JOHN OSWALD/PLUNDERPHONICS :: DAB, from the album, Plunderphonics, 1989

DAB is recomposed from BAD, a song by Michael Jackson remixed, re-edited and reproduced by John Oswald in 1988-9, in a film by Martin Scorsese re-directed and re-edited by John Oswald in 2014-16.

In 1990, notice was given to Oswald by the Canadian Recording Industry Association on behalf of several of their clients (notably Michael Jackson, whose song “Bad” had been cut up, layered, and rearranged as “Dab”) that all undistributed copies of Plunderphonics be destroyed under threat of legal action. An excerpt from a press release on the plunderphonics website is repeated below:

“I wasn’t selling the disc in the stores, so I let listeners tape it off the radio for free,” explains Oswald, who paid for the production and manufacture of the CD out of his own pocket. He receives no royalties or financial compensation for airplay. Brian Robertson, president of CRIA says, “What this demonstrates is the vulnerability of the recording industry to new technology…All we see is just another example of theft.”

Oswald received notice from CRIA’s lawyers demanding that he cease distributing Plunderphonic as of Xmas eve ’89. “They insisted I quit playing Santa Claus,” Oswald observes.

John Oswald (born May 30, 1953 in Kitchener, Ontario) is a Canadian composer, saxophonist, media artist and dancer. His best known project is Plunderphonics, the practice of making new music out of previously existing recordings (see sound collage and musical montage).

Oswald coined the term “plunderphonics” to describe his craft in a paper called “Plunderphonics, or Audio Piracy as a Compositional Prerogative” which he presented at the Wired Society Electro-Acoustic Conference in Toronto in 1985. Inspired by William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique, Oswald had been devising plunderphonic-style compositions since the late 1960s. In an interview with Norman Igma following the release of the Plunderphonics EP in 1988, he described the concept as follows:

A plunderphone is a recognizable sonic quote, using the actual sound of something familiar which has already been recorded. Whistling a bar of “Density 21.5” is a traditional musical quote. Taking Madonna singing “Like a Virgin” and rerecording it backwards or slower is plunderphonics, as long as you can reasonably recognize the source. The plundering has to be blatant though. There’s a lot of samplepocketing, parroting, plagiarism and tune thievery going on these days which is not what we’re doing.

In addition to his extensive work in “plunderphonics”, Oswald is also involved with acoustic music, as a composer and improviser. His compositions for orchestra often do include electronic elements, such as Concerto for Wired Conductor and Orchestra (?), but has also composed for acoustic ensembles, such as Acupuncture (1991). Oswald improvises with the saxophone. Oswald is also actively involved in dance, as a composer for dance works, as a collaborator with choreographers, and as an active Contact Improviser.

Oswald founded the record label fony, which produced the retrospective box set 69 plunderphonics 96 (a.k.a. Plunderphonics 69/96) and reissued Grayfolded. The label also rereleased Plexure and released Aparanthesi, a work which uses the single note A in an experiment with timbre, dynamics, and layering, on CD in 2003.

Since 2000 Oswald has as active in exhibiting his visual art as in continuing his musical activities.

In 2004, Oswald was one of six artists to win the annual Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, as awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts, for lifetime achievement. -wikipedia/john_oswald_composer

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