mapping musical pathways

23 May

At least one reason we love hip-hop and electronic music is that it affords us the opportunity to again be explorers, something many of us don’t often feel once we reach adulthood. Mapping routes from a song to its sample’s original haunt, discovering hidden clips and unearthing excerpts that can be traced back into their own influences and samples. It’s a giddy feeling, the rush of discovery, of understanding and being in on something.

Burt Bacharach

Kanye West

We love knowing the guitar riff in M.I.A.’s “Born Free” is a Suicide sample, or that Kanye used Aphex Twin’s “Avril 14th” in “The Blame Game.” One of my favorites is Blockhead’s reappropriation of “South American Getaway” in “Expiration Date.” A song penned by Burt Bacharach for a montage in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in which Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Katharine Ross cleverly—and beautifully, as well as comically—discover unprecedented ways to rob banks in Bolivia.

Improvised music is the opposite. It pulls things out of the air, rabbits from hats, and no one tells the magician’s secrets. Confused and excluded, we go back to mapping familiar terrain, rejoin the tour group on its cultural journey back through musical history. Stop at famous and obscure points of interest alike. Learn something new about the world with something as simple as  how a line is appropriated.

It’s an endless cartographical activity. Enjoy at your own risk.

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