, men tend to choose male artists. And women, given their training, also tend to select male artists, but are far more likely to also choose women.

After I could start choosing what to read when I went to college, I decided to spend all my time reading women: Caribbean women’s literature, Chicana women’s activist literature, June Jordan’s class, Poetry for the People, Southeast asian women, African and African American women’s literature, white feminist women, women writing zines. I didn’t do this because I necessarily think women are better writers–though I did appreciate and value their world view–but because I saw it this way: at root, what to read is arbitrary (though it is cloaked in tradition) and my schooling was just as arbitrary. Time is limited. I have to choose and I CHOSE! Any guy could make the same argument for only reading men.

What’s more, the big secret was that it’s just as possible to read only women as it is to read only men–just most people don’t.

Some well intentioned people suggested that this was sexist or narrow minded of me and that I wouldn’t be as richly educated as a writer, but when I thought about my first 12 years of schooling and all the men I’d read, it seemed just about egalitarian.

The same can be done for any arts media–but one has to make extra time and effort to do so. Most people don’t, therefore our body of collective references stay fairly status quo … Warhol Kurosawa Miles Davis, no need to go on. !Hey! I’m not saying I don’t like these guys. I love their art! I’m not saying they aren’t great but they’re pretty obvious–just like a cock is more obvious than a cunt.

I gotta think about it in numbers just to make sense of it all. If we are speaking in gender binary terms, which we cant really, but for arguments sake, women are half the worlds population, actually over half, so it just so happens that they’re producing half the worlds thoughts. A truly talented sampler/ allusionist/ selector/ curator will work hard to figure out how to harvest those thoughts of the “other half” (women)–especially the least heard of.

Without making the effort to harvest and learn about those ideas, we’re building an arts world created by the samples and allusions we’re told are classics or even “cult gems of the underground,” which the men at Vice and similar magazines–in fact this is the backbone of hipster culture–love to smugly make reference to. Nevertheless these “rarities” are all too often still male voices.

Just think, if all our allusions made reference to a matriarchy of native women healers curanderas and ancient Chinese female dancers. The world resampled would not look the same, and therefore our concept of modern literature, film and music would also be shaped very differently.

Thank goodness there ARE artists who try to sample, select, and curate women, but we need many many more and we need it done in a way that captures the special knowledge and special ways of disseminating knowledge that many women possess. As Penny Martin in fact states this in the current issue of EB Magazine, when given an interview about her new magazine, aptly named Gentlewomen:

“Women are producing and sharing knowledge in different ways, sometimes in a way that is much more informal and or not aimed at getting famous from it. We’ve got lots of women in politics we have a lot of women in art school and playing music. It just doesn’t make sense that all our famous references would be of male thinkers, male artists, male musicians when we’re talking about the future, about the hope of tomorrow.”

In a creative way of sampling (across all artistic fields) I’m suggesting we work extra hard to find voices of those women who aren’t necessarily famous or looking to be famous. What about instead of the call of the bread seller in the street of Nicaragua we sample the cry of his mother inside the kitchen?

When we think of creating modern music how do we work to incorporate a HERstory of women so that our present day reflects all the gifts they’ve given the world?

Instead of the same mostly male oriented body of works “we all love,” as apparent by what we post on our physical and virtual walls (Scarface, Clockwork Orange, Tarantino, Warhol, Coltrane, Wong Kar Wai), what about the un-named seamstress that made our shirt?

For the sheer purpose of experimentation, I decided to treat Electronic Beats Magazine as a piece of electronic artwork, a mishmash of cross references, cut-ups and homages. Each person referenced and highlighted in print would be part of the post modern fabric of the most cutting edge of artistic scenes–electronic beats 2011–a magazine that specifically speaks to a generation that is technologically interfacing across a myriad of fields. A magazine that is asking philosophically interesting questions such as, how is our concept of death changing as a result of our use of social networking? A magazine that represents the future.

In the very first page of the magazine, which is the editorial note, I noticed that the following men were mentioned:
Gert Jonkers
Rem Koolhaas
Le Corbusier
Brian Eno
Sonic Boom
Glenn O Brian
Tino Sehgal (who is actually quoted, “the manifesto, as a male declaration of intent, was a thing of the past; twenty first century manifestos will be more like dialogues.”)
Andy Warhol
John Coplan
Kasper König
Thomas Bayrle
Walt Disney
Julian Assange

The two women mentioned in the first page are:
Penny Martin

There are only five women mentioned in the entire magazine. They are:
Antje Greie
Penny Martin
Lady Gaga
Gudrun Gut

In the article about Björk, she references the following men:
Damian Taylor
Karlheinz Stockhausen
Magnús Blöndal Jóhannsson
Scott Snibbe
Drew Berry
David Attenborough
Oliver Sacks
And no women.

In the article about Brian Eno, Brian Eno says, “I had just come from Conny Planks studio … Had some time to kill in the airport which by the way was designed by Paul Schneider-Esleben, the father of Florian Schneider from Kraftwork.”

And in his article he or the interviewer mentions and/or asks him to speak on the following men:
Rick Holland
Peter Chilvers
Terry Riley
Steve Reich
And one woman:
Lady Gaga

In the rest of the magazine these are the men mentioned:
Arthur Rau
Matei Sládek
Max Grieb
Klaus Veltin
Rick holland
Tobias Freund
A Guy Called Gerold
Armin Linke
Roman Bezjak
Popol Vuh
When Saints Go Machine
Chris Bohn
Paul Hindemith
Stefan Betke
Glenn O Brien
Kanye West
Tricky Kid
Daddy G
Nellee Hooper
Willy Wee and 3D
Geir Jenssen
Sonic Boom
Simeon Coxe III
Matthew Herbert
André de Ridder
Arto Lindsay
Hans Ulrich Obrist
Kenji Higuchi

Well people, we’ve got some work to do. I think numbers can sometimes show quite a bit–the more men’s names we hear repeated and recycled and cited, the more men we come to understand as important to know, the more they become part of our musical fabric. The more sampled, the more they are thought of as the base. The more mixed in, the more women’s voices mixed out.

At least EB Magazine interviewed and quoted Penny Martin’s all too ironic words, which I’ll repeat again here:

“Women are producing and sharing knowledge in different ways, sometimes in a way that is much more informal and or not aimed at getting famous from it. We’ve got lots of women in politics we have a lot of women in art school and playing music. It just doesn’t make sense that all our famous references would be of male thinkers, male artists, male musicians when we’re talking about the future, about the hope of tomorrow.”

6 December 2011
Driving from Baluno to Milan