Friday, February 22, 2008

Shadow Stabbing #3: Sampling

I think it was Blaise Pascal who said, "I wrote a long letter because I did not have time to write a short one." That is a deep truth about editing: it takes time. This week's video is about a minute and a half too long simply because I ran out of time to edit it. There are, in my opinion, a lot of nice effects in it, but very little content.

One thing I didn't say, but should have, is that sampling is not plagiarism. Musicians who use their samples properly, and "clear" them, are not doing anything wrong. In fact, the point I wanted to make in this webcast is that scholars should sample rather than plagiarize. What Timabaland did with Tempest's composition is not sampling, [update: though what he did to Glenn Rune Gallefoss's performance very definitely is (please see the insightful comment below on this point).]

If you are interested in the details, here are links to the sites I mention:

Wikipedia's article on the case is called "2007_Timbaland_plagiarism_controversy". I also recommend Chris Abbott's detailed technical analysis "Doin' it for themselves: what's going on in Timbaland?" Finally, there is the YouTuber who provided an audio-visual demonstration of the similarities between the two songs (and the related ringtone). It received a bit of press coverage at MTV. Notice the list of "favourites": the discover of one trangression raises suspicions, which leads to the discovery of others.

Sitemeter tells me that some of the visitors to this site get here by searching for "Weick" and "map" on Google. This underscores my point. Today, it is very easy to discover the problems with Weick's scholarly practices for anyone who is just a little curious about the topic of the plagiarized text.

Nelly Furtado probably did not lose any fans. Nor did Timbaland. But he lost respect in the Chiptune community. Since he uses the sound that this community cultivates (and "takes to the next level," as Jonathan put it on Wednesday), that's rather unfortunate. What he lost was the respect of his peers. In popular music that may be a price worth paying. In scholarship the respect of ones peers is a very serious thing to lose.


Anonymous said...

Hi. I have a problem with the term 'sampling' as people - mostly coming from the "hip hop community" - have started to add weird assumptions on it's meaning.

Sampling has nothing to do with issues of plagiarism or legality. It is merely a technical term for recording (digital) audio. After you've sampled something, you can use the sample(s) for various things - not necessarily music. You can also leave them be. But you've still sampled something even though you don't use those samples anywhere.

Wikipedia has separate article for sampling used in the process of creating music ("In music, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or element of a new recording"), but it is just an unnecessary layman's definition that adds confusion. This meaning should definately be subordinated to the technical meaning of the word sampling. And like I said before, with samples you can do other things beside music.

Many times I've read comments like "this is not sampling!" on the Timbaland/Tempest issue, which assume that sampling = clearing a sample, thus making sampling a legal issue.

Your text had this same flaw.

"What Timabaland did with Tempest's composition is not sampling."

What Timbaland did with Tempest's composition was definately sampling. There is a sampled portion in Do It which includes a part of Tempest's composition. And that became a legal issue.

Sorry for my crappy english.

Thomas Basbøll said...

Thanks for this input. I've changed the post to emphasize what I hope I meant at the time (though the true meaning of "sampling" wasn't clear to me then.) Timbaland used the whole compositional structure and melody of Tempest's tune. He did not just sample the Gallefoss arrangement & performance. The composition exists apart from its performances. (In writing, you can steal another writers ideas, without stealing their words. That's sort of what happened here.)