Part 2: The Digital Revolution
Dinosaurs ruled the Earth and magnetic tape was being sliced up by men with beards. Yep, it's the 1970's. Sampling is still a far off dream. And so are PCs, Macs, the World Wide Web and even The Bush Administration. This is a very long time ago. Sound manipulation is still the domain of experimentalists and progressive rock. But towards the end of the decade, we begin to see the results of years of study and experimentation into binary processing by engineers, scientists and musicians. The green shoots of what will become music's digital revolution are beginning to break through.
Timeline - 1970-1990
James Brown - 'Funky Drummer' is released on the King label. The track features a solo by drummer Clyde Stubblefield. This solo becomes one of the most frequently sampled rhythmic breaks of all time.
Pink Floyd - 'Atom Hearted Mother'.
Mattel release the Optigan, a domestic organ that played musical loops from optical discs.
E-Mu Systems is founded by Dave Rossum and Scott Wedge manufacturing microchips, digital scanning keyboards and components for electronic musical instruments.
Pink Floyd - 'Meddle'
Can - 'Tago Mago'
Roland Corp. is founded by Ikutaro Kakehashi in Osaka, Japan.
Bill Gates drops out of Harvard, moves to New Mexico to develop software for the new MIPS Altair 'micro-computer' with Paul Allen under the name 'Microsoft.'
Pink Floyd - 'Obscured By Clouds'
Gilbert O'Sullivan - 'Alone Again, Naturally' (this inclusion will make more sense later on).
Roland release the RE-201 space echo.
Brian Eno leaves the band Roxy Music to pursue a solo career.
Pink Floyd - 'Dark Side Of The Moon'
Faust - 'The Faust Tapes'
Parliament - 'Mothership Connection' is a representation of George Clinton's Pfunk. A genre that will become a popular sample source for both Hip Hop and Gansta Rap artists.
Eno collaborates with David Bowie on the album 'Low'.
Formation of New England Digital Corp. in White River Junction, Vermont.
Kim Ryrie and Peter Vogel approach fellow Australian Tony Furse to develop a microprocessor controlled synthesiser. Taking Furses Quasar M8, Ryrie and Vogel introduced the idea of using a naturally recorded soundwave as a starting point. The stunning results effectively introduce the concept of digital sampling.
Roland release the MC-8 microprocessor digital sequencer.
Wilfully obscure West Coast outfit The Residents release 'The Residents Play The Beatles/The Beatles Play The Residents'.
Kraftwerk - 'Trans Euro Express'
Donna Summer - 'I Feel Love' produced by Georgio Moroder.
Parliament - 'Funkentelecy vs. The Placebo Syndrome'. Another slice of Pfunk from George Clinton includes the number one single 'Flashlight'.
Computer Music Inc. develop the Melodian digital sampler.
The Fairlight CMI Series I is released.
Technics release the SL1200 direct Drive turntable.
First Synclavier goes on the market but in the light of the CMI is hurriedly upgraded to the Synclavier II.
The Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight', is the first hip-hop record to reach Top 40 radio. Chic's 'Good Times' bassline riff is being played by the Sugar Hill in-house band Positive Force.
It's the start of the 1980's. The AMS DMX, BD80 and Boss DE200 will soon offer DDL sampling for outboard effects. Electro Harmonix introduce an early sampling drumpad sampler called the Replay. But sampling is still very much in its infancy. Low bit rates suffer with heavy aliasing (blame it on Nyquist), lack of interpolation and rock bottom sample rates lead to grubby and unconvincing sounds. The processing power is simply not yet available.
But there are good times ahead and as the decade progresses, the age of sampling begins to take shape.
Linn introduce the LM-1 sampled drum machine.
Casio release the Casiotone keyboard.
Brian Eno produces Talking Heads 'Remain in Light'.
Peter Gabriel - 'Peter Gabriel 3'
Kate Bush - 'Never For Ever'
Creative Technology Ltd is founded in Singapore by Sim Wong Hoo.
E-mu's Emulator I introduces Direct Memory Access to the world of digital sampling.
The MTV Music TV Cable Network debuts on the air at Midnight, August 1st.
The first IBM-brand 'PC' (for 'Personal Computer') is released on August 12
changing the popular name of what used to be called a 'micro-computer system.'
David Smith of Sequential Circuits becomes the first to see the potential of a single integrated control system for digital synthesisers. He works up an initial proposal and presents it to the Audio Engineers Society in November of 1981. This interface is called the USI (Universal Synthesiser Interface).
Eno collaborated with Robert Fripp and David Byrne on the album, 'My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts'. Using recordings of Lay Preachers against African beats this album is a new and innovative use of sound piracy techniques.
Grandmaster Flash - 'Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash And The Wheels Of Steel'
Roger Linn's Linn release the LinnDrum.
Korg, Kawaii and Yamaha join forces with Smith at Sequential, Tom Oberheim of Oberheim and Kakehashi of Roland. These three men develop the MIDI 1.0 standard and present it to the NAMM show in June.
Commodore introduce The Commodore 64 included a four-voice synthesiser on a single chip within its circuitry. Initially intended to provide sounds for games the chip would soon be utilised for music making.
Ensoniq is founded by former Commodore engineers Bob Yannes, Bruce Crockett and Al Charpentier. Their first product is a software drum machine.
The digital Compact Disc (CD) is introduced by a Japanese conglomerate.
Factory Records Hacienda Club opens in Manchester.
Trevor Horn produces the albums 'Duck Rock' by Malcom McLaren and 'Lexicon Of Love' by ABC.
Thomas Dolby - 'Golden Age of Wireless'
Laurie Anderson - 'Big Science' featuring 'O, Superman'.
Afrika Bambaataa - 'Planet Rock'
Michael Jackson - 'Thriller'
E-mu introduce the iconoclastic Drumulator.
The final refined version of MIDI becomes commercially available.
'Owner of a Lonely Heart' by Yes and 'Welcome to the Pleasuredome' by Frankie Goes To Hollywood are both produced by Trevor Horn.
Jan Hammer - 'Scenario'
Herbie Hancock - 'Rockit'
Kurzweil unveil the K250 sampler, which out performs many of its rivals.
Linn release the Linn 9000 workstation drum machine.
E-Mu release the Emulator 2.
Ensoniq release the Mirage.
The (128K) Apple Macintosh personal computer debuts.
The Art Of Noise - 'Who's Afraid of the Art Of Noise' (another Trevor Horn production!).
Prince - 'Purple Rain'
Akai release the S612, their introduction to the affordable digital sampling market.
With direct lineage to the Drumulator, E-mu introduce the ground breaking SP-12 sampled drum machine sequencer that will pave the way for Akai's MPC as well as further SP models.
Sequential Circuits enter the sampling market with the Prophet 2000.
The Audio Engineering Society settle on the 44.1kHz sample rate as standard for CD recordings.
Fairlight introduce the Fairlight Series III but the huge cost of producing the CMI Series mean that soon after this the company was forced to close.
Casio release the Casio SK1, the first budget sampler.
John Oswold coins the term Plunderphonics in an essay to describe audio piracy of existing recordings carried out in order to create a new composition.
Paul Hardcastle - '19'
Grace Jones's 'Slave to the Rhythm' & 'Island Life', Godley and CrÃ¨me's 'Cry'
And Band Aid's 'Do They Know its Christmas?' Make up just some of Trevor Horns credits in 1985
Tears For Fears - 'Songs From The Big Chair'
Jan Hammer - 'Miami Vice Soundtrack'
Adoption of the CD starts taking a huge bite out of LP sales, causing them to drop 25%.
Roland introduce the first of their S series the S-10 and the S-50 keyboard sampler.
Casio release the RZ-1 sampled drum machine.
Akai release The Akai S-900 digital sampler.
Beastie Boys - 'Licensed to Ill' becomes the first purely sample based number one album in the US.
Run DMC - 'Raisin' Hell'
T-Coy's 'Carino' is considered to be the first UK House record.
Derrick May - 'Nude Photo'
Boogie Down Productions - 'Say No Brother'
In the third and final part of the series, we examine the consequences of low cost digital sampling and its effects on present day music production.