Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Porcello, Thomas. "The Ethics of Digital Audio-Sampling: Engineers' Discourse." Popular Music 10 (January 1991): 69-84.

The ability of the digital sampler to mimic, reproduce, extract, and manipulate musical material has led to substantial discourse in issues of intellectual property and fair use. A series of interviews with studio engineers reveals a general, broad consensus regarding various aspects of sampling, such as payment to musicians, legal issues, and the threat to studio musicians, despite the disagreements about pragmatic aspects of actual use of sampling technology. The engineers interviewed all agreed that certain uses of sampling, such as the wholesale lifting of an entire phrase common in rap songs, are unethical and that sampling should not be "a technological free-for-all." Largely, the controversy centers around the question first raised by the Dadaist movement: can one actually own a sound? Where does one make the distinction between the material of a work and the work as a created, artistic whole? These questions have become even more difficult to answer after Foucault, who views all categories of authorship as spurious. Each engineer cited a "code of the West" that has evolved in the recording industry through general consensus, explaining that controversy occurs when someone is found to violate this unwritten code. Furthermore, since there is money to be made and saved though the use of digital sampling, its use ultimately serves to reinforce the asymmetrical power balance of the recording industry.

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Sarah Florini

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