Daft Punk In Sampling Shocker

This, apparently, is the age of the mashup – find two songs of seemingly disparate genres, meld them together and suddenly everyone thinks you’re an awesome DJ creating an entirely new artform. Which, to some extent, is the case – although for anyone with a basic knowledge of musical structures, it’s also as easy as shooting fish in a kettle. Countless songs use the same simple structures and chords, the majority of them trundling along at an unremarkable 120bpm, and even songs in different keys and tempos can be mixed together easily with a little digital manipulation.

Sampling itself is an older technique, whereby a sound is recorded and subsequently manipulated in ways that are not possible with traditional instruments. An article over at CDM expresses surprise at the revelation that many of Daft Punk’s tracks are based on riffs taken from older songs, thereby vastly diminishing the author’s opinion of the robotic duo’s musical genius…

The most surprising thing here, from my point of view, is that Liz was actually surprised by this; after all, the phenomenon of riff sampling is extremely widespread. I seem to recall that popular tracks by Moby and The Chemical Brothers (to name just two) were built on samples from other musicians; and Daft Punk are probably the epitome of this practise. For all you Daft Punk fans out there who want to know where they get their ideas from, you can check out this page which provides links to a few DP tracks and the original sources. Here are a couple of examples from that page:

  • Edwin Birdsong – “Cola Bottle Baby” – used in “Harder Better Faster Stronger”
  • Cerrone – “Supernature” – used in “Verdis Quo”
  • The Imperials – “Can You Imagine” – used in “Crescendolls”

I have mentioned in the past that true originality is pretty hard to come by, and that such a ‘quality‘ is almost impossible to achieve. No matter how much one pushes the boundaries, the starting point will always be informed by what went before. However, there must be a point where one crosses the line between adaptation and plagiarism. If the hook of a track (the essential element that makes the track stand out) is lifted wholesale from another song, then I would be very much inclined to say that the line had indeed been crossed.

On the other hand, you must play to your strengths – not everyone can be a musical genius, but this doesn’t mean you can’t make music and have a good time doing it. In addition, creating a new and exciting track based on an old sample does require quite a bit of skill. If you find you get the best response to tracks that are heavily based on other people’s samples, then maybe that’s the best way to go – as long as you don’t forget to give credit where credit is due. It may be a shame that artists of lesser talent are sometimes bootstrapping themselves into the limelight on the creations of others, but would it be better if those old riffs were simply allowed to drift out of earshot altogether? Daft Punk’s (re)creations are certainly very different to the original versions, and many people enjoy them; which in itself is some sort of validation. But I think that people should be aware of what is going on behind the scenes, so that when something truly inspired comes along they can tell the difference, and enjoy it all the more.

EDIT: Here’s a tutorial on how to make the funky bassline from Around the World, if you want to see how it’s done…


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