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Before Kayne and after Bach: L.A. pioneer sampler Carl Stone

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Carl Stone, the Los Angeles composer, was a pioneer sampler in the 1970s, crafting passages from classical music, jazz and rock into musical works that enchant like Alexander Calder sculptures. Although he was sampling before Kanye West was born, Stone said he was hardly the first to blend the beats and melodies of others into his own.

‘I’m definitely not the first,’ he said with a short laugh. ‘Bach was a sampler. And when Brahms did his variations on a theme by Handel, he was sampling. When Alban Berg appropriated Bach, he was sampling. And even in the electronic domain, there were people who were using sampling as a technique in the 1950s, composers like James Tenney, who was one of my teachers at CalArts.’

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In the 1970s, Stone added, sampling was manual labor, compared with today, when musicians slide files around on a computer. ‘In my day,’ Stone said, ‘we used the technology of the time: recordings, microphone-collected recordings, appropriated music. We used tape recorders and did tape splices, loops and made mixed collages.’

Working inside L.A.’s fantastic world of experimental music in the 1980s, Stone said, he heard little of what was playing in the world outside. He said when he finally did poke his head out the window and catch the sounds of Grandmaster Flash on the airwaves, he was impressed and thought, ‘Wow, I’m not alone in this.’

And has he heard any pop music that he admires today? ‘There’s a J-pop group called Perfume, where the line between what they actually perform live and what is done through resampling of their vocals, is really interesting,’ Stone said. ‘I love the ambiguity between their live vocals and the processed sampling that’s used in their mixes and shows up in their live performances.’ Stone performs Saturday at the Getty Center as part of ‘Pacific Standard Time.’

Read the full interview with Carl Stone.

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