Public Works Productions

Information, disinformation, fact, fiction and all manner of thoughts

Credit Where Credit is Due

A brief debate about giving credit to the sources used in sample-based music

[from the Plunderphonia newsgroup]

Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2001 23:02:37 -0700
From: Jon Leidecker <>
Subject: Fwd: [plunderphonia] accreditation

hey lloyd, here are five posts: me, steev, peter risser, bruce tennant and then me again, after which everyone just shut up and let the thread die which I guess is too bad.

I quoted Oswald ‘naming names’ i.e. bringing you guys up, so I hope I’m not seen just as a shit-stirrer. It’s a touchy issue. Don [Joyce] e-mailed me back off the list, cc:ing oswald, stressing the fact that one should always provide lists, except on radio, where as a pure form the announcements would be intrusive. …

From: Jon Leidecker <>
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 05:03:10 -0700
Subject: [plunderphonia] accreditation

in an effort to expand the list beyond its recent metrics on seeland’s somewhat lacking mail order system, here’s something from the 69/96 interview [liner notes from the Plunderphonic box set] that caught my eye:

O: some more of this stuff came out on a vinyl seven-inch published by the Tape-beatles entitled ‘brown out’ which they also pinched, unaccredited, for a track on their most recent release [Good Times].

I: Do you insist upon credit?

O: I recommend it. It’s just so much more informative to label things clearly, and if you know you are copping something or you are influenced by something, say so. So if a listener is interested in that bit they can trace it to other related material. … The Tape-beatles have historically kept closer ties with the plagiarists than I ever would. That’s a whole other interesting tangent that seeks to undermine and refute the system of accreditation i’m proposing.

Well I’m all for information. And many’s the time I wish Over The Edge was simulcast with a text list of all the sources Don’s mixing in real time, for instance. Furthermore, given the current climate in pop music that has equated ‘sampling’ with ‘cover versions’ of older material, it’s frustrating to see partial sample lists on major label records when you’re trying to track down the original, better records intact, and it’d be refreshing to see more people openly acknowledge their sources when they’re relying on them so heavily.

Still, certain things should be left for people to figure out on their own time. I sure hope Oswald isn’t suggesting we should all start including sample lists in our albums, because there are many albums where such lists just wouldn’t be appropriate. It would ruin the presentation. It’s clear something is being sampled, and it’s up to you to find out what. It’s even better that way, taking home some obscurely horrible Martin Denny record and halfway through finding the ten-second loop that forms the basis of your favorite People Like Us song, or finally chancing upon the Richard Pinhas album that Don uses for dronescapes about once every nine months.

Clarity is good and all, but if ‘accreditation’ assumes documentation directly accompanying your musical recording, that’s bonkers. It doesn’t always suit the experience of the music. Whatever happened to ‘specific selections will be identified by request’? Not good enough anymore? As if anyone’s in the dark as to what’s going on within any Tape-beatles album.


just rabble-rousing

From: Steev Hise <>
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2001 23:19:49 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: [plunderphonia] accreditation

(rabble-rousing indeed! ready?)

I used to care about this but I don’t think it’s important anymore. The otaku in me perhaps thinks it would be nifty-keen to track in some giant database every cultural atom nicked from some other cultural molecule. But the cultural worker in me doesn’t give a hoot. The important thing is what the new piece means. Sample-sleuthing for its own sake is pointless, or at best banal, like searching through bags of potato chips for the one that looks like richard nixon.

However, if it helps make the meaning more clear, get across the concept, the source should be cited. otherwise, it doesn’t matter. (for instance, Chumbawamba’s song (‘Stitch That’) about domestic violence, on their 1992 ‘Shhh’ album, uses a Ringo Starr drum sample that is clearly recognizable. but it becomes all the more powerful when you read their rationale in the liner notes for using it — Ringo is an alleged (or perhaps confirmed, I can’t quite remember) wife-beater.) And of course what follows from this is that for music that’s never about anything, it never matters.

On one hand I do kind of like Oswald’s strict attitude toward credits, because it short-circuits the kind of geeky sample-bloodhounding that Wobbly [jl] described. If everything is listed you won’t waste a bunch of time figuring it out for yourself. On the other hand, it perhaps encourages it as well, by perpetuating the attitude that all this trivia really matters. Too often the appreciation (and even production) of sample-based music is like shopping (Bob Ostertag mentioned this idea to me a couple years ago and i’m just now starting to agree; he was talking about how all Otomo Yoshihide ever seemed to do when he’s in town is shop for records (presumably to use for source material). Luckily, at least in this context, Otomo has switched to using only sine tones (maybe he got tired of shopping), so that’s no longer a problem. (tho there’s now new problems. like that his music is less interesting.) …).

Anyway, so we have this arms-race of sample-shopping/dropping and sample-spotting and in the end who cares? I’m more interested in archetypes and general connotations, really. If someone recognizes something as ‘cock rock’ I don’t care if they know that it’s from Led Zeppelin 4 and not Led Zeppelin 3. Unless, as I say above, it really matters to the detailed concept of the piece. But then we’re almost getting more into conceptual art than just music. which is fine, but let’s call a spade a spade …

it’s certainly not a moral thing like Oswald seems to be pretending. I mean c’mon, you can’t use a word derived from theft and then invoke some kind of ethical code! There’s a double standard if ever there was one. And let’s be clear about the Tape-beatles, their ‘plagiarism®’ is not proof of lower moral ground. There’s 2 types of plagiarism, you know. Perhaps Oswald was just admitting in a backhanded way that they’re more politically committed than he’s ever been.

that’s my 2 cents. (I’ll probably get back change … ;) )

p.s. still have not gone out and bought ‘666999’. i’m thinking maybe of stealing it from Aquarius later this summer during a rolling blackout. If anyone knows which outage block they’re in, email me privately. ;-)

p.p.s. (psst, hey, Wobbly, btw, do you think Blectum from Blechdom should have credited you for all the samples they nabbed from you?)

From: Peter Risser <>
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2001 07:37:09 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: [plunderphonia] accreditation

Just cuz someone includes the documentation, doesn’t mean you have to read it. And frankly, I’d like reading through the accreditation of a Negativland or People Like Us album just to see the kind of weird shit they find. After a while though, I imagine it wouldn’t make that much difference.

I will say, I’ve had some pleasant accidental discoveries, including the disco tune that Negativland uses quite heavily as the background for ‘Helter Stupid’ on a K-Tel LP, and the wine tasting record sampled by the Beasties on ‘Check Your Head’.

On the other hand, we were listening to ‘Jammin Oldies’ on the radio and they played a song that Len had sampled for that insipid ‘Steal Your Sunshine’. Even my wife recognized it. But I still don’t know what it was.

From: Bruce Tennant <>
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2001 11:09:48 -0400
Subject: Re: [plunderphonia] accreditation

‘More More More’ by the Andrea True Connection.

True was a porn star. If this bit of trivia was revealed in the Len liner notes what might the parents of the kiddies who bought the record have made about it, especially in light of how innocuous the hit tune was?

Matmos has made no secret of the sources for ‘A Chance To Cut.’ Has this made any difference in how potential listeners approach the release? I admit that a Washington Post review of the CD attracted me to it. I played it for a few co-workers before showing them the review (I had an advance copy of the CD without any liner notes). They reacted with mild disgust but still liked the disc.

From: Jon Leidecker <>
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2001 22:42:58 -0700
Subject: Re: [plunderphonia] accreditation

well, negativland’s been providing [sample lists] since 1994’s ‘dead dog records’. and they suit the albums. but vicki [People Like Us]’s albums, the packaging is so vague and assaultively weird that including a sample list would be like a criminal breach into the fantasy world.

my point is, anyone who wants to find out something often can by this point, you just have to care even slightly. you will locate the information sooner or later. it’s seldom that hard. see, 5 seconds later and you know True was a porn star.

I mean, I’m a terminal sample trainspotter, but I understand that you just have to let the audience guess and scratch their heads over something.

Vicki and Blectum records are good examples of things that would be a lot less mysteriously wonderful if you knew. And by the way, so are the ‘Mystery Tapes’. Alternatively, the whole conceptual point of Matmos is the meanings derived from the things they sample, of course they ‘make no secret’ about it and of course it doesn’t harm them, it makes for great music, great publicity and they record the majority of the sounds themselves, they’re not plunderphonic, no legal fears. I don’t think this approach would work on a Blectum record (if that answers your question, Steev).

Whatever suits the project. I’m including lists in mine, for instance.

It really is pointless though, sample lists are trails of bread crumbs on a tangled and damp forest floor. when Negativland credited Holger Hiller for the sample they used on ‘dead dog’, they were sampling Hiller sampling Derrick May, intact. are you bored yet?

GO > news | works | faq | shop | contact :: recordings | movies | shows | writings | webworks

/works/writings/credit_where_due.html : N© 20140307 2005-12-21 v 4.6.4 top