Schloss, Joseph G. (Joseph Glenn Schloss)

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Schloss, Joseph G. (Joseph Glenn Schloss)


Education: Earned Ph.D.


Home—New York, NY. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, ethnomusicologist, and educator. University of Washington, professor of musicology, 2000; Tufts University, lecturer in music, 2004; freelance journalist.


Charles Seeger Prize, Society of Ethnomusicology, 2000.


Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-hop, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 2004.

Contributor to anthologies, including Classic Material. Contributor to periodicals, including the Flavor, URB, and Seattle Weekly.


Joseph G. Schloss is a writer, educator, and ethnomusicologist. He has lectured in music at Tufts University and was formerly a professor of musicology at the University of Washington. Schloss was the recipient of the Charles Seeger Prize from the Society of Ethnomusicology in 2000.

In Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-hop, Schloss explores sampling, a relatively modern phenomenon most often found in rap and hip-hop music. Sampling involves borrowing an existing piece of music, such as a drum beat, guitar riff, snippet of a vocal, or other sound; manipulating or somehow changing or reworking that sound; and including that piece of borrowed sound into a new composition, giving the sampled piece of music a distinct new role in a musical composition. In essence, sampling involves transforming it into an entirely new piece of music. In a book that is a revised and expanded version of his doctoral dissertation, Schloss carefully considers the history and practice of sampling in modern music, applying an academic and ethnographic approach to his assessment. Much of his analysis centers on the artists and musicians who have incorporated sampling into their repertoire of musical techniques. Schloss also considers the audience who buys and supports music that contains samplings of previous recordings, sometimes from radically different musical genres.

The predominance of digital music has made sampling much easier in an electronic and computer-based world where it is as easy to retrieve older music and manipulate it as it is to create entirely new pieces. Much of the book involves both the ethics and aesthetics of sampling. Schloss considers the controversies surrounding sampling and looks at both sides of the debate, from musicians who consider sampling stealing of their creative output to artists who consider sampled tracks and sounds to be raw material that they can then shape into new compositions. Schloss interviews a number of producers who use digital sampling in their music. He finds that far from being a group of unrestrained thieves who snatch away others' music with little thought to creative rights, they are in actuality serious and dedicated musicians who respect and admire the music they borrow and recast. Schloss notes that "various unwritten moral imperatives clearly guide hip-hop producers in their choice and manipulation of recordings," commented Mark Katz in Notes. Producers insist on searching for samples and beats in archaic collections of vinyl records. They will not use live beats, because live music "has no history, no boundaries," noted Katz. They do not sample from other producers and musicians who have already incorporated a sampled beat, since "to poach on another's sonic territory is to admit one's poverty of imagination," Katz observed. Ultimately, "the ethics of sampling are intimately tied to notions of creativity, originality, and hard work," Katz stated.

In total, the book "offers such a compelling explanation of the aesthetics of sample-based hip-hop that it will be difficult for readers to leave the book without a deep appreciation for the inner logic and impressive artistry of the producer's work. This is foremost among many reasons why this book is essential reading, both for those who love hip-hop and for those who have yet to embrace it," Katz concluded. Library Journal reviewer David Valencia called Making Beats "an overdue and welcome addition to musical scholarship."



Choice, January, 2005, D.R. De Lerma, review of Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-hop, p. 862.

Library Journal, June 1, 2004, David Valencia, review of Making Beats, p. 140.

Notes, June, 2005, Mark Katz, review of Making Beats, p. 1028.

Popular Music, January, 2006, Philip Ewell, review of Making Beats, p. 138.