Leonardo Music Journal
Issue 7
December 1997

112 pages
ISSN 0961-1215
E-ISSN 1531-4812

General Article

Quotation and Context: Sampling and John Oswald's Plunderphonics

Article PDF (873.55 KB)

Although the music industry (not without inconsistency) has insisted that digital sampling is “theft,” it is perhaps better viewed in historical and theoretical context as timbral quotation. Often the sample functions as a quote that is recontextualized but that nevertheless bears the weight of its original context. The author compares some attempts at creating a taxonomy for sampling use and concludes with a discussion of the controversial “plunderphonic” work of composer John Oswald. Oswald's work reveals an often overlooked aspect of contemporary popular music in the age of mechanical reproduction: his samples refer not only to specific songs (where they are recognizable), but also to the timbres associated with entire genres.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Drake University Conference on Popular Music and Culture at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on 29 March 1996.