Friday, January 22, 2016

Jean-Michel Jarre ‎– Magnetic Fields (and the cool stirred glass of water)

Les Chants Magnétiques, at about the 23 minute mark, after a train passes, has a track that has this weird rhythmical sound as a foundation.

That sound was on one of the sound discs that we used in the factory in those far off Fairlight Instruments CMI Series I assembly and testing days.

It is actually the sound of a tea spoon being stirred in a glass of water.  At normal pitch it is nothing special, and just another sound effect.  In the track it is played at several much lower pitches and is the foundation of the track and I think it just sounds "watery"...

So why am I bringing this up?   

In the promotional material about the release and making of Jean-Michel Jarre's latest  Electronica Part 1 album, he talks about many old instruments, and the 8bit , max of 22 kHz, 1 second sampling time CMI Series 1 gets a mention as being instant cool.  Now, I was central in the design of the much high sound quality (better than CD) Series III which doesn't get this label and will explain why I think this is so.

Because the CMI Series I had such a short lo-fi sample it made people use it in very creative ways and so was a synthesiser of strange sounds as much as for realistic (if very short!) sounds.  The lo-fi made everything thing sound different too.   So it is these factors that make it cool and as much a synthesiser as sampler. These are in addition to it being a one man band composers machine.

Users of the CMI Series III didn't have that sound restriction, and so used it much more as a replacement for real instruments and players.  That is pretty much what Hans Zimmer and ZZ-Top (like Afterburner) did.

Anyway, that simple stirred glass of water became a magical sound in the hands of a synthesist after electronic sounds, and from that POV, yes the CMI Series I has instant cool.