Maybe you are that somebody
July 15, 2016 9:06 AM   Subscribe

"We live in the Genius age, where every line of text and every bit of information is now annotated, searchable and definable. The digitization of music has served as a mass cataloging project for anyone interested in dissecting a track down to its molecular makeup. Supernumerary sounds on records, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can usually be traced to its source." - Who Was the Baby on Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?”
posted by nadawi (22 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
aaaAAah!
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:21 AM on July 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


Bonus points for the final line wrapping up the essay.
posted by maryr at 9:24 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


More than "the Genius age," it feels like we're on the cusp of losing a lot of first-hand memories of interesting and even historic events, especially when the history is of someone or a group that was not primary or dominant in their field, and this is another example of that. We have archived and digitized copies of so much media from around the world, getting blended into and mixed with other things, but knowledge of the source material is disappearing.

Here we have video of Timbaland talking about making that song, we can find out which sound library he sampled. But sound libraries are on the cusp of importance and general interest, generally falling on the far side of the edge, disappearing into oblivion unless someone with a good memory is still alive and then someone has to ask them about that moment.

If Jeremy D. Larson was serious about his role in archiving information about obscure samples, he should have asked Michael Scott Goldbaum about every sample he could remember, adding to the collective knowledge about these fragments of audio that pop up in the most unusual of places.

It doesn't have to be as obscure as the cooing of a baby, why not document who composed Abdel Halim Hafez's song Khosara (as made famous in Jay Z's Big Pimpin'), find out where it was recorded what else those musicians made? But that obscurity makes the hunt for knowledge all the more interesting.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:27 AM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


after reading this what i really wanted was a glossy long form piece on goldbaum. i hope someone pays for that to happen.
posted by nadawi at 9:31 AM on July 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


In my experience anyone who says "everything can be found online these days" has never actually tried to find something really obscure.

The sample "Flight 22 is off to Honolulu" from the Avalanches Since I Left You is something I've been wondering about lately that doesn't seem to be online at all.
posted by dilaudid at 10:05 AM on July 15, 2016 [21 favorites]


Maybe forgetting some things is OK. We've been doing it for millenia.
posted by thelonius at 10:08 AM on July 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


Maybe forgetting some things is OK. We've been doing it for millenia.

And if we start remembering too much too well, we could have a different sort of problem. See: Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:11 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]



In my experience anyone who says "everything can be found online these days" has never actually tried to find something really obscure.

Celinda Pink: Pack your lies and go.

References exist. And you can buy a CD here or there. But there's no studio track online.
posted by yesster at 10:29 AM on July 15, 2016


This song is the fuckin' jam of the second millennium. What is better? Nothing.
posted by blue t-shirt at 10:30 AM on July 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Question: where does $400,000 for a hit song (in 4 hours!) fall in the spectrum of "big studio spending in the late 1990s"? Is this "generally what we pay a top producer to crank out a hit" to "only because it was a really tight time-frame"?
posted by filthy light thief at 10:36 AM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


FINALLY. I've actually wondered about this the other day and the internet failed me! Thank you so much for this post.
posted by numaner at 10:38 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


A happy outcome of being able to track down field recordings -

So, Matt "I dance goofy around the world" Harding used the song "Sweet Lullby" by Deep Forest to score his first video, and it took off wildly. And he was going to make another one and use the same song. But there was a group of people grumbling about "Sweet Lullaby" because they'd sampled a field recording of a Solomon Islands woman singing for the vocals, and hadn't credited her at all.

Matt heard about that blowback and decided to Set Things Right.

1. First he tracked down the identity of the woman - a Solomon Islands woman named Afunakwa. Meh publicized the name.
2. Then he tracked down Afunakwa's family Tom is it and see if she was still alive. She was not, but she had family in the region.
3. Finally, on his most recent trip he found out the costs to send kids to the local mission school for the duration of their schooling. He considers this "paying royalties".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:43 AM on July 15, 2016 [24 favorites]


Way back in 2009 I made a blog post about Autotuned Crying Babies in music. Now let's find those babies (really, let's not).
posted by hubs at 10:46 AM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


The sound effects were recorded in 1962-1963 [...] If you were a baby in New York during the early 1960s and a man with a microphone came to your house, maybe you are that somebody.

Some possibilities:

Aaron Sorkin
Keith Sweat
Rick Moody
Ann Coulter
Matthew Broderick
Emilio Estevez
Ally Sheedy
Esai Morales
Joan Cusack
Jon Stewart
Michael Jordan
Vanessa Williams
Phoebe Cates
Harold Perrineau
posted by Iridic at 10:57 AM on July 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


"Maybe you are that somebody" is the best ending line possible for this article.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:11 AM on July 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


More than "the Genius age," it feels like we're on the cusp of losing a lot of first-hand memories of interesting and even historic events, especially when the history is of someone or a group that was not primary or dominant in their field, and this is another example of that. We have archived and digitized copies of so much media from around the world, getting blended into and mixed with other things, but knowledge of the source material is disappearing.

We have always been, and probably always will be, on the cusp of losing a lot of first-hand memories of interesting and even historic events. Today, we're close to losing the last soldiers of WWII; 20 years ago it was WWI. 20 years from now we'll have lost the first-hand memories of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. 80 years from now no one will remember 9/11.

It can seem like everything is online now, but really, it's only the tiniest sliver -- mostly, it's the sliver that people are most interested in, but every day seven billion tiny things about each of seven billion lives go completely unrecorded.

The example in the article is interesting because it's a bit of information that has been lost, despite being the kind of information that gets obsessively cataloged: the identity of someone whose voice was used in a hit pop recording. Indeed, the author is an example of that obsessive cataloging!

However... in any song, no matter how popular, there are a million little details that will probably never be cataloged: who made the instruments used in the track, and when? Where did the materials that went into those instruments originate? If electronic effects were used, which ones? Who made them? Did they sample real-world data to make the effect? Where and when was it sampled? Who made the objects that made the sounds that were sampled? What did the performers have for breakfast? How well did they sleep the night before? How did the producer originally learn of or come up with each of the techniques that were used in the song? And on and on...

The distance between that which is easily found via search engine of choice and that which is forever lost to history is very short; you just have to look in the right direction.
posted by reventlov at 11:44 AM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


The US Department of Defense had to fund an long, expensive project to recreate the methods and ingredients for vital part of modern nuclear warheads, codenamed FOGBANK, because the team of engineers and machinists who originally manufactured it had died or forgotten the original process. I feel bad because can't find the original 70s-tastic art for Merita's Sweet Sixteen Donuts anywhere online, and that's only been gone for like five years.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:00 PM on July 15, 2016


In my experience anyone who says "everything can be found online these days" has never actually tried to find something really obscure.

Yeah, this is a myth that I find perplexing. And something I'm fascinated by as I get older. There are many things I remember as part of the culture, not obscure things, that are nearly impossible to find. It's made me realize how much of our idea of history has nothing to do with the truth and only with what's still around, something I knew applied to ancient history, but to see it in things from your own lifetime is eye opening. I've said it before, but to have people on the internet who weren't even born tell you how things were in the 80's, be totally wrong, and yet have it be taken as consensus fact is odd. I need to apologize to my parents.

It is truly amazing the things you can find, but this leads to the idea that if it's not on the internet it didn't happen.
posted by bongo_x at 12:23 PM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


Question: where does $400,000 for a hit song (in 4 hours!) fall in the spectrum of "big studio spending in the late 1990s"?

It was a moment in time. 4 Hours is stupid, inconceivable, and there was a producer bubble going on.
posted by bongo_x at 12:25 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


A hell of a lot of the music I listened to on a daily basis in the 90s (and hardly any of it so obscure you couldn't find it at a Tower Records) is barely remembered by the internet, if at all.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:57 PM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Wait, so they never actually found out who it was? But I need a resolution! You need a resolution! We need a resolution! We have so much confusion!
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:48 PM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Great piece! I wouldn't say I'd forgotten about that song but I sure hadn't thought about it in years. I used to love that song back in the days when I couldn't get access to music of my choosing aside from sneaking around pre-dawn to watch The Box and the MTV and VH1 countdown shows.

I never got that album. Maybe I'll go get that album. Dang, and the Destiny's Child stuff from that period...
posted by Matt Oneiros at 1:58 PM on July 15, 2016


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