Once Heard Before

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Eileen Simpson and Ben White (Open Music Archive): Once Heard Before

Whitechapel Gallery
77-82 Whitechapel High St
E1 7QX

27 August 2019 – 5 January 2020

From the dance floor anthem to scratchy recordings of the blues, the history of popular music is a source of rich inspiration for successive generations. For this commission, artists Eileen Simpson and Ben White (both b.1977, UK) collaborated with a group of young musicians and Spotlight Youth Centre in East London to produce a call and response that activates past, present and future sounds. Referencing the history of sample culture the sound work Once Heard Before (2019) features young beat-makers and emcees who mutate hit records from the 1950s and 1960s into new sounds.

Also showing is their film Everything I Have Is Yours (2019), featuring musicians from Greater Manchester, now in their 70s and 80s. Shot in a space between a recording studio and live venue, the camera tracks the assembled musicians as they interact with samples that have been extracted from 1950s and 1960s UK chart hits. The copyright-expired elements of the original records are separated out through an algorithmic process, to enable collective use and sharing.

Working at the intersection of art, music and digital technologies, Eileen Simpson and Ben White explore authorship, ownership and distribution in art. Founders of the Open Music Archive, they source, digitise and distribute out-of-copyright sound recordings to spark collaborative projects and free exchanges.