Reason number 3,174 why I love Germany: it’s the one nation that has both arcane governmental procedures and the avant-garde musicians to turn them into protest art — with the chops in Pure Data (Max’s open source cousin) to squeeze 70,000+ samples into a tiny space.

Song registration requires citing each sample? No problem — unless you’re an overzealous Pd user. Meet Johannes Kreidler and his work “Product Placement”

product placements (2008)

music piece / performance (“music theater”)

70,200 samples in 33 seconds: nightmare for GERMAN RIAA

If you want to register a song at GEMA (RIAA, ASCAP of Germany) you have to fill in a form for each sample you use, even the tiniest bit. On 12 Sept 08, German Avantgarde musician Johannes Kreidler will —as a live performance event—register a short musical work that contains 70,200 quotations with GEMA using 70,200 forms.

Here he is, causing hilarity with a phone operator for GEMA:

And here’s the actual piece, which sounds as awful (in a good, glitchy way) as you’d expect listening to 70,000 records at once might sound.

I’m not entirely sure what this proves, but now you can say you heard it.

And if this doesn’t mean sampling has jumped the shark, nothing does.

Product Placements Piece Page: English | German

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve

    The piece itself reminds to some degree of John Oswald's Plexure, although I'm not sure how many sampled sources he used for it.

    The bureaucratic comedy of this makes it all worthwhile.

  • http://rpi.edu/~mcdonk/ Kyle McDonald

    So good… the combination of "bureaucratic comedy" and "sound art" is balanced well. I'm working on a similar piece right now that deals with sampling on a massive scale, but it's much longer and deals with a few other questions as well.

  • http://www.myspace.com/withthatknife Wes

    Sounds like something Mark Thomas would do if he were musically minded…….good on him i say!

  • cubestar

    Umm sampling has not jumped the shark….

    That's like saying that recording (of any kind) has jumped the shark.

    Silly Mr Kirn!

  • neal johnson

    If that was 70,200 individual tracks sampled, then it sure didn't sound like it. A few bleeps, and wobbles, and a bit of recognizable sounds like a single piano cord? More like 17 samples and some processing. I don't believe it. Nor do I think anyone's copyright has been threatened. Dumb concept art if you ask me…

  • BirdFLU

    You have to listen to it more than once to hear more than 17 samples. After three listens, I can definitely hear at least 56,400 samples.

  • Chris Thorpe

    The legal specialist says that usage must be licensed even if the fragment is too small to be identified. That's like saying that, if I print out some Corbis images and recycle them into a new sheet of paper, then I need a license to exhibit that sheet of paper. It would be interesting to challenge GEMA to prove unlicensed usage – let's see them attribute single waveform cycles to the original artists! The laughable thing is that some of those most assiduously asserting copyright are also some of the most derivative and unoriginal hacks. If justice prevailed, it would be them being sued, and artists like Bo Diddley would have died billionaires.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I am silly; no argument. I was just joking. Jumping over a shark, btw: very cool!

  • John snake

    I agree with Neal Johnson! really pointless art..

    doesn't sound anything close to even a hundred of samples.. a sad sad disappointment that I see in this 'German Artist' (he is a disgrace in reputation for innovation), instead of bashing the system make a innovative spin. In other words, CREATE YOUR OWN TURF!

    to BirdFLU, I think you are on the same shoes like Johannes Kriedler, trying to get desperate attention just to sound good/cool on screen. (instead of paper for that matter)

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve

    What's wrong with art intent on bashing the system?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Chris

    Actually, US law is more draconian. While it's clearly not enforceable, current US precedent (established in federal district court) is that any unauthorized sampling is legal regardless of even whether it's recognizable or substantial in content. (Generally, most laws don't work that way in any field, let alone IP; that is, some indication of how substantial the violation is is part of the equation.)

    Didn't really expect the negative reaction. It is what it is. I guess what I'd say is, the advantage of a tool like Pd is you can take whatever concept happens to be in your head and realize it. Then it's up to other people to fall in love with what you're doing, or say it's dumb — that being their prerogative.

  • http://evolvingmusic.wordpress.com Gavroche

    Wow. That sounded so awful. I wonder how long that took him.

  • http://mrbiggs.com Brian

    I've listened to it twice and there just aren't 70,200 samples there. I can pick out 20 or so, and even if many of them are made up of several samples at once, I'd round it up to 100.

    Nice idea, and good issue to bring up. But the execution stinks. He tried to make something "listenable" out of it which is unfortunate. I'd love to have someone make something in Max or PD that can take a .25 second sample of, say, every audio file on my computer (including mp3 collection and sample libraries) and run it all together. I think that would make the point more clearly. Even better if the program can extract the metadata from each sample and register the whole thing with the © office, you know, automatically…

  • mik

    silly. youthful arrogance due to a lack of historical knowledge. if it still were the 8ties, then maybe…

    there's still something like common sense.

    all music made with computers consists of nothing but samples. most digital synthesis methods are based on samples.

    and riaa and ascap are totally different things.

  • http://www.google.de shilpashetti

    Prententious crap.

    This guy is a composer??

    He likes to hear himself talk.

  • Daedelus

    This is one of those important moments to remember powerful art can be ugly artless affairs, much like Duchamp's Urinal. So perhaps the song isn't one for the ages, but the spirit of the performance art is appreciated.

    Also the American legal systems strange laws regarding sampling is bizarre. For instance when there is no body / no evidence of a crime committed you'd imagine it would be impossible to charge murder on someone, whereas hearsay can mark someone guilty of sampling (that is even if the sound is unrecognizable). But that is a whole long other.

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve

    I'm having trouble processing what most of you guys are on about here. The music seems hardly the point of this exercise, the whole point would seem to be social mischief to draw attention to flaws in sample clearance bureaucracy and intellectual property laws.

  • casey

    "…the progress of new, never-before-heard musical material in avant garde music has reached its end…"

    what?

    steve, i very much agree with you: this seems much more about the bureaucracy issues than it does about anything musical.

  • tobamai

    Steve, I think the point most of us are getting at is that the track he put together doesn't sound like he used anywhere near the number of samples he claims.

    The point that forcing artists to license samples regardless of whether they're recognizable or not is silly would perhaps be better made if he had only cited one well known sample (without any other audio sources) and the resultant track was similarly unrecognizable. This point would only be made stronger the less it sounded like the original source and the better it was as its own track.

    Instead he seems to suggest that there's an awful lot of red tape to go through for each sample and that a song could potentially use many many more than this red tape would allow (which is kind of the point of current policy — don't sample because it's a legal mess).

    The bit about submitting 70,000+ forms for the samples used is social mischief, but more along the lines of being a dick than any sort of intellectual protest. The only way it is effective is to get media attention.

  • http://www.sighup.ca Steve

    I'm not sure it's just him being a dick. Overwhelming a system by playing by its rules seems enough of a time honoured tradition to have served as a plot device in several sitcoms (I'm sure at least two episodes of Happy Days, What's Happening and the Facts of Life). I think that's what he's doing here, attacking a system with its own absurdity. In this case the bureaucracy only exists because of the copyright requirements, so attacking one could be viewed as attacking the other.

    I got the impression in the phone call that the software setup he was using was scraping a directory of 70,200 audio files. So while the piece itself may not contain that many samples, its contents could have come from any number of those 70,200 files, forcing him to clear all those files just in case. Although, it's possible he could have. Taking a single sample from all those files and combining them into a 44.1kHz wave file would be under two seconds long and just sound like static.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I'm assuming the live performance version in fact iterates through more of the samples.

    And yes, I actually think the point is clear. What I'm unclear is what message we're supposed to come away with, other than this can all get very silly. What I see as the irony here is that the process he's being part of is *registering ownership*. If you don't believe in the system, why are you bothering to do that?

    But anyway, it does make good shtick.

  • Evil Paul

    Just because you can't hear the samples, doesn't mean they aren't there. The piece doesn't make any claim to be composed of 70,200 seqential samples.

    Like Steve mentioned before me, the piece could have been under 2 seconds long, but it wasn't – there have been aesthetic choices made about how to arrange the samples.

    To take it to the most absurd conclusion, you could use single samples from 88,200 songs from the zero crossing point, giving you 2 seconds of copyright-violating silence. Just don't tell the John Cage estate ;-)

  • bliss

    Ha ha ha!!! How clever and silly. I think the point has been well made.

    Thou art nothing without controversy.

    Enough said.

  • Russell Collins

    The performance is not the music. The performance is filling out 70,200 forms, live. He never said the art was in the music, only that the music was catalyst to his bureaucratic exercise.

    Art is only dead if you stopped feeding it.

  • http://alonetone.com sudara

    Thanks for this, Peter, this is my kind of post!

  • http://www.roaldblijleven.net rhowaldt

    this is great stuff. just the point that somebody makes the effort of doing this is enough. forget about the people making comments about how they do not believe that it actually – blablabla. you can debate all you want, if you really want to know go email the guy and ask him to prove he used all samples by showing you his Processing-code or something. if you don't do that, you won't know. don't tell me you are so arrogant about your ears you believe them to be able to distinguish every crackle and bleep and whatever from the other.

    you can look at this any number of ways. i like the song. i like the statement. i like the art. all of these are subjective. enjoy it or shut it, bashing people for their efforts never done anybody any good.

  • gbsr

    spot on. is this doesnt prove the system wrong, what does?

    i pity the guy for filling out all those forms though, ouch.

  • ashton

    I think Lars Ulrich will be going after this guy for copyright infringement. If you list in the middle of second 16 you can clearly hear Master of Puppets. This guy's in trouble.

  • Niall

    This was brilliant, until I heard the actual piece. What a disappointment. It's pretty clear he just got lazy and faked it, and that doesn't help the cause at all. Lazy faker, like most artists.

  • amassivetree

    I think everyone who is jumping on him because they can't hear all 70,200 samples is missing the point. The point is that you have to register every sample, no matter how tiny, and It is certainly possible to have thousands of tiny samples tucked in there – maybe a few byes of each song, or all layered together in the background, etc.

    But its pointless to argue about it: if it bothers you, why not ask him to cough up the source code?

  • nonsense
  • John snake

    first off, the 'fake it till you make it' does not cut it. If you show to the world your 'actual piece' then show the read deal of it. people like him are F-ing off the system.

  • http://i--x.net vvvoid

    @Peter – re: negative comments, yes, there is much (jealous, jaded, i could've done it better) spite around. So much for supporting ones fellow artist. Tall poppies, anyone?

    The music in this case is irrelevant.

    Methinks some comment posters need a booster in conceptualism.

  • ridiculoustastic

    What did you expect if you used copyrighted material and want to sell your song?

    This annoying debate has been going for way too long, and BOTH sides have reached the limits of ridicule.

    In most countries you can sample what you want and publish your song as long as you're not commercializing it. But if you're using copyrighted material and want to sell it, stop using the pathetic excuse of "freedom of art" to sample copyrighted material, because this is just as hypocritical as Timbaland sampling some chiptune artists and then saying "hey, it's just a video game song so I used it".

    Btw, it's pretty funny to see that people whinning on majors signed artists who sampled illegally some indies, are often the same people who want the destruction of copyright.

    @vvvoid yeah there may be jealousy, or, it is a possibility, some people that think that if this guy had spent more time doing synthesis and all may have come with a great 100% original tune, where he wouldn't have sampled a single bit of a tune. There is the possibility that some people don't need a "30 second conceptualist track with 70200 samples" to grab the ridiculous of the actual German registration system, who don't find it "subversive" or anything like this, and are not criticizing the "music" but the whole concept in itself as it appears flawed.

    In fact something subversive and ground breaking today would be people using only self made sounds and stop using material produced by an industry that they are constantly spiting on.

  • Downpressor

    Evil Paul wins

  • gbsr

    stop using the pathetic excuse freedom of art.

    everyone knows that andy warhol broke copyright.

    hah.

  • bliss

    @gbsr

    No doubt. Warhol did. Copyright dealing specifically with sampling didn't become a big deal until many hip hop artists started making millions of dollars from creating a sample-based genre of music that generated billions. Corporations are no longer benevolent as Campbell Soup Company once was. Public figures aren't either.

    When Warhol sampled it was referred to as appropriation. When rapper Biz Markie sampled it was referred to as criminal, felonious, and theft.

  • http://chollyhoss.com/doot/ pete

    i think that the haters are kinda missing the point that the form is required even if the sample is not identifiable, or audible. So if you sample a 1/44.1k sec chunk of my music, your are on the hook for royalties. So complaining that you can't identify each song is clearly missing the point.

  • ashton

    All this always comes down to a "free music" debate. For a while I thought that the labels were reacting to harshly on people, but I just finished college in Nashville at one of the biggest audio engineering schools in the nation and everyone shares (steals) music, software, and more importantly, recording software. These things on a whole really hurt everyone in the music biz. So if we let some idiot that make a 70200sample song get away with it just because of the ridiculousness of it then it sets a precedent for the following cases of less degree. I don't know about world, but US copyright law is fair and more i think about it stealing is stealing.

    disclaimer- Think that this guy song is ok because almost all the sample are pretty well hidden. I don't know about german but US copyright law covers that.

  • vack

    "In fact something subversive and ground breaking today would be people using only self made sounds and stop using material produced by an industry that they are constantly spiting on."

    That's one reason why I admire Matthew Herbert quite a lot.

    He has a nice Dogma to accompany his process (http://www.matthewherbert.com/pccom.php), he has done a lot of very cool things on a conceptual level (the obvious example being http://www.themechanicsofdestruction.com/ – seems he didn't have that set of rules for that one though) and about everything he makes manages to sound insanely good and musical to my taste.

  • Jengel

    Yes its a statement, but I'm surprised how musical he made it in the end, featuring some samples more than others. I actually like it :) .

  • http://aerotone.300l600.de/index.php?id=1,120,0,0,1,0 aerotone

    +1 for pete.

    I like it for this what it wants to be.

  • http://www.wald-entertainment.com/ richard

    of course the music is relevant in this conceptual piece too – and it's pretty weak. it would be possible to craft a really interesting piece with this huge amount of samples.

    the concept is not striking enough to get away with his bleak audible outcome.

  • http://deleted gwenhwyfaer

    Wow, it seems the artistic endeavour here is far more intelligent than any of the comments passed upon it.

    (Including this one.)

  • neal johnson

    if you want to grab n seconds from all your audio files, try Argeïphontes Lyre from Akira Rabelais. Once you figure out its obscure user interface it can do just that. Google it…

  • OnlyCodes

    I'm laughing right now, I don't why but I just wasted about 10 minutes reading all the comments since the subject is controversial enough. I didn't take anything worthy of remembering from most of them. The concept is clever and the guy is following through with it, who really cares if it turned out to be 2 seconds of static or an extravagant hour long piece totally dedicated to the music. Seems as if people see a number like 70,000 and expect to hear the musical content to match, clearly most of his focus was on the concept and I wouldn't be surprised if he decided to use a heavily processed piece of classical piano or any other sound and claimed it to be the same thing. Either way he's making his own statement and no one can criticize that. If your pissed because it doesn't "sound" like 70,00 samples then go out and spend the time to make your own piece that sounds like there are… I'll tell you one thing, I'm too lazy.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/tadoma spcrk joe

    i love this concept! sending johannes 72,000 forms would easily cost GEMA $20,000 in stationary and postage, not to mention administration.

    it's not really necessary that he actually make a song with 72,000 samples for this action to be powerful, however i feel it would really great to hear that someone is passionate enough to take that kind of time to make a point (even if it's hardly listenable).

  • http://syncretism.net Niall, no, the Other

    O, man, someone swiped my namespace.

    As mentioned in the first comment, John Oswald/Plunderphonic pulled off a similar stunt with "Plexure" in 1991, sampling over a thousand "pop stars". It's actually kinda listenable, while driving the point home.

    Not that this is a denigration of Kreidler's efforts, I'm just adding a little historical flavor. I laughed when he said he wanted to register the track with GEMA. The whole project begs for a little mischief.

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  • Dirty Merlin

    I wonder if that was "the real" Daedelus that posted that Duchamp comment…

    if so thanks for the tunes!

  • david

    Zzzz

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  • James Nguyen

    very cool, but to use them in a harmonious way is more of a challenge, and more impressive, anyone can flip through the radio. I Supposedly, The Bins of the US have the record of most samples used per song. Although I’m sure the Avalanches are a close second.