“The Art of Sampling: When Rap Music Meets Classical” by Shane Colquhoun

by Jessica Dilday on January 5, 2015

With this mixtape I explore the heavily debated topic of music sampling. More specifically, I focus on rap songs that sample classical music and have created a tape that illustrates the creativity and power of sampling. The art of sampling is a technique of looping a segment of a song or sound and reusing it as part of a new composition or recording. Sampling is a hot topic of debate by musicians and scholars alike. Two arguments that are often brought up in debate over sampling practices are that sampling lacks creativity and that sampling, from a legal point of view, is actually considered stealing when monetizing off of it in a new creation.

Any musician who has ever taken the time to compose a piece of music strives to create a masterpiece that will stand the test of time. A person’s legacy can be defined by longevity, but greatness is not always measured by nuances and technicalities. Hundreds of years after their existence, works from the likes of Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart are not only recognized but in some circles very relevant. However, the one thing in life that is constant is change and the music of today is vastly different in nature, content, and audience.

Sampling has become common in not only rap music, but also in many different genres of pop music. The scrutiny of sampling occurs when producers cut parts of existing songs and utilize them in a different context from which they were originally conceptualized. Music producers and tastemakers spend hours sorting through old vinyl (and now in the digital age surfing, Youtube) for that perfect sample. However, that time spent fishing for samples can bring about lawsuits without gaining the proper clearance to incorporate the sample.

There are clear advantages to sampling classical music. According to whosampled.com[1. Bourne, J. (2014, August 13). Top 10 Most Sampled Classical Composers. Retrieved from http://blog.whosampled.com/2014/08/13/top-10-most-sampled-classical-composers/.], Beethoven pieces have been sampled one hundred and thirteen times. Legally, works from the likes of Berlioz, Pachelbel, Dvořák or any other pieces written before 1929 are considered to be public domain, meaning they are not subject to copyright. Music that is not public domain can be sampled and released commercially by obtaining sample clearance from the record labels and publishing companies that own the copyright.

This mixtape contains music that dates back to as early as 1723 and alludes to the endless possibilities and creativity of music sampling. In the words of Marc Ronson[2. Heille, C. (2014, November 2). Thoughts on Mark Ronson’s TED Talk “How Sampling Transformed Music.” Retrieved from http://jamstik.com/blogs/jamstik/16041516-thoughts-on-mark-ronsons-ted-talk-how-sampling-transformed-music.], “Sampling isn’t about hijacking nostalgia wholesale; it’s about inserting yourself into the narrative of a song while also pushing that story forward.” With this mixtape I pay homage to some of the world’s greatest composers while also showing respect to the producers and artists who have creatively revitalized classical music from as early as the Baroque musical period (1600-1750).

Shane Colquhoun is an educator, producer, arranger, and currently serves as the Director of Bands at Loachapoka High School. He received his MMEd from Auburn University, and his research interest includes Culturally Relevant Music Ensembles, Urban/Suburban Music Education, and Popular Music Pedagogy. He can be reach at colquhoun.shane@gmail.com.


1. Songe D’une Nuit De Sabbat (Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath) by Hector Berlioz (1830)
Sampled in “Second Coming” By Juelez Santana (2006)

2. O Fortuna by Carl Orff (1937)
Sampled in “Hate Me Now” by Nas ft. Puff Daddy (1999)

3. “Confutatis” From Requiem Mass, K.626 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1791)
Sampled in “Say it to my Face” by Young Buck ft. Bun B and 8Ball & MJG (2007)

4. Prelude (Psycho Theme) by Bernard Herman (1960)
Sampled in “Gimmie Some Mo” by Busta Rhymes (1998)

5. Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”, 1st Movement (Adagio, Allegro Molto) by Antonín Dvořák (1893)
Sampled in “Same Old Thing” By The Streets (2002)

6. Für Elise by Ludwig Van Beethoven (1810)
Sampled in “I can” by Nas (2002)

7. Symphony No. 9, “From the New World”, 4th Movement (Allegro Con Fuoco) Antonín Dvořák (1893)
Sampled In “New World Symphony” by Pharoahe Monch (2005)

8. Symphony No. 40 (Third Movement) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1788)
Sampled in “K.I.M” by EPMD ft. Keith Murray and Redman (1997)

9. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major – Allegro by Johann Sebastian Bach (1721)
Sampled in “Symphony in X major” by Xzibit ft. Dr. Dre (2002)

10. Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 8, RV 315, “L’estate” (Summer) by Antonio Vivaldi (1723)
Symphony No.36 Linz by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1783)
Overture Egmont Op.84 by Ludwig Van Beethoven (1787)
Sampled in “Regeneration” by DJ Premier and the Berklee Symphony Orchestra ft. Nas (2011)

11. Pavane in F-sharp Minor by Gabriel Fauré (1887)
Sampled in “Paparazzi” by Xzibit (1996)

12. Cannon In D Major by Johann Pachelbel (1680)
Sampled in “C U When U Get There” by Coolio (1997)


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