New Series: The Art Of Sampling

US Part 1: The Pioneers Of Sampling      01/08/08

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    MP4 5:12 mins

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As far as the art of sampling goes, life is pretty good these days.
Virtual samplers and instruments reign supreme as computer hardware becomes infinitely more powerful. Modern hardware combines traditional sampling features with futuristic functionality. Everything is cross formatted and hardware synths and samplers are fully integrated with their software cousins. Virtual samplers like Reason, Halion, Kontact and EXS24 have libraries that are so vast that every conceivable timbre and sound seems to have been recorded, documented, logged and stored with instant accessibility. Enormous collections of sound-alike copyright free loops and samples of all genres are available through libraries like East West, Big Fish Audio, Ueberschall, Best and Zero-G. Let's face it; the need to snaffle through dusty old boxes of records searching for loops and samples seems like an arduous and unnecessary task. Indeed, taking the initiative to actually record and manipulate any found sound sources has become largely redundant. That's not to say that this is a good thing... it's just the way it is. But it hasn't always been like this. Before digital sampling, sound manipulation was seen as a subversive and avante garde activity. Composers were ostracized for experimenting with found sound sources and a belief that music could exist outside the strict confines of the classical or popular domain. Yep, life was an exciting adventure if you were a liberal minded avante garde experimentalist trying to scratch a living back in the early 1900's. And this is where our story begins. With the pioneers of sampling.

Timeline - 1900-1970

The 1900's
Italian Futurist Luigi Russolo publishes the Futurist Manifesto, which proposes the composition of music based entirely on the use of sound sources from the environment.
Electronic composer and innovator John Cage is born in LA. 1913
Russolo builds noise makers and hosts a concert of noise music. The instruments include 3 buzzers, 2 bursters, 1 thunderer, 1 shriller, 1 shatterer and 1 snorter. 1915
Cabaret Voltaire opens in Zurich and Dadaism is born. With a passion for technology, the Dadaists create music based on the sounds of the new industrial machines. 1916
Composer Erik Satie's 'Parade' is a collaboration with Cocteau, Picasso and Serge Diaghilev that employs a battery of sirens, car horns, typewriters, guns. The public are outraged by the performance. The 1920's
Dadaist Stephen Wolpe uses 8 gramophones playing at different speeds. 1923
Dadaist Kurt Schwitters sound poetry piece 'Ursonate' is a random collage of ambience and found sound sources. 1926
Computer pioneer Max Matthews is born in Nebraska. 1928
Karlheinz Stockhausen is born near Cologne. 1929 Akai is founded in Japan by electronic engineer Masukichi Akai who begins producing radio components from a shed at his family home, helped only by members of his immediate family. The 1930's
Edgard Varese's 'Ionisation' is a 37 piece showcase for 13 percussionists. 1933
James Brown is born in South Carolina. 1935
Invention of the first tape recorder the Magnetophon.
Minimalist composer Terry Riley is born in California. 1936
The BBC debuts the worlds first television service with 3 hours of programming a day.
Electronic speech synthesizer mimics the human voice.
Carl Stalling creates Looney Tunes with its cut ups and sfx and parodies of popular music.
Innovative minimalist composer Steve Reich is born in NYC. 1937
Delia Derbyshire born 5th May in Coventry, UK.
Minimalist Systems composer Phillip Glass is born in Maryland.
Edgard Varese writes "I dream of instruments obedient to my thought and which with their contribution of a whole new world of unsuspected sounds, will lend themselves to the exigencies (exigency /'eks-/ n. urgent need; emergency.) of my inner rhythm." 1939
John Cage's 'Imaginary Landscapes' uses test tones from recordings which he plays on vary speed turntables. The 1940's
Konrad Zuse invented the Z3, the world's first computer.
Pfunk musician George Clinton born in North Carolina.
John Cage writes: "Many musician's have dreamt of compact musical technological boxes inside which all audible sounds, including noises, would be ready to come forth at the command of the composer." 1943
Clyde Stubblefield (The Funky Drummer) is born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 1946
Captured German magnetic tape recorders brought to the United States are copied for commercial use by A. M. Polikoff who founds AMPEX (he added EX for excellence.) Japanese electronic manufacturer Casio is founded.
Harry Chamberlin develops the idea for a tape replay keyboard. 1947
Bell Labs develop and produce the solid-state transistor. 1948
The commercial 33 1/3 LP (Long Playing) microgroove (1-mil) disc is introduced by Dr. Peter Goldmark of Columbia Records; the first LP disk features violinist Yehudi Menuhin.
Pierre Schaeffer a sound technician working at Radio-diffusion-television France, produces several short studies in what he calls the Musique Concrete. They are broadcast as a 'Concert of Noises'.
Schaeffer predicts that there will be an instrument that will "provide the sounds of an orchestral instrument by means of a bank of pre-recorded events" and builds the Phonogene, a kind of proto-Mellotron. 1949
RCA Victor responds to the LP by developing large-hole 45rpm disks with 2-mil grooves.
Joseph Schillinger publishes A Mathematical Theory Of Music in which he proposes that popular music can be composed by combining snippets of existing popular music. The 1950's
'Heavenly Menagerie' by Louis and Bebe Barron is Americas first electronic music composed for magnetic tape. RCA finally give in to market pressures and began producing 33 1/3 microgroove LPs. 1951
Deutsche Grammaphon introduce the long playing record.
CSIRAC becomes Australia's first digital computer to generate sound. 1952
Cologne station Nordwestdeutscher Rundfunk founded by Herbert Eimert is joined by Karl Stockhausen and they set out to create what they call Elektronische Musik.
John Cage writes, "Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at 50 M.P.H. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them, not as sound effects, but as musical instruments."
Cage's 4'33" piece causes outrage as a piece of music consisting of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of total silence.
Varese receives an Ampex tape recorder as a gift and begins work on his works 'Deserts' for orchestra and tape.
Stockhaussen – 'Kontrapunkte'. 1953
The first pre-recorded reel-to-reel tape (at 7 1/2 ips) is offered for sale.
Harry Chamberlin continues to produce his Chamberlin keyboards which are fraught with design problems. 1954
Varese performs 'Deserts' which he describes as organised sound. It includes taped sounds of factory noises from the sawmills of Philadelphia. Hugh LeCaine's 'Dripsody' is composed using the sound of a single drip of water. 1956
Louis and Bebe Barron compose the first entirely electronic score for the movie 'Forbidden Planet'.
Stockhaussen's 'Gesang der Junglinge' consists of a young boys voice against an unearthly electronic backdrop. 1957
Crossover points and rolloff characteristics for records are standardised in the U.S. by the RIAA (the Recording Industry Association of America.)
Compatible Stereo disks and record players are offered for sale (33 1/3 and 45rpm.) Casio release the world's first entirely electronic compact calculator.
Max Matthews develops MUSIC at Bell Laboratories. The first widely used programme for generating sound on a computer. 1958
Varese's 'Poeme Electronique' is played over 425 loudspeakers at the Brussel's World Fair.
BBC Radiophonic Workshop is created.
Texas Instruments invent the silicon chip.
Novelist William S. Burroughs employs his cut up technique of slicing up phrases and words to create new sentences in his novel Naked Lunch.
Raymond Scott invents the first sequencer, The Wall Of Sound.
Bob Noyce of Fairchild Conductor US prints an entire electronic circuit on a single crystal or 'microchip' of silicon.
Joe Meek produces 'I Hear A New World' by splicing up tape loops of found sound and manipulating tape delay. The 1960's
Delia Derbyshire joins the Radiophonic Workshop after being turned down by Decca Records who told her they did not employ women in their recording studios. 1961
James Tenny's 'Collage No. 1 (Blue Suede)' subjected Elvis Presley's 'Blue Suede Shoes' to an electronic workout and became one of the first examples of using copyrighted popular music as a sound source.
William S. Burroughs's latest novel is The Soft Machine.
"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
(Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles, 1962)
Recording studios adopt the use of multitrack analogue tape.
While searching for someone who could manufacture 70 matching tape heads for future keyboards, Harry Chamberlin's business partner Bill Fransen approaches UK electronics company Bradmatic. Seeing enormous potentual in the idea, Bradmatic became Streetly Electronics and developed their own tape replay system called the Mellotron. They later strike a deal with Chamberlin for having invested in his idea. 1963
At BBC's Radiophonic Workshop Delia Derbyshire goes uncredited as co-producer of the theme to a new TV sci-fi series Dr. Who that is composed by Ron Grainer. Ever resourceful, the arrival and departure of Dr. Who's spaceship, the TARDIS is announced by scratching a door key up and down the length of a piano wire and playing it back at half speed.
Compact stereo tape cassettes and players are developed by Phillips. 1965
Steve Reich – 'It's Gonna Rain'
The Beatles 'Revolver' album featured tape manipulation on the track 'Tomorrow Never Knows'.
The Beatles – 'Strawberry Fields Forever' single features the Mellotron.
Stockhaussen mixes snatches from 137 radio transmitted national anthems with static and the sound of crowds.
Rolling Stones – '2000 Light Years From Home'
The Moody Blues – 'Nights In White Satin'
The Beatles – 'White Album' includes the track 'Revolution no. 9' which features found sound extracts.
Frank Zappa – 'We're Only in it For The Money'
The first Microprocessor (computer on a chip) is introduced by Intel -- the 4004
The Winstons – 'Color Him Father' 7" single carried the track 'Amen, Brother' as the B side which featured a drum solo by Gregory Sylvester. A sampled loop from this solo which became known as the 'Amen Break' will be frequently used in various types of music for the remainder of the century.
James Brown's 'Funky Drummer' is recorded in Cincinatti, Ohio.
Pink Floyd – 'Ummagumma'
David Bowie – 'Space Oddity'
In Part 2, we take a look at the influence of Plunderphonics on the Prog Rock movement of the 1970's and the introduction of high end digital sampling later in the decade as we continue the story of The Art Of Sampling.

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