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Copyright, Cultural Stagnation and the Amen Break

Friday, September 21st, 2007

The Amen Break. Even if you don’t know what that is, you’ve likely heard it countless times. This 4-bar drum break from the song “Amen, Brother” on the B side of the Grammy Award winning “Color Him Father” by The Winstons is the groove that has most frequently been sampled for use in Hip-Hop, Jungle, and so-called drum and bass music. It is still in wide use today. This commentary and analysis from Nate Harrison (the video, I’m certain, was added later to make the recording suitable for YouTube and therefore reach a wider audience) details the history of the Amen Break and the many artists who used samples of the break as the basis for new compositions. Harrison also looks into the ramifications of copyright law in relation to creativity and pop culture.

This is pretty informative. Give it a listen. (There’s nothing to see in the video except the vinyl spinning.) I think he’s right about the stifling of creativity under heavy copyright law.