About two weeks ago I was listening to a music podcast and it brought up a ubiquitous drum sample called the Amen Break. You’ve heard it, and it’s in everything, but that’s not the point of this post. Some time later I was listening to a track from one of my favorite video games ever, Unreal Tournament, and I noticed that the drums sounded a lot like the Amen Break, so I did some digging. Long story short, the Break was in fact sampled in that track (and about 7 others in the game), but the place where I found this out is a wonderful website if you don’t mind losing few hours exploring its extensive library: whosampled.com
Upon discovery of a website that is basically an audio encyclopedia of clips that are used in other songs, I was shocked and amazed at learning how full of other people’s work some of my favorite tunes were. For example, did you know that DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… is composed of nothing but samples? Actually I did already, but now I know where all of those samples come from and what they sound like on their own! Since the art of sampling is primarily focused on the hip-hop and electronic genres, I kept digging around artists I listen to of that sort. This is where the brain wrinkling started.
Above is one of my absolute favorite songs, Porcelain by Moby. It’s a beautiful electronic piece driven by a hip-hop beat over reversed strings featuring ethereal piano and airy vocals. I always knew that the strings were a sample, but my mind was absolutely blown when I found out where they came from.
This is the source, a piece called Fight For Survival from the score for the 1961 film Exodus by Ernest Gold. The Porcelain sample starts at 0:37. Did you hear it? Try this instead and see if you hear it:
Got it now? My brain still doesn’t and I made that clip myself in Adobe Audition. Most of the other samples I’ve found on WhoSampled are literally straightforward; they’re taken from a record, tempo- or pitch-adjusted, and then mixed into the track. This one though comes from the middle of a seemingly random orchestral piece and it’s reversed. How the hell did Moby find this? What kind of sorcery did he use? I don’t understand, but I think it’s pretty freakin’ awesome that he did.