New Year’s Resolutions… everyone makes them. Whether it's to lose weight, exercise, read more or whatever, the goal is always the same. We want to improve upon ourselves. Inherently, the phrase implies that something is broken or in need of repair. Somewhere in the not-so-distant past something broke inside of me. The music died at some point.
I’ve always had music, rhythms and all sorts of noise bouncing around my head for my entire life. But recently, the noise became silent and the rhythms stood still. It all seemed to happen right after my mom passed away in the spring of 2015. I wrote one final piece in honor of her memory and that’s when things fell eerily silent in my head, musically speaking. I suppose whenever I wrote a new song or a piece of music I wrote it for her, seeking her approval. She always wanted to see me succeed in music in some way. Recently I came across some cassettes I sent to her back in the 90s. The music was absolutely horrible but back then I thought it was the greatest thing ever written. But she never let on that it was awful. She was always encouraging like that. I miss her.
I’ve tried to combat this silence or “writers’ block” by listening to new music, watching other people make music on YouTube, buying new gear, selling old gear and reading anything and everything that interests me. One subject I've always been interested in was the art of Sampling. I’ve spent the last two months reading, watching and listening to everything I could find on the subject. I found the craft very compelling. Below is a Ted Talk with Mark Ronson on How sampling transformed music.
I compare being a composer/musician to being a painter who tinkers with colors and patterns on a canvas sometimes just splashing an idea down or spending the time to get the composition just right. Aside from the legalities of sampling, the debate on the ethical use of samples depends on your point of view. I see using samples as part of the creative process and another tool available in the composer's arsenal. If you’re ripping off a 4-bar loop from your favorite Top 40 song and just plopping it down as the basis of your tune then I would consider that a blatant form of plagiarism. But if you take the same 4 bar loop, chop it up, filter it, pitch it, reverse it and altogether mangle into something new then I feel that’s fair game. You should still clear the sample regardless of how far you stray from the original if you’re releasing the song for commercial gain. Below is an MTV clip from a documentary about the early days of sampling.
But sampling doesn’t just include taking pieces of pre-recorded music. It also includes sampling other instruments, and other everyday sounds that surround our lives. I have the tools to do all of the above. I just hope I have the drive. My goal is to sample something everyday and make something out of it; a loop, a new instrument, a beat or maybe even a full song and then share it and the technology with you. Who knows what will come of it in the end but I know I need to do something. I’ll be 47 this year and I need this for myself.
So my New Year’s resolution is to set off on a new journey to try and get the noise back in my head. The adventure will include using sampling hardware as well as software. I will be using vinyl, cassettes, CDs, field recordings, vocals, YouTube and other forms of downloaded audio. Nothing is off limits. My only limitation will be the gear I have and my imagination. Hopefully my adventures into sampling will be the vehicle that brings the noise back.. But it’s not just about a destination, it’s about the journey itself. What will I learn? What will I create? How will I use what I’ve discovered in the future?
I'd be honored and elated if you decide to join me and participate with me along the way, but I’m ultimately doing this for myself because, after all, music IS my therapy.
Thanks for tagging along.