Girl Talk – Sampling as a form of music convergence

Girl Talk

Stephanie and Jesse pose in the parking lot while we wait for Girl Talk.

I can dance a July night cold when Girl Talk is “spinning” in the amphitheater.

The man on stage, Pittsburgh native Gregg Gillis, is using simple technology to take hundreds of samples from good music and mash it together into something that has such energy the crowd can’t stop moving.

“Copy that. Paste that,” Gillis said an interview for the documentary “Good Copy/Bad Copy.”

Girl Talk and the dozens of other sampling artists are making money by taking a song produced in a sound studio and making a new sound in their homes.

“It comes back to some guy from Pittsburgh with a laptop,” Gillis said in an interview.  (As a bonus,you see him eating a Primanti’s sandwich in the video.)

Is he an artist? A composer? A producer? A consumer? Girl Talk is an example of convergence between the producer and user in the music industry.

Illegal Art apparently thinks this is a profitable form of convergence. Girl Talk signed to its label and has produced four albums of his works.

Girl Talk is also a consumer who is listening to the music and the crowd to create his art.

Rebekah Farrugia of Oakland University calls Girl Talk and similar artists “bedroom musicians” and “laptop artists.” She talks about the pervasive use of technology in shaping the future of music and converging the consumer with the producer.  This echoes nearly Deuze’s definition of convergence: “cultural phenomenon of blurring the boundaries between ‘producers’ and ‘users’ of content.”

With the instantaneous ability to join sound, music becomes a reflection of the mood and the moment.

“Sampling, if it leads you to one thing, it’s thinking of culture as collage,”said Paul Miller, aka DJ Spooky, in a speech  about his book “Sound Unbound” at Google headquarters.

The technologies Gillis uses are also available to the masses who often also create their own mashups and post them to forums like YouTube.

“Computers, mobile phones and other interactive technologies are changing our relationship with media, blurring the line between producer and consumer, and radically changing what it means to be creative,” PBS said in its release  for its January documentary“Copyright Criminals.” While this documentary mostly focuses on the legal conflict surrounding sampling, it also examines the layman composer as an example of convergence. The final entry in the Copyright Criminals timeline  is a video of Gillis taking the “bedroom musician” to its literal form as he copy and pastes his way through a song from Elvis Costello’s Radio.

  1. #1 by tinamomo on September 13, 2010 - 9:32 pm

    I listened to one of the songs produced by Girl Talk. It’s pretty good. Speaking of convergence culture, one would easily relate to mass media production, such as newspapers, televisions or the Internet. I think your got a very unique case since the media production is produced by an individual. Just as people turn into actors or actresses when they uploaded videos on YouTube, they become musicians though recreating the music. Similarly, Back Dorm Boys- “a Chinese duo who gained fame for their lip sync videos to songs by the Backstreet Boys and other pop stars” have made in the news for their talented performance. Still, copyright issues should not be neglected.

  2. #3 by aflaten on September 16, 2010 - 6:34 pm

    I never really considered mash-ups and samplings as a form of media convergence, but it certainly fits. A while back, a friend of mine introduced me to DJ Earworm’s “United States of Pop” mashup series on Youtube, which in turn introduced me to some songs I wouldn’t have otherwise been aware of as I looked at what he was sampling from. In those terms, there seems to be at least a limited benefit of recognition from this mashup convergence culture (provided the person doing the mashup lists the origin of all their samples). It’ll be interesting to see if there will be more success stories like Girl Talk in the future, and what the implications of that will mean.

    • #4 by alonewithadream on September 17, 2010 - 5:37 pm

      I watched the video. Pretty good. DJ Earworm takes it further than GirlTalk by mashing videos, too. Because of the way some of the videos were spliced, I thought it took on a humorous tone. Do you think the artist intends it to be parody more than something you rock out to?

  3. #5 by Wendy Brunner on September 17, 2010 - 4:34 am

    I would not have thought of mashups as convergence, either, but the more I think about it, the more I’m intrigued! Sampling and remixing has, of course, been around for decades, but there is absolutely no doubt that it is easier, cheaper and more accessible now thanks to digital technology. I would even go so far as to say that digital technology is allowing music to “converge” with other forms of media as entirely new and different pieces of art, too–there is one artist (whose name escapes me at the moment, argh!) who sets audio clips of people speaking from film, news clips, etc. and edits it with music. I’m not sure I’d consider it all music, but it’s definitely an auditory experience that elicits emotion… and a great example of convergence!

  4. #6 by Mindy McAdams on September 25, 2010 - 4:18 pm

    Ah, I never realized Girl Talk was native to Pittsburgh …

    I get the connection between Girl Talk and consumer/producer. That’s obvious. However, I think you missed a chance to discuss the relationship between Gillis and the room (the audience). Even though he has made albums, he;s very much a live performer, from what I understand. So how does the crowd feed into and influence what he plays?

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