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10.7.05 Record v. recombinant  

In the July issue of Wired, sci-fi author William Gibson traces sampling back to Burroughs, who was "interrogating the universe with scissors and a paste pot, and the least imitative of authors was no plagiarist at all." This collage esthetic--which worked wonders for Picasso, Duchamp, & Godard--found sonic manifestation in 1970s Jamaica, with King Tubby/Lee "Scratch" Perry's analog deconstructions, or "versions." (I'm reminded of American poetry's tradition of free translation, pioneered by Pound, burnished in Lowell's Imitations.) From them DJs in New York & London cribbed their production approaches. It's a fin de siecle, music-historical agon: "the recombinant," associated by Gibson with the bootleg & the remix & the mash-up, will finally supplant the static physicality of "the record." In Gibson's democratic vision of music, viz. the favor given to process over product, I see us sliding away from rockism. What, after all, embodies the static physicality of the record better than rock? That is, what is less amenable to street-corner bootlegging, DIY remixes & polygeneric mash-ups than rock?

Ab ovo