In the winter of 2004, Nate Harrison recorded this extraordinary exploration of what he calls a “ubiquitous piece of the pop culture soundscape.” That 6-second sonic blast is called the Amen Break–and it’ll be familiar to anyone who listens to music or even watches television commercials. The Amen Break was originated in 1969 on a song called “Amen Brother” by The Winstons, for whom Gregory Sylvester Coleman played the drums.
This is the Internet at its best, where an artist like Harrison gives a quick class on everything from sampling’s history–how it works with dubplates–and the dendrite-like influence of the Amen Break on everything from N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton to Ragga Jungle. Harrison says an entire subculture is based on this loop. And yet the Winstons–who are still around–have never sued in any of the thousands of cases of derivative permutations and uses of the Amen Break. The copyright issue itself, as Harrison explores it, is fascinating. He even quotes freedom of information advocate and law professor Lawrence Lessig and cites various copyright laws. Listen up, if only for the beat itself.