Quotation and Context: Sampling and John Oswald's Plunderphonics
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.