February 15, 2007
Rip, Mix, and Burn? It's not new. Contrafact is what they called sampling before there was sampling. You take the chords from a song that the whole band knows, and play your new song on top of it. Familiar but new, and you don't have to pay royalties. While the haters say "that's not music!", you're busy making the theme song to The Flintstones, or maybe Fear of a Black Planet.
The most legendary contrafact-ual chords? The Rhythm changes, based on Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm". You could list more than a hundred songs based off the jazz standard ten years ago; There are undoubtedly dozens more today. Interestingly, none of the contrafacts of this classic are better-known than the original, but the fact that so many brilliant derivations have been created has helped burnish Gershwin's reputation as a genius.
It's almost as if letting people use the base of your work as the seed for their own creativity only acts to help both parties.