(Way) Back in the 80s I used to buy an Aussie technology magazine
“Omni”, correction it was “Omega Science Digest”!. One issue had a card you could send off (with a few au$) to get the demo cassette for a remarkable new electronic instrument. Yes, that there was an analogue demo cassette for a digital instrument gives an idea of how long ago that was!
It had a bunch of different tracks, samples etc. all created with the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument but one (complete unlike the others) was the most memorable. I found Claude Larson’s Murrumbidgee River on YouTube (below) but sadly it appears you can no longer buy it, or the album “Rivers” (via iTunes or Amazon at least).
I probably still have that cassette somewhere… (see UPDATE 2012-02-22 below) and wanted to hear it again after listening to an ABC Radio Podcast interview — Big Ideas - Blinded by Science — with Fairlight Inventor Peter Vogel and Thomas Dolby. It covers all sorts of aspects from the evolution of digital musical technology, its impact on music and composition, the inventive process and the business of creating/marketing new ideas. There is even the tale of the (not so ubiquitous as once was) default Nokia ringtone and mention of the Fairlight iPhone/iPad app (why Dolby was in Aus.) which runs on a device vastly more powerful than the original $100,000+ Fairlight CMI!
I never did get a CMI as $100k seemed a bit much for someone who never progressed much past Grade 1 Piano before discovering sailing seemed more fun in the weekends! Maybe if I get the iOS app that cassette will have justified its demo label!
Big Ideas - Blinded by Science - 54 min - 24.97 mb
In 1979 two young men in Sydney invented a digital sampling synthesizer that sparked a worldwide musical revolution. It was called the Fairlight and for the first time musicians could play the sound of any instrument on a keyboard. It also allowed them to compose and perform compositions that would otherwise require a band or an orchestra to play. Those two men were 21 and their names were Kim Ryrie and Peter Vogel.
Without the Fairlight you might not have the same sounds out of Thomas Dolby; who shot to prominence in this country with his 80s hit ‘She blinded me with Science’. Dolby had a boyhood obsession with music and technology and some two decades later his innovative computer music has greatly impacted on today’s popular music, games and mobile phones.
Tonight they talk about music and technology then, now and in the future.
February 20, 2012 10:05 PM
Copyright 2012, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
* UPDATE 2012-02-22: The Just Fairlight Cassette Online
Peter found this post (which amazed me!) and commented that the cassette tracks are available on-line. Look for “Just Fairlight 3 A & 3 B” on his site: http://anerd.com/fairlight/audioarchives/index.htm