It's not just modern music Giles...

Posted by Piers Cawley on Jan 1, 2009

Giles Bowkett's just written up [an example](http://gilesbowkett.blogspot.com/2009/01/classic-song-travels-through-time.html) of the way that [sampling is an essential part of modern music](http://gilesbowkett.blogspot.com/2008/09/copyright-violation-every-artists.html) and he's right. But he doesn't go far enough really. Sampling has always been an essential part of all musics. What's the twelve bar blues form after all? Different artists put their own spin and lyrics on top of it, but it's always the same chord structure and it's often the same words forming the backbone. I don't know about you, but I can't hear the words "I woke up this morning" without expecting a blues to follow.

Meanwhile, in folksong it's long been suggested to collectors, the people who go and record songs from "the folk" that they might try asking if their informant "knows a song about a milk white steed?" I've certainly lost count of the songs containing a verse in which the hero or the villain tells someone to "Saddle me my milk white steed", or someone rides by on a milk white steed. When the heroes of folk song aren't riding white horses, they're leaning their backs against oaks or swearing that something will not happen until apples grow on cherry trees.

Sampling, remixing, borrowing, copying, adapting, influencing - call it what you will, it's at the root of so much art and craft. Now, I could come over all [Cory Doctorow](http://craphound.com/) and bang on about the vital importance of remix culture, but Cory does Cory better than I ever could, so I'll just try and leave you with the idea that this is not new. Michelangelo and many of the great artists of the renaissance started their careers by copying works from classical antiquity after all. My favourite example has to be the story of how Mozart heard Allegri's Miserere sung in the Sistine Chapel when he was fourteen and, that evening, wrote out the parts from memory, apparently returning again the next Friday to make minor corrections. So Mozart, considered one of the most prolifically creative musicians ever, seems to have been one of the most gifted pirates too. Go Wolfie.

So... go. Steal. But make it yours