Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Exarchos, Michail. “Sample Magic: (Conjuring) Phonographic Ghosts and Meta-Illusions in Contemporary Hip-Hop Production.” Popular Music 38 (January 2019): 33-53.

Supernatural metaphors are often used to describe the practice of phonographic sampling in hip-hop music in both complimentary and critical ways. By studying magic as performance by stage magicians (such as Penn and Teller) rather than as supernatural phenomena, new parallels emerge between how the two practices create their effect. Both hip-hop musicians and stage magicians rely heavily on the manipulation of time to command the attention of their audiences. The structure of an effective magic trick and hip-hop sampling are also similar in how they turn ordinary materials into something extraordinary. For example, several tracks by acclaimed producers J Dilla and Madlib introduce a relatively unmodified sample before demonstrating their skill in manipulating the sample. Exerting control over music recordings (which in turn exert a kind of magical control over sound) is recognized by hip-hop producers and audiences alike as a kind of “magical” effect. Stage magic scholars categorize subgenres based on the relationship between methods (materials), effects, frames, and the contract with the audience. Hip-hip sampling can be similarly categorized, particularly when considering the affordances of different sampling technologies. Phonographs allow for “real” documentary capture of sounds, multitrack recordings allow for “hyper-real” sonic illusions, and sampling technologies allow for “meta-real” juxtapositions of illusions. Examples of “meta-real” practice include tracks that create the illusion of live turntablism, which in turn creates illusions by juxtaposing “hyper-real” music recordings. It is perhaps the creation of impossible soundscapes through sampling that makes hip-hop so moving. The experience of conflict between rational belief and experiential “alief” (to use Szabo Gendler’s term) is crucial to the magical quality of hip-hop music.

Works: Gang Starr (producer DJ Premier): Code of the Streets (36), Deadly Habitz (36); J Dilla: Lightworks (37); Madlib (as The Beat Konductah): Filthy (Untouched) (37); KRS-One and Marley Marl: Musika (43-44)

Sources: Melvin Bliss: Synthetic Substitution (36); Monk Higgins: Little Green Apples (36); Beside: Change the Beat (36); Steve Gray: Beverly Hills (36); Raymond Scott: Lightworks (37); Vivien Goldman: Launderette (37); Thom Bell: A Theme for L.A.’s Team (43-44)

Index Classifications: 1900s, 2000s, Popular

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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