You’ve Heard This One Before: When Classical Composers Use Samples

Classical composers have long sampled other works, much like today's DJs. ( Bala Sivakumar)

Classical composers have long sampled other works, much like today’s DJs. (Bala Sivakumar)

The history of art is a rogue’s gallery of sloppy thieves. Though artists often wallow over whether they are being original — the Bard himself moped in the Sonnets about whether he was capable of leaving a mark that was his and his alone — each has perused the work of her predecessors and decided, consciously or not, what to steal. Her fingerprints are everywhere.

In music, the tradition of “sampling,” or using fragments of others’ recorded work, is time-honored. Rap, pop, hip-hop—across genres, musicians and composers have founded their practice on embracing the music of others. Who Sampled, a log of what samples comprise what music, provides the sort of long-term dissection for which your nauseated biology-lab self so longed. Classical music, likewise, thrives on samples (and has yielded what may be our most notorious sample, Pachelbel’s Canon). Take a listen to how composers have paid their respects to their predecessors. Full story.

Jennifer Gersten (WQXR) / March 14, 2017

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