Notebook: Sampling as Deconstruction?

This 18 minute mini-documentary by Nate Harrison (2004) tells us about a six second break-beat called the “Amen Break”. It originally appeared on “Amen My Brother”, the b-side to The Winstons’s “Color Him Father” EP in 1969. Since then it has been sampled in many contexts, ranging from famous hiphop tracks such as NWA’s “Straight Out of Compton”, to virually every jungle track ever produced.

What’s interesting about the “Amen Break” is that although it originally was copyrighted it was so widely sampled that it soon became what can best be described as a public good. Not once did the original creators file suit to protect their rights. The documentary further argues that our view of what constitutes a cultural production – a “work” – directly stems from a static concept of culture. Instead, it claims, one should see culture as always changing through repetitions and as always based on something, but a something that is never fixed, but changes in its usages throughout different contexts. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Claes Wrangel

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