The work of art in the age of digital reproduction: the political significance of the digital music sampler
LE3 .A278 2019
Bachelor of Arts
Sampling is to use the fragment of another pre-recorded song or sound, from any auditory resource, and to repurpose it in order to create a new musical work. Critics of music sampling characterize the process often as stealing and question its validity in art consumption. Yet this “Is it art?” discussion, which surrounds modern sampling, does not consider the transformation which has occurred to the functionality of music since digital reproduction was conceived. How then has digital music sampling become politically significant? I argue that the advent of the digital music sampler has altered the nature of art because it firmly recognizes the creative interdependence between artists which is often overlooked in conventional property relations. The aspect of the political inserts itself because the music producer asserts their authority over transformative works, and with the aid of the sampler, producers are able to remove music from any context in time and space. Beatmakers may repurpose music in a transformative manner, for any message they desire, and simultaneously achieve intertextuality. This text will support this hypothesis first by providing description of the political evolution of sampling through its technology and associated culture. Then I will use the theoretical framework which Walter Benjamin provides in The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction to better understand concepts such as authenticity, originality, and reproduction. Finally, I will address the political significance of sampling by addressing some of the shortcomings of the current copyright legal system by challenging the meaning of “ownership” rights under the law. This thesis will demonstrate that digital music sampling as a form has politicized music because it asks: who gets to listen to what, who creates what, when, and how, and what is appropriate?
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