03 December, 2009

Amen, Part 1

Recently, the NYC percussionist and all-around-nice-guy Chris Thompson posted a really great video on Twitter. (Maybe on Facebook too, not sure.) It’s all about the “Amen break.” As the narrator Nate Harrison says, the Amen Beak is “a ubiquitous piece of the pop culture soundscape” In other words, even if you think you don't know it, you probably do.

The Amen, as he explains, was originally a drum break from a song called Amen, Brother, by The Winstons. This track was released as a B-side in 1969. The A-side, Color Him, Father won a Grammy. Amen, Brother, on the other hand, was pretty much forgotten. Until… well, you’ll see. Although it’s a little long (especially by YouTube and/or viral video standards), and can sometimes feel a bit like sitting in university lecture, it nonetheless provides an interesting history on the beat, played by the late drummer Gregory C. Coleman.

Almost more importantly, though, it offers an analysis of the legal and ethical issues behind the use of this break as a sample--and sampling in general—including a pretty direct attack on capitalism and its propensity for cultural co-optation. (Teh invisable hand iz steelin ur ideas; makin money off ov ur werk.) Following this, he makes a case for the use of Creative Commons licensing—which if you don’t know about you should totally check out here.

There is a part two to all this, but how 'bout watch the video first. Deal?