The sampling aesthetic of Bon Iver’s “33 ‘God’”


This paper explores the various types of sampling and digital manipulation used within “33 ‘God,’” the fourth track on 22, A Million. Within this track, Vernon utilizes unique modes of musical and vocal expression, featuring samples as symbols of otherness — other times, other places, other emotions — presented through the timbre of others’ voices in order to convey his own memories and mental states. Vernon’s authorial voice within the track is both complicated and strengthened by this presence of other “characters” in his narrative. The samples will be examined through my term “sonic totem,” which is offered to capture the relationship of sound objects and memory within a narrative song. The fact that Justin Vernon’s is not the only voice heard on the track will be analyzed as signifyin’, as described in the theory of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (1988), and related to theories by Simon Frith (1996) and Lori Burns (2010).

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