The Fairlight CMI (short for Computer Musical Instrument) is a digital synthesizer, sampler and digital audio workstation introduced in 1979 by Fairlight. It was based on the commercial licence of Qasar M8 dual-MC6800 microprocessor instrument developed by Tony Furse of Creative Strategies in Sydney, Australia. It was one of the earliest music workstations with an embedded digital sampling synthesizer. It rose to prominence in the early 1980s and competed with the Synclavier from New England Digital.
|Price||GB£ 18,000 ~ 60,000|
|Polyphony||8 ~ 16 voices|
|Synthesis type||Additive synthesis|
Additive resynthesis (FFT)
|Filter||low-pass for anti-aliasing|
|Keyboard||73 keys non-weighted, velocity sensitive.|
Option: slave keyboard
|Left-hand control||3 sliders & 2 buttons,|
numeric keypad (right side)
|External control||Computer keyboard|
CV/Gate (option, CMI II~)
MIDI • SMPTE (CMI IIx~)
In the 1970s, synthesizer devotee Kim Ryrie initiated the idea to develop a build-it-yourself analogue synthesizer called the ETI 4600 for his family's magazine Electronics Today International. The detailed design was developed by ETI's Barry Wilkinson and Trevor Marshall but Ryrie was frustrated with the limited number of sounds that could be made with an analogue synthesizer. After his classmate, Peter Vogel, graduated from high school, and a brief stint at university in 1975, Ryrie asked Vogel if he would be interested in making "the world's greatest synthesiser" based on the recently announced microprocessor. He recalled: "We had long been interested in computers - I built my first computer when I was about 12 - and it was obvious to me that combining digital technology with music synthesis was the way to go."
In December that year, he and Vogel formed a house-based company intended to manufacture digital synthesizers. They named it Fairlight after the hydrofoil ferry passing before Ryrie's grandmother's home in Sydney harbour. The two planned to design a digital synthesizer that could create sounds reminiscent of acoustic instruments (physical modelling synthesis). They had initially thought of making an analogue synth that was digitally controlled, given that the Moog was much more difficult to control.
After the six months that followed involving the two in the company's basement where initial designs included a sample touch-sensitive keyboard and Vogel's video products to help pay the bills they met Motorola consultant Tony Furse. In association with the Canberra School of Electronic Music, Furse built a digital synthesizer that used two 8-bit Motorola 6800 microprocessors, as well as the light pen and some of the graphics that would later be a part of the Fairlight CMI. Despite this, the machine was unable to create harmonic partials, therefore the sounds that came from the synth were sterile and inexpressive.
Vogel and Ryrie licensed the design to help them make a digital synthesizer, mainly for its processing power, and decided to use microprocessor technology instead of analogue synthesis. Over the course of a year, the duo made what Ryrie called a "research design", the bulky, expensive, and unmarketable eight-voice synthesizer QASAR M8, which included a two-by-two-by-four foot processing box and a keyboard.
In 1978, Vogel and Ryrie were making "interesting" but unrealistic sounds. Vogel decided they might be able to learn how to synthesize an instrument by studying the harmonics of real instrument, and sampled around a second of a piano piece from a radio broadcast. He discovered that, by playing the sample back at different pitches, it sounded much more realistic. He recalled in 2005:
It sounded remarkably like a piano, a real piano. This had never been done before ... By today's standards it was a pretty awful piano sound, but at the time it was a million times more like a piano than anything any synthesiser had churned out. So I rapidly realised that we didn't have to bother with all the synthesis stuff. Just take the sounds, whack them in the memory and away you go.
With the Fairlight CMI, Vogel and Ryrie were able to produce an endless amount of sounds, but control was limited to attack, sustain, decay (ADSR) and vibrato. According to Ryrie, "We regarded using recorded real-life sounds as a compromise - as cheating - and we didn't feel particularly proud of it." They continued to work while making money by creating and distributing computers for offices in the Sydney suburb of Ermington, which Ryrie described as "a horrendous exercise, but we sold 120 of them".
In addition to the keyboard, processing, computer graphics and interactive pen borrowed from Furse's synthesizer, the pair added a QWERTY keyboard, and a large one-by-1.5-by-three foot box stored the sampling, processing and ADC/DAC Hardware and the 8 inch floppy diskette. According to a magazine feature about the Fairlight company, the biggest problem was the short sample length, which typically lasted from a half of to an entire second; it could only handle a sample rate of 24 kilohertz and a frequency response of ten kilohertz at most, so a sample rate had to be as low as eight kilohertz and a bandwidth of 3,500 hertz for sounds of longer length to be used. However, Vogel felt the low quality of the sounds was what gave them their own character.
The Music Composition Language feature was also criticized as too difficult for empirical users. Other primitive aspects included its limited amount of RAM (208 kilobytes) and its green and black graphics. Nonetheless, the CMI garnered significant attention from Australian distributors and consumers for being able to emulate sounds of acoustic instruments, as well as for its light pen and three-dimensional sound visualization. Still, Vogel was unsure if there would be enough interest in the product. The CMI's ability to emulate real instruments made some refer to it as an "orchestra-in-a-box", and each unit came with eight-inch, 500-kilobyte floppy disks that each stored twenty-two samples of orchestral instruments. The Fairlight CMI also garnered publicity in the science industry, being featured on the BBC science and technology series Tomorrow's World; given that futuristic theories of poor-sounding digital orchestras were also being made, Musicians' Union railed against the CMI who called it a "lethal threat" towards its members.
In the summer of 1979, Vogel went to the home of English singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel, where his third solo studio album was being recorded, to show him the Fairlight CMI. Gabriel, as well as many other people in the studio, was instantly engrossed by it, and he used strange sounds such as breaking glass bottles and bricks on the album. One of those present for the demonstration, Stephen Paine, recalled in 1996: "The idea of recording a sound into solid-state memory and having real-time pitch control over it appeared incredibly exciting. Until that time everything that captured sound had been tape-based. The Fairlight CMI was like a much more reliable and versatile digital Mellotron. Gabriel was completely thrilled, and instantly put the machine to use during the week that Peter Vogel stayed at his house."
Gabriel was also interested in selling the CMI in the United Kingdom, and he and Paine formed Syco Systems to distribute the product in the country at a price of £12,000. The first person in Britain to purchase the CMI was Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. Other well-known figures from the British music industry followed, including Boz Burrell, Kate Bush, Geoff Downes, Trevor Horn, Alan Parsons, Rick Wright and Thomas Dolby. The Fairlight CMI was a commercial success in the United States as well, used by American acts such as Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Jan Hammer, Todd Rundgren and Joni Mitchell. However, musicians came to realize that the CMI could not match the expressiveness and level of control offered by acoustic instruments, and that sampling was better applied as imaginative sound than pure reproduction.
The second version of the Fairlight CMI, Series II, was released at a price of £30,000 in 1982. Although it still used 8-bit recordings like the Series I, the sounds produced were of better quality given that the system could handle a sample rate as high as 32 kilohertz and a maximum frequency response of fifteen kilohertz. The CMI's popularity peaked in 1982 following its appearance on a special of the arts magazine series The South Bank Show that documented the making of Gabriel's fourth self-titled studio album, where he used 64 kilobytes worth of samples of world music instruments and sequenced skippy-rhythm'd percussion. Fairlight CMI Series II was used on nearly every album released in the early to mid-1980s, and its most commonly used presets included an orchestra stab ("ORCH 5") and a breathy vox ("ARR 1"). The CMI Series II is also credited as helping launch popular musical styles such as hip hop, big beat, techno and drum and bass.
The popularity of Series II was in large part due to a new feature, Page R, their first true music sequencer. As a replacement for the complicated Music Composition Language (MCL) used by Series I, Page R helped the Fairlight CMI Series II become a commercial juggernaut. Page R expanded the CMI's audience beyond that of accomplished keyboard players. Audio Media magazine described it as an echo of the punk rock era: "Page R also gave rise to a flow of quasi-socialist sounding ideology, that hailed the impending democratisation of music creation, making it available to the musically chops-challenged." Graphically depicting editable notes horizontally from left to right, the music programming profession and the concepts of quantization and cycling patterns of bars where instrument channels could be added or removed were also born out of the Page R sequencer. CMI user Roger Bolton recalled: "By definition, its sampling limitations and the Page R sequencer forced the composer to make high-quality decisions out of necessity. The CMI II was a high-level composition tool that not only shaped the sound of the 80s, but the way that music was actually written." Fairlight kept making updates to the system, such as a 1983 upgrade called the CMI Series IIx which now allowed for MIDI, until the release of Series III in 1985.
With 14 megabytes of RAM, which equates to about a three-minute long stereo sample, the Series III was the first sampler capable of creating sounds with 16-bit, 44.1 kilohertz sample files, as well as 16-voice polyphonic patches. Its design, graphics, and editing tools were also improved, such as the addition of a tablet next to the QWERTY keys for the lightpen to point on instead of on the screen; this change was done due to arguments from users regarding arm aches from having to hold the pen on the screen.
An enhanced version of the Page R sequencer called Composer, Arranger, Performer, Sequencer, or CAPS, as well as Eventsync, a post-production utility based on SMPTE timecode linking, were also added to the Series III computer. However, while many people were still using CMIs, sales were starting to diminish significantly due to much lower-cost, MIDI-based sequencers and samplers including the Atari ST and Akai's S612, S900 and 1000 samplers in the market. Paine stopped releasing copies of the CMI in the United Kingdom because of this. The Fairlight company was becoming more focused on post-production products, a market Paine had a hard time getting used to, and when HHB Communications Ltd took over distribution for the United Kingdom, they failed to sell any copies.
Peter Gabriel was the first owner of a Fairlight Series I in the UK. Boz Burrell of Bad Company purchased the second, which Hans Zimmer hired for many recordings during the early part of his career. In the US, Bruce Jackson demonstrated the Series I sampler for a year before selling units to Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder in 1980 for US $27,500 each. Meat-packing heir Geordie Hormel bought two for use at The Village Recorder in Los Angeles. Other early adopters included Todd Rundgren, Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, producer Rhett Lawrence and Ned Liben of Ebn Ozn.
Wonder took his Fairlight out on tour in 1980 in support of the album Stevie Wonder's Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants" to replace the Computer Music Melodian sampler he had used on the recording. Geoff Downes of Yes conspicuously used a CMI with monitor on the band's 1980 tour to support the album Drama. The first classical album using the CMI was produced by Folkways Records in 1980 with composers Barton McLean and Priscilla McLean.
Peter Gabriel's album Peter Gabriel (1982) also featured the CMI. In 1981, Austrian musicians Hubert Bognermayr and Harald Zuschrader composed a symphony, Erdenklang – Computerakustische Klangsinfonie. This work premiered live on stage, using five music computers, during the Ars Electronica festival in Linz.
After the success of the Fairlight CMI, other firms introduced sampling. New England Digital modified their Synclavier digital synth to perform sampling, while E-mu Systems introduced a less costly sampling keyboard, the Emulator, in 1981. In the United States, a new sampler company, Ensoniq, introduced the Ensoniq Mirage in 1985, at a price that made sampling affordable to the average musician for the first time.
In America, Joan Gand of Gand Music and Sound in Northfield, Illinois was the top salesperson for Fairlight. The Gand organisation sold CMIs to Prince, James "J.Y." Young of Styx, John Lowry of Petra, Derek St. Holmes of the Ted Nugent band, Al Jourgensen of Ministry, and many private studio owners and rock personalities. Spokesperson Jan Hammer appeared at several Gand-sponsored Musictech pro audio events, to perform the "Miami Vice Theme", as well as Keith Emerson, Stanley Jordan, Allan Holdsworth, Todd Rundgren, Jeff Baxter, Terry Fryer, Pat Leonard (Michael Jackson), engineers Roger Nichols (Steely Dan), Bob Clearmountain (David Bowie), Al Schmidt (Frank Sinatra, Diana Krall) and Cubby Colby (Phil Collins).
The ubiquity of the Fairlight was such that Phil Collins stated on the sleeve notes of his 1985 album No Jacket Required that "there is no Fairlight on this record" to clarify that he had not used one to synthesize horn and string sounds.
The original CMI started at about £18,000, going up to £27,000 for the Series II and finishing up at £60,000 for the Series III.
Automatic is the eighth studio album by Scottish musician Jack Bruce, released in January 1983. It makes heavy use of the Fairlight CMI digital sampling synthesiser and Bruce is the sole performer. The album was originally only released in Germany, on the Intercord label.Digital synthesizer
A digital synthesizer is a synthesizer that uses digital signal processing (DSP) techniques to make musical sounds. This in contrast to older analog synthesizers, which produce music using analog electronics, and samplers, which play back digital recordings of acoustic, electric, or electronic instruments. Some digital synthesizers emulate analog synthesizers; others include sampling capability in addition to digital synthesis.Ensoniq Mirage
The Ensoniq Mirage is one of the earliest affordable sampler-synths, introduced in 1984. As Ensoniq's first product, it became a best-seller. It was priced below $1700 with features previously only found on more expensive samplers like the Fairlight CMI.Fairlight
Fairlight may refer to:
Fairlight, East Sussex, a village east of Hastings in southern England, UK
Fairlight, New South Wales, a suburb of Sydney, Australia
Fairlight, Saskatchewan, CanadaIn other uses:
Fairlight (company), an Australian producer of synthesizers then digital audio tools
Fairlight CMI, the first digital sampling synthesiser
Fairlight (group), a Commodore 64, Amiga and PC demo group, as well as a warez group
Fairlight (video game), a computer game by Bo Jangeborg, published by The Edge
Fairlight, a fictional electronics manufacturer in ShadowrunFairlight (company)
Fairlight is a digital audio company based in Sydney. In 1979 they created the Fairlight CMI, one of the earliest music workstation with digital audio sampler, quickly used by artists such as Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, and Jean Michel Jarre. They are now a manufacturer of media tools such as digital audio recording and mixing consoles. Fairlight became such a prominent part of 1980s pop music that Phil Collins included the text "there is no Fairlight on this record" in the liner notes of No Jacket Required.Foreign Affair (Mike Oldfield song)
"Foreign Affair" is a song written by Maggie Reilly and Mike Oldfield, which first appeared on Oldfield's 1983 album Crises on Virgin Records.
The song was originally recorded during the Crises sessions between November 1982 and April 1983 at Oldfield's studio in Denham, Buckinghamshire. On "Foreign Affair", Oldfield plays a Fairlight CMI and Roland strings. Maggie Reilly provides vocals, and the co-producer, Simon Phillips plays Tama Drums and a shaker.
Oldfield performed the song on tour extensively in the 1980s. The song has since been featured on compilations such as The Platinum Collection, Collection, Elements Boxset and Elements – The Best of Mike Oldfield.How Men Are
How Men Are is the third studio album by the English synthpop band Heaven 17. It was originally released in September 1984, on the label Virgin. The album peaked at No. 12 in the UK and was certified Silver (60,000 copies sold) by the BPI in October 1984.
Three singles were released from this album: "Sunset Now" (UK#24), "This Is Mine" (UK#23) in 1984, and an edited remix of "...(And That's No Lie)" (UK#52) in early 1985, which was the first Heaven 17 single to fail to reach the UK Top 40 since "Let Me Go" at the end of 1982.
Although digital sample-based instruments such as the Fairlight CMI and the Linn LM-1 drum machine were still responsible for most of the album's sounds, How Men Are marked the beginning of an increased usage of acoustic instruments in Heaven 17's music. A small orchestra is employed on three tracks, and two tracks make use of the Phenix Horns Esquire, Earth, Wind & Fire's famous brass section. Another notable contribution to this album was made by the vocal group Afrodiziak, who sang on four tracks.
In 2006, Heaven 17's first three albums were remastered and reissued with bonus tracks.Love Beyond Reason
Love Beyond Reason is an album by Randy Stonehill, released in 1985, on Myrrh Records.
The album contained the hit single, "I Could Never Say Goodbye," which was a duet with singer Amy Grant. Grant had recently become one of the biggest names in Christian music, and had crossed over into the mainstream with her Unguarded album.
Stonehill also released a Love Beyond Reason Video collection in 1985 on VHS and Beta, which included videos of "Love Beyond Reason," "Until Your Love Broke Through," "Hymn," "You're Loved Tonight," "Still Small Voice," (from Stonehill's Celebrate this Hearbeat album) and "The Gods of Men."Orchestra hit
An orchestra hit, also known as an orchestral hit, orchestra stab, or orchestral stab, is a sound effect created through the layering of the sounds of a number of different synthesized orchestral instruments playing a single staccato note or chord. The orchestra hit sound was propagated by the use of early samplers, particularly the Fairlight CMI where it was known as the ORCH5 sample. The sound is used in pop, hip hop and techno genres to accentuate passages of music.The orchestra hit has been identified as a "hip hop cliché". In 1990, Musician magazine stated that Fairlight's ORCH5 sample was "the orchestral hit that was heard on every rap and techno-pop record of the early 1980s". The orchestra hit has been described as popular music's equivalent to the Wilhelm scream.Peter Vogel
Peter Vogel may refer to:
Peter Vogel (actor) (1937–1978), German actor, appeared in Holocaust miniseries
Peter Vogel (cyclist) (born 1939), Swiss cyclist
Peter Vogel (footballer) (born 1952), German footballer
Peter Vogel (banker) (born 1954), Polish murderer and later banker
Peter Vogel (computer designer) (born 1954), Australian computer designer of Fairlight CMI
Peter Vogel (artist) (1937–2017), German sound artistPeter Vogel (computer designer)
Peter Vogel (born 30 August 1954, Sydney) is an Australian inventor and technologist known for developing the Fairlight CMI.QDOS
QDOS may refer to:
QDOS (Qasar DOS), the Motorola 6800-based operating system of the Fairlight CMI digital sampling synthesizer series, based on the MDOS (Motorola DOS)
Seattle Computer Products QDOS, SCP's Quick and Dirty Operating System in 1980, later renamed to 86-DOS (predecessor of MS-DOS)
Sinclair QDOS, the Sinclair QL operating system written in Motorola 68000 assembly language
Atari QDOS, the production codename of Disk Operating System 4.0 for Atari 8-bit computers
Gazelle Systems QDOS, a file manager-type environment for DOS, published in 1991
Qdos Entertainment, the UK based entertainment company who is the world's largest pantomime producer
Q:Dos, a recording name for trance musicians Scott Bond, Darren Hodson, John Purser, Nick Rose
Qdos, range of no-valve metering pumpsRen Klyce
Ren Klyce is an American sound designer. He has been nominated for seven Academy Awards; four for Best Sound and three for Best Sound Editing. He is best known for his frequent collaborations with director David Fincher, having been the primary sound designer on every one of his films since Seven, including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He is also known for his frequent collaborations with Spike Jonze.Sampler (musical instrument)
A sampler is an electronic or digital musical instrument similar in some respects to a synthesizer, but instead of generating new sounds with voltage-controlled oscillators, it uses sound recordings (or "samples") of real instrument sounds (e.g., a piano, violin or trumpet), excerpts from recorded songs (e.g., a five-second bass guitar riff from a funk song) or other sounds (e.g., sirens and ocean waves). The samples are loaded or recorded by the user or by a manufacturer. These sounds are then played back by means of the sampler program itself, a MIDI keyboard, sequencer or another triggering device (e.g., electronic drums) to perform or compose music. Because these samples are usually stored in digital memory, the information can be quickly accessed. A single sample may often be pitch-shifted to different pitches to produce musical scales and chords.
Often samplers offer filters, effects units, modulation via low frequency oscillation and other synthesizer-like processes that allow the original sound to be modified in many different ways. Most samplers have Multitimbrality capabilities – they can play back different sounds simultaneously. Many are also polyphonic – they are able to play more than one note at the same time.Shane Keister
Shane Keister is an American musician. He is known for his work as a studio musician, writer, arranger and producer. He plays synthesizer, piano, Hammond B3, Synclavier, Fairlight CMI, Fender Rhodes, and others.Shout (Devo album)
Shout is the sixth studio album by American new wave band Devo. It was originally released in October 1984, on the labels Warner Bros. and Virgin, two years after their previous album, Oh, No! It's Devo. The album was recorded over a period of ten months between July 1983 and Feb 1984, in sessions that took place at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, California. The album retained the synth-pop sound of their previous few records, with an extensive focus on the then-new Fairlight CMI Series IIx digital sampling synthesizer. Despite the popularity of synth-pop in 1984, the album was a critical and commercial failure, peaking at only No. 83 on the Billboard 200 and ultimately leading to Warner Bros. dropping the band from their label. Shout was the second Devo album (after 1981's New Traditionalists) in which co-founder and bass player Gerald Casale sang the majority of the lead vocals, which are usually performed by Mark Mothersbaugh.
Following its release, the band went on hiatus for four years. Although the band would release two studio albums through Enigma Records, they would not release another album through Warner Bros. until Something for Everybody in 2010. The band themselves have been quite vocal in that they were not satisfied with the completed album, and in response to a question from a fan on Twitter, Casale once said that recording the album was even "too painful to talk about."As with every Devo album, the band developed a new look for the album, eschewing the black T-shirts and slacks with white "Spud Ring" collars of the Oh, No! It's Devo period and replacing them with "Chinese-American Friendship Suits."Sidewalk (album)
Sidewalk is the third studio album by Australian rock band Icehouse. It was originally released in June 1984, on the labels Chrysalis, Regular, and reached No. 8 on the National albums chart with singles "Taking the Town" (No. 29 in May), "Don't Believe Anymore" (No. 31 August) and "Dusty Pages" (No. 82 November). Founding member Iva Davies used the Fairlight CMI digital sampling synthesizer on this more sombre and reflective album. Included are two tracks used for the Russell Mulcahy 1984 film Razorback, which he had recorded in 1983. This is the first album bassist Guy Pratt worked on as a member of the band. Pratt would later become a session musician, and go on to work with artists such as Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, David Bowie, Madonna and Michael Jackson.The music video for "Taking the Town" was filmed by Russell Mulcahy in Sydney, and used similar effects to Elton John's "Sad Songs (Say So Much)", which was also filmed in Rushcutters Bay by Mulcahy when John was in Sydney for his first marriage. It did not feature Icehouse's then-keyboardist Andy Qunta, using instead a look-alike with his back to the camera.
In 2002, Warner Music re-released the album, digitally remastered by Davies and Ryan Scott, with four bonus tracks.The Soundhouse
The Soundhouse is a 1983 compilation released by BBC Records of music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It featured music composed at the Workshop in the period since the previous compilation, BBC Radiophonic Workshop - 21. During the gap between releases, many advances had been made in the use of computer technology to produce electronic music and this was reflected on the compilation with much of the material having been performed using the Fairlight CMI, the first digital sampling synthesiser. The album included two tracks by Paddy Kingsland used in the television version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, three electronic realisations of classical compositions and an original collaboration featuring five of the Radiophonic Workshop members entitled "Radiophonic Rock".Zoolook
Zoolook is the seventh studio album by French electronic musician and composer Jean-Michel Jarre, released on the Disques Dreyfus label in 1984. It makes extensive use of digital recording techniques and sampling. Much of the music is built up from singing and speech in 25 different languages, along with synthesizers (such as the Fairlight CMI), as well as more traditional instruments.
Parts of the album, like the tracks "Blah Blah Café" and the second half of the track "Diva", were reworkings of material that had already appeared as sections of the album Musique pour Supermarché, released the previous year. The track "Moon Machine" was recorded for inclusion on Zoolook but did not appear on the final release; it later appeared, first on a flexi disc included with Keyboard magazine (March 1986 issue), the 12-inch single of the Special Remix of "Fourth Rendez-Vous" (1986), and the much later Images compilation album (1991).
The voices heard on this album were based on recordings of speech and singing in numerous languages: Aboriginal, Afghan, Arabic, Balinese, Buhndi, Chinese, Dutch, English, Eskimo, French, German, Hungarian, Indian, Japanese, Malagasy, Malayan, Pygmy, Polish, Quechua, Russian, Sioux, Spanish, Swedish, Tibetan and Turkish.The album spawned two singles: the title track and "Zoolookologie". Both were released in remixed forms as both 7" and 12" singles, the latter format including extended remixes by François Kevorkian. A further extended remix version of "Zoolook", produced by Razormaid!, has also been released.
After the initial album release, subsequent ones for Polydor and Dreyfus in 1985 included these remixed 7" versions as the canonical album tracks (see track listings below). However, when Jarre's catalogue was remastered and re-released by Sony's Epic label in the mid-1990s, the original versions were once again reinstated. The track "Diva" is also slightly shorter on the second release.