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15 Of The Most Unconventional Song Samples In Music History

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1. Richard D. James mixed his own face into a techno song.

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Via twistedsifter.com

The Aphex Twin mastermind mixed his own iconically creepy visage into the waveforms of "ΔMi−1 = −αΣn=1NDi[n][Σj∈C[i]Fji[n − 1] +Fexti[n−1]]" — perhaps better known as [Equation] — off his landmark 1999 LP.

2. The Space Project turned our solar system into an hour-long album.

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Via lefserecords.com

14 indie artists integrated high-end NASA recordings into this incredible experimental work, turning tapes taken from space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 to transform our solar system into a suite of mesmerizing tracks.

3. Michael Giacchino used plane wreckage as percussion on the Lost soundtrack.

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Via soundtrackgeek.com

The eerie, looming soundscapes of everyone's favorite "Wait, what?!" sci-fi drama is punctuated with some pretty unconventional percussion: wreckage from Oceanic Airlines Flight 815 itself, played in a variety of surprising ways.

4. Mistabishi made a printer jam into a printer jam.

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whosampled.com / Via freesound.org

Pun obviously very intended. British producer James Pullen has made waves for his odd sampling sources in the past, but this madcap melody made from a misbehaving printer is one of his all-time greats.

5. Johnnyrandom mixed his fixie into a mesmerizing single.

Via nytimes.com

Making an original work of art by pedaling, strumming, tapping, and thwacking your bicycle is impressive enough, but what makes artist Johnnyrandom's single (aptly titled "Bespoken") doubly dazzling is that it was all done au naturale. That means no synthesizing or auto-tuning, just a great deal of clever sampling and mixing board manipulations.

6. An algorithm turned the emotional arcs in novels into experimental tunes.

Via medium.com

The brainchild of two data gurus, TransProse is a slick algorithm that measures the "emotional temperature" of classic novels — mapping the emotional context of each novel's words to tempo, pitch, and key — to turn timeless prose into surprisingly listenable tunes.

7. Hexstatic turned an auto factory into a techno jam.

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Electronic music duo Hexstatic has been a dance floor staple since their 1997 debut, but it's hard to top this track from their 2000 LP, which samples every audible aspect of an auto factory — door slams, crash test dummies, sparks, and whirrs galore — to create a cacophonous breakbeat rhythm.

8. Diego Stocco made music with a tree.

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Sound designer Diego Stocco has a storied history mixing tracks for television and feature films, but his more experimental work — like the above track, in which he turned various noises taken from a tree in his garden into a captivating soundscape — is a true feat in surprising sampling prowess. His small-scale followup — "Music from a Bonsai Tree" — is just as impressive.

9. Matmos made an entire album by sampling surgery.

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Via pitchfork.com

Who knew LASIK was so darn danceable? Every track on Matmos' high-concept (and highly regarded) A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure samples the sounds made during medical procedures, including liposuction, plastic surgery, hearing tests, bone saws, and more.

10. Jay Z mixed his newborn daughter's heartbeat into a rap beat.

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Via knockoutfacts.blogspot.com

While Hov's no stranger to strange sample choices (his headline-making flow over Annie's "Hard Knock Life" remains a classic hip-hop track) this 2012 song took it to a more personal level, integrating his newborn daughter's heartbeat and cries into the song's soundscape.

11. Orbital made a beeping crosswalk into an electronic masterpiece.

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Via loopzofficialorbitalwebsite.yuku.com

If the name didn't quite give it away, English dance duo Orbital's "Walk Now" puts a radio-ready spin on an Australian crosswalk beep, which drops in (and spazzes out) just after the song's two-minute mark.

12. Two conceptual artists sampled poll data to create drastically different tunes.

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Via newmusicbox.org

What happens when two conceptual artists use piles and piles of poll data aggregating what people do and don't want to hear in a pop song? You get "The Most Wanted Song," a by-the-books, sugar-sweet love tune, and "The Most Unwanted Song," which is, er, something else entirely.

13. Armand Van Helden somehow made a saw into a dance beat.

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Via rollingstone.com

At first listen, Van Helden's "Necessary Evil" sounds like little more than someone hacking away at their IKEA furniture. Then the loop starts, the beat drops, and, wait, where did these glow sticks come from?

14. This electronic trio turned a healthy snack into a sweet swing beat.

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Via mentalfloss.com

When electronic music trio Noisia teamed up with a BBC radio show, they were asked to make make a mix based on listener-submitted samples. The winning submission? The crisp crunch of someone biting into an apple, which made its way into "Breezeblock," named after the radio show that the challenge originated on.

15. And pretty much everything Matthew Herbert's had a hand in.

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Via myspace.com

One look at musician Matthew Herbert's discography reveals the staggering range of his sampling prowess, with his experimental electronic albums borrowing everything from mouse squeaks to washing machine thumps and thuds to the percussive sound of nails being hammered into coffins.

What happens when tennis, data, and music meet?

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Experience the U.S. Open Sessions, a groundbreaking collaboration between James Murphy and IBM, and find out how data taken from the world's foremost tennis players can be transformed into music.