La communauté du sample: de Run DMC à Cold Sweat, Michael Jackson et Nas

Lors d’un dejeuner avec Didier J Mary, fondateur d’un label de Jazz et de Musiques de Monde, il m’a longuement parlé de l’historique de la musique africaine et notamment du fait qu’elle est à la base de toute la musique. Tout comme ses instruments d’ailleurs. Ses rythmiques ont influencé toutes la création musicale.

Et paf, juste après notre déjeuner, je suis tombé sur cet article de Ethan Hein sur la “communauté du sample” (Samples and community). Je n’ai pas traduit la totalité de l’article, et je vous invite à aller faire un tour sur son site pour lire l’article en totalité Les comparatifs, exemples, origines m’ont semblé super interessants à mettre en avant.

Je vous rappelle néanmoins que l’usage du sample n’est pas si facile et autorisé que ça….Dans un de ses articles, Julien Philippe vous expliquait ce qu’il était possible de faire, ou pas, autour du sample (“Reprise, cover, sample, paye ta reprise”)

The defining musical experience of my lifetime is hearing familiar samples in unfamiliar contexts. For me, the experience is usually a thrill. For a lot of people, the experience makes them angry. Using recognizable samples necessarily means having an emotional conversation with everyone who already has an attachment to the original recording. Music is about connecting with other people. Sampling, like its predecessors quoting and referencing, is a powerful connection method.

Run-DMC sample map

Sampling and influence

Whenever you look posts on the Musicians Wanted section of Craigslist by people who are starting bands, they all include a list of influences. They read like wish lists of samples. Whether you end up recreating a sound live or using a sample directly makes little difference in terms of the mental creative process. Every band I’ve ever been in yearned unconsciously for sampling. We’d try for the feeling of Stevie Wonder in Talking Book, or fifties Miles, or Led Zeppelin IV.

Cold Sweat sample map

Shared musical memes are shared DNA

The tribal associations of music operate at a more granular level than entire genres or performers. Any shared musical memes build a network of musical association that can create pathways for emotional connection. Chord progressions, melodic figures, scales, rhythmic figures, lyrical phrases — all the DNA of music draws on a finite pool shared across the world’s musicians, the way that the genomes of humans and mice and fruit flies and daisies all draw on the same basic set of genes. When John Lennon uses the sad descending chromatic bassline in  “Dear Prudence,” he’s signaling an affinity for every piece of music that uses that bassline, and everyone who’s felt the mood that the bassline evokes.

Prudence Never Can Say Goodbye by ethanhein I’m not a big Sarah McLachlan fan, but I do like her song “Ice Cream.” It has a nice 6/8 groove with a lot of syncopation, a groove I associate more with sixties Coltrane than with unthreatening singer-songwriters.

I finally looked “Ice Cream” up on the web and learned that the drummer on the session, Guy Nadon, is a jazz musician who studied with Elvin Jones.

By sneaking a little Coltrane DNA into the unlikely host of a Sarah McLachlan song, Guy Nadon was able to reach across my general hipsterish resistance and move me.

Shared DNA creates family

Michael Jackson had been on my mind quite a bit before he died, and hasn’t been far from my thoughts much since then. I’m especially interested in the “mama se mama sa mama coo sa” chant at the end of “Wanna Be Startin Something.” By quoting Manu Dibango, MJ was throwing a sly wink to all the disco and afro-funk lovers who were hip to “Soul Makossa.”
Whenever someone references or samples the chant, it’s a signal of inclusion to those of us who care about MJ.

Michael Jackson sample map

Referencing doesn’t have to be explicit or conscious for it to work. I loved “Got Your Money” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Kelis on the first hearing without knowing exactly why. Later I wasn’t too surprised to find out that the beat is a slowed-down sample of “Billie Jean.” All music evolves from previous music. Sampling makes the chain of memetic inheritance more explicit than other musical memes.

Sampling is more emotionally evocative than quotation

Sampling is an more powerful tool for emotional connection than quotation, because in addition to the melodic or rhythmic figure that’s being activated in your memory, it’s all the subtle nuances of a recording that you may have heard hundreds or thousands of times. Samples can short-circuit the analytic parts of your memory and tap directly into the deep unconscious.

Jackson 5 sample map

Permission and ownership

The simultaneous beauty and menace of sampling is that you don’t need anyone’s permission: not the performers, not the producers, not the composers or arrangers or copyright holders. Selling your sampled works might be another ball of wax, but if you just want to make mashups, all you need is the audio and a few pieces of inexpensive software.

Eric B & Rakim - "Paid In Full" sample map

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About Virginie Berger

Virginie Berger est la fondatrice de DBTH (, agence spécialisée en stratégie et business développement notamment international pour les industries créatives (musique, TV, ciné, gastronomie), et les startups creative-tech. Elle est aussi l'auteur du livre sur "Musique et stratégies numériques" publié à l'Irma. Sur twitter: @virberg


Merci Virginie, passer des racines de la musique aux samples est un exercice un peu acrobatique… Mais on parle bien de réutilisation dans tous les cas…
J’ai évoqué dans notre discussion le morceau “Burundi Black” de 1971 et comment les percussions du Burundi ont influencé la musique Punk des années 80 :

Pour la petite histoire, si l’on sait que M. Jackson a emprunté à Manu Dibango, je prépare un petit billet sur un “emprunt” beaucoup plus fait part James Brown auprès d’un autre musicien Camerounais…

A suivre…

“they all include a list of influences. They read like wish lists of samples”
Whether you end up recreating a sound live or using a sample directly makes little difference in terms of the mental creative process

J’aime beaucoup les mashups et les collisions d’univers sonores différents, je trouve ça très chouette et ludique (dernier en date, wugazi, mashup de Fugazi et Wu-Tang Clan)


La petite annonce des Pixies pour trouver une bassiste parlait de Hüsker Dü et Peter, Paul, and Mary (!) comme influences.
Comparer les Pixies à un mashup imaginaire de ces deux influences.
Ça donne une idée de ce qui sépare des artistes vraiment créateurs de bricoleurs-bidouilleurs-copieurs-colleurs de génie (que j’aime beaucoup par ailleurs)

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