[music-dsp] 80's, analog or not
urs at u-he.com
Sun May 18 09:32:04 EDT 2003
Haha, Sampo, who else could bend an ironic comment into science 8-))
Well, I tend to agree with everything you said.
I'd like to contribute to this excursion a little theory (merely my
Around 1980, Eno and Byrne produced the first sampleloop based album,
titled "my life in a bush of ghosts". They used an analog sampling
technology called "tape" in a way that they glued small pieces of said
material together to build an outstanding, yet organic composition. Way
ahead of time, this album marked a substantial anticipation, sampling,
but musicians didn't want to spend ages with cutting and glueing tape.
A technology vacuum opened up.
In 1984, another album, this time by said and nowadays often behated
Jarre, "Zoolook" marked the first sample based album where no tape was
used to glue the stuff. Not really the first album, if you take into
account some other Artists Of Noise, but still - and this is my true
opinion - the most remarkable one.
Well, at that time, digital sampling was available but not affordable.
Just like "the real" analog gear (Matrix 12, Prophet T8), it was the
previlege of a few, rather collectors than musicians, to obtain those
machines (by Fairlight, New England Digital, E-MU or PPG). The
technology vacuum turned into a financial problem.
(Or you had to use cheesy sounding AKAIs with already deprecated floppy
sizes, 2 1/8 inch IIRC. Or better yet, you had to enter numerical codes
for programming a sampler called Mirage, sporting a user interface that
was designed to beat the DX-7 in the "not really usable" contest,
having the attraction of Casio wristwatches with 6 buttons to control
147 functions in mind.)
The introduction of the digital compact disc put additional reputation
to the digital domain, in myths of sound quality and must haves, so as
to say the salt in the wounds of the non-digitalified musicians was
Fortunately, the era of the inexpensive digital synthesizer was just
introduced by the two dominating technologies: FM and PD (neglecting
the DCO and PPG's way of wavetable here which at that time was followed
by a VCF, so not purely the pure thing). But there was not much else
the technicians could think of, maybe because Dattoro's paper wasn't
out at that time). So they came up with another idea (giving said
Mirage some sample rom, adding 4 bits I think and a really nice user
interface, calling it ESQ-1), the marriage of sample based synthesis
and cheap price, still named "digital synthesizer".
Well, since some years after the mid 80's, the recognition of a digital
synthesizer was what later becamed dubbed "Rompler". It was affordable,
along with MIDI and the C64 / Atari ST it closed the two vacuum gaps
(samples/loops and financial) and it brought some power to the keyboard
playing musicians, because the other musicians lived in a kind of fear
for becoming replaceable.
This of course was a grotesque situation. We now know better, because
the 90's brought a kind of enlightment. Musical styles like techno
re-vitalized the analog gear (not due to sound, but due to ultra-cheap
prices), DJs did _analog_ with Vinyl in realtime what Eno and Byrne
(not to forget Czuckay) needed months to, and the sound dogma Alan
Parsons created in 1975 (another story, but probably a reason for the
success of the compact disc) was still valid for boy groups, but not
necessarily for success, let alone taste.
And now we sit here, trying to dis-embody "the one that keeps the world
together", the capacitor in other words, a sort of archeological
undertaking, still stunned by the implosion of the gigahertz vacuum and
therefore a bit breathless.
Well, I'd like to propose a virtual synthesizer, maybe a VST plugin,
that doesn't do anything but displaying a list of electronical parts,
where to order online and how to connect for ultimate analog
experience. But I'm too lazy and it's just too much fun chasing the
(sorry for bandwith and simplification)
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