Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Discovering the cantorial source of a contemporary sample

Everyone who sees a magician perform wants to know how the tricks are done. Half the fun of the shows are the arguments after about whether the truck was counter-balanced & had soft tires or whether the assistant was secretly replaced with a crash-test dummy moments before the 18-wheeler rolled over him*.

The same thing happens with the (over?)use of sound samples in contemporary pop music. There's something magical when it's done right. In the right hands, musical moments decades or even a century old, can sound fresh and alive. In the Jewish music community, for example, Socalled has developed a magicians flair with chopping up turn of the century Yiddish theater recordings into the backbeats for contemporary hip-hop songs. (See my post on Socalled's "You are never alone" for a good example). But then there's the inevitable after song debate..where did those samples come from? And just like a magicians show, when you sneak behind the curtain and find out it's a real high followed by a bit of a let down. Oh..you mean that it? Just truck tires? Just an Aaron Lebedev recording?

Erran Baron CohenAnyway, sorry for the long preamble but I had an unexpected "peeking behind the curtain" moment on Friday morning. I was at work, clickity-clacking on my computer keyboard and random shuffling through music as I often do. I was pretty engrossed in my work and only half paying attention to what I was listening to. All of a sudden I heard that signature swooping cantorial "Echod" from the Erran Baron Cohen's worldbeat group Zohar's track of that name. (See my post on Zohar). Great. I love this track. But it wasn't. It was the same swoop, but followed by more cantorial swoopiness. I was listening to the original recording that got sampled by Cohen.

Pierre PintchickI don't have may cantorial recordings in my collection (a whole in collection), but it turns out that track 4 of "Mysteries of the Sabbath: Classic Cantorial Recordings 1907-47", Pierre Pintchick's "Rozo D’Shabbos" is Cohen's sound source. And I was excited to make the discovery. And then I was sad that a bit of magic had gone out of the Zohar track. And then I realized I was being an idiot about the whole thing and went back to work. (But it was rather fun.)

It's easy to go hear Pintchick's "Echod" in the Zohar track, just go to the Zohar website. They use their "Ehad" track as background music. Hearing the original Pinchick is harder. Both Amazon and a Pintchick bio page have Rozo D'Shabbos, but not the bit that Zohar sampled. I'm not quite handy enough to make my own clip to put up for comparison purposes. Maybe someday I'll try it.

*This was a Penn & Teller stunt. The answer is the truck was counter-balanced. I know this because Penn & Teller like to tell how they did it.

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