Sample Philly (2017)
Digital audio archive, interactive electronic console, speakers, wood, and metal housing structure
Kara Crombie’s Sample Philly was an interactive sculpture honoring Philadelphia’s rich musical history. Doubling as an outdoor boom box and music production studio, participants could produce their own fantasy musical compositions from a vast archive of songs recorded in and about the city. Crombie’s goal was that “participants with all degrees of musical ability and knowledge will be able to create layered songs with sampled audio from Philadelphia's collective musical culture.” As she added,
I have conceptualized this project with the city’s children, the next generation of artists, specifically in mind. Sample Philly serves as a gateway for youth of Philadelphia to become acquainted with the city’s musical history, and its ultimate goal is to provide an outlet for musical creativity at a time when art education has been cut back and the tools of musical expression have become inaccessible to many.
Crombie’s sample bank included snippets from hundreds of notable Philadelphia songs, loops, speeches, and other sonic elements crowdsourced from local musicians, blending the sounds of the past and present. The audio archive referenced a diverse array of artists and public figures, including Frankie Avalon, David Bowie, the Dead Milkmen, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Gamble and Huff, Hall and Oates, Allen Iverson, King Britt, Patti LaBelle, Meek Mill, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, the Roots, Ursula Rucker, Santigold, Schoolly D, Kurt Vile, and more. Crombie initially proposed Sample Philly as a speculative monument during Monument Lab’s discovery phase in 2015, supported by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.
Sample Philly is an interactive and evolving sculpture in Franklin Square that functions as a programmable drum machine and loop station that contains a sound bank of musical samples drawn from Philadelphia’s rich musical history. Participants with all degrees of musical ability and knowledge will be able to create layered songs with sampled audio from Philadelphia's collective musical culture. I have conceptualized this project with the city's children, the next generation of artists, specifically in mind. Sample Philly serves as a gateway for children of Philadelphia to become acquainted with the city’s musical history, and its ultimate goal is to provide an outlet for musical creativity in a time when art education has been cut back in Philadelphia and tools of musical expression are inaccessible to many children in the city. Because the monument is interactive, it can also function as a centerpiece for performance events in the city, as well as educational workshops in music production. Our city's musicians and future artists are also encouraged to contribute to the evolution of the project by submitting samples to the archive so that Sample Philly may be an ongoing documentation of our city's collective musical expression.