Episode 026: Drowning Girl
In which we discuss copyright infringement, weekly allowances, and speculative investing
Let’s talk about a couple of seemingly unrelated things this week: sampling and comic books.
First: sampling! You know, when you take a little piece of audio from one place and use it in another. In the early Wild West days of sampling, producers just used whatever they wanted from another song and they decided it was fair use.
It was not.
People started getting sued. Copyright infringement and all that. People wanted their royalties. These days it’s a very different story. If you sample from an existing recording, you have to get the sample cleared (i.e. permission). Very businesslike.
So of course, an entire industry has grown up based on selling royalty-free samples to musicians. You could go broke.
I do use samples, but nothing from existing recordings. I usually make some of my own noise and then sample that. Much cheaper.
Visual artists sample also. Roy Lichtenstein was one of those artists who sampled unapologetically, and maybe his most famous example of that was his Drowning Girl, created in 1963 and acquired by MOMA in 1971.
Man, did I love comic books when I was a kid. Obsessed. Drew my own superhero comics.
I think my high-water mark for allowance when I was a kid was $0.50 a week. I spent 100% of it on comic books.
I remember seeing a Lichtenstein print in the apartment of my very hip aunt around the same time and loving it because it looked like a comic book – right down to the Sunday funnies-style screening patterns.
Lichtenstein was probably my first favorite artist and possibly the reason I love 50s-60s pop-art so much. So when I wanted to write and record about sampling, this was the perfect inspiration.
And it absolutely screamed out for one of my grid-style patterns. Just a few colors. Very geometric. Perfect.
Looking like a very OTT comic book, the beat for this painting needed to be a bit over the top, too. Maybe a lot over the top. Like the spooky voices portending [almost] certain death.
And to bring it back to sampling: the voices are a single sample of a woman singing, detuned, slowed down, and harmonized in different ways. A little tribute to Lichtenstein. Re-use!
I guess this beat sounds a little busy in places, but there really isn't all that much going on. I think the wobbly synth in the background emulating the feeling of the waves crashing all around our heroine…maybe that’s a little messy?
And our heroine…this woman is definitely a fighter. At one point, the music calms down in the middle eight, maybe she is giving up? Resigns herself to her fate?
I am entirely sure she saves herself in the end, which explains the triumphant final major chord.
I will admit I got suckered by the comic book collecting craze of the late 80s/early 90s. I was absolutely, 100% sure I was going to be rich by collecting first editions of every new comic book that came out on the market.
Of course, the thing that they didn't tell you, was they were printing about a billion of each of them. So they went into boxes, then they went into my closet, never to be seen again.
I have to find those boxes. Maybe there's a Detective Comics #27 in there somewhere.
Until next week, thanks for reading Polyester City. If you have any thoughts, please leave a comment by clicking the link above. If you know anyone who likes Music and Art and Stories [and comic books], which is pretty much everyone, please consider sharing by clicking the link below.