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09 septembre 2005

We're All Hip-Hoppers Now

Posted by Ed Driscoll on September 08, 2005 07:17 PM
Filed under: Music,
Books: Nonfiction,
Music: Home Recording

Making Music with Samples : Tips, Techniques, and 600+ Ready-to-Use Samples
Daniel Duffell

Book from Backbeat Books
Release date: 09 January, 2005

In the late 1970s,
Brian Eno once said:

'Til about the late '40s, recording was simply regarded as a device for transmitting a performance to an unknown audience, and the whole accent of recording technique was on making what was called a "more faithful" transmission of that experience. It began very simply, because the only control over the relative levels of sounds that went onto the machine was how far they were from the microphone - like device. The accent was on the performance, and the recording was a more or less perfect transmitter of that, through the cylinder and wax disc recording stages, until tape became the medium by which people were recording things.

The move to tape was very important, because as soon as something's on tape, it becomes a substance which is malleable and mutable and cuttable and reversible in ways that discs aren't. It's hard to do anything very interesting with a disc - all you can do is play it at a different speed, probably; you can't actually cut a groove out and make a little loop of it. The effect of tape was that it really put music in a spatial dimension, making it possible to squeeze the music, or expand it.

In the mid-1980s, sampling was thought to be largely the realm of hip-hoppers, who took snippets of previously recorded songs, and integrated them into new recordings. For a while, it seemed like every drum riff on the radio was either from
James Brown's drummers, or John Bonham's intro to Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks".

But these days, digital recording (especially when done via a hard disk-based recorder) is nothing but samples, as individual tracks of vocals and instruments are typically sliced up, moved around, speeded up, slowed down, and turned into loops. When William S. Burroughs and his fellow Beat artists invented the
"cut-up" method of writing, surely they had no idea that, taken to its logical extreme with digital audio, it would become the basis of hard-disk recording.

This wouldn't haven't happened without the pioneering efforts of both musicians willing to experiment, and hardware and software designers inventing the tools that allow them to do.

Early Sampling Experiments

As Daniel Duffell explains in his surprisingly thorough 2005 book, Making Music With Samples, the first sampling instrument was the Mellotron of the 1960s, which allowed prerecorded audio tapes of strings, flutes, voices, and other instruments to be triggered by a musician playing an otherwise standard-looking musical keyboard.

For many years, the
Mellotron was a bit of a one-off design, as Dr. Moog's analog synthesizer and its digital successors ruled the recording world. But in the 1980s though, sampling technology really took off.

In Peter Gabriel's 2004 DVD collection collection of music videos, there's a behind-the-scenes clip of Gabriel in an automobile junkyard with a tape recorder, smashing car windshields to create sounds to input into his then brand new (and fabulously expensive) Fairlight CMI synthesizer. Once sampled, such a sound could then be triggered via its musical keyboard, just like any other musical instrument. Kate Bush, who has credited Gabriel with her own exploration of sampling instruments, featured several songs (such as "Babushka" and "Mother Stands For Comfort") in the mid-1980s with samples of smashing glass as percussion. And of course, lots of real instruments were sampled, such as the Fairlight's pan flute samples, which
Jan Hammer used to great effect in his Miami Vice TV soundtrack work....

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