Wednesday, 27 January 2010

E&MM Fairlight

Ive been reading that E&MM magazine from May 1983 and it's so damn enjoyable I decided to put some of it up here. First up is a letter from Kim Ryrie, co-inventor of the Fairlight CMI. Bear in mind The CMI had only just been released

Dear Sirs,
I read with interest the March issue of your magazine and in particular, an article by Francis Monkman and his comments on the 'Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument' (C.M.I.) and Synclavier II

We are grateful for this comment that the "Fairlight is far more pleasing as a whole package", but he did make some other points on which I would like to comment for your readers' interest

Conceptually, 'The Fairlight' is a "Computer Musical Instrument" (C.M.I.) as distinct from solely a Digital Synthesiser like the Synclavier II. This implies fundamental differences in the systems design philosophy and hardware requirements

FM based digital synthesisers must do very high speed calculations in real-time to achieve complex synthetic sounds and do not require large amounts of memory to store sounds. The C. M.I. on the other hand manipulates very large amounts of previously computed (or sampled) digitally stored sound waveform. This is then blended and manipulated in real~ time with less computational overhead than is necessary for digital synths. This concept allows ANY sound to be produced in real-time because any waveform, regardless of complexity can be stored in the (large) Random Access Waveform memory. Here, waveforms can be further manipulated, blended with other sounds, re-drawn, re-computed and so on. On playback, groups of wavefo'rms can be manipulated and blended in real-time, giving a very high degree of real-time sound control

From a practical point of view "Natural" (psyco-acoustically organic-like) voices cannot easily be synthesised in real-time even using 16 bit mini-computers and this is apparent when one listens to the sum total of sounds available on these type of machines

Where the goal is to produce complex Synthetic type sounds, the Digital SynthesiS technique is efficient and allows effective real-time control. Variations of this technique are used in Synclavier I and II, Synergy, Yamaha GS-1, Crumar Development System and Prism. These systems are (to varying degrees) capable of producing dozens of 'Natural-like', sounds including a variety of classical and popular instrument sounds. From a practical viewpoint, these "Natural" sounds are not simple to design, and are normally supplied in the sound library from the manufacturer

Systems using Waveform manipulation for polyphonic production of sampled sounds are the Fairlight, P.P.G. Waveterm (although I am not sure if this is functional yet) and the Emulator. Synclavier II has optional hardware which digitises sounds onto a winchester disc drive in real-time. This can be played back monophonically under speed control (pitch) from the keyboard. However, this does not distract from the fact that Synclavier II is primarily an FM synthesiser; control functions are for the most part inoperative when using sample to disc, because the latter is in effect behaving as a high quality digital tape recorder with pitch control

On the technical side, 'The Fairlight C.M.I.' contains four microprocessors and two of them are configured to operate on opposite clockphases into common memory which, in this context, provides ample processing power for manipulating waveforms

Regarding Mr Monkman's query about synthesising something like an analogue filter sweep on the 'Fairlight', I must admit that our promotional I iterature doesn't mention capabilities of this type, though you can be assured it is a trivial matter. It is done using fourier waveform computing techniques and allows upto 32 'harmonics" to be individually 'controlled by separately "drawn" complex envelopes. The "sweep" Can be manually controlled in real-time by using one of the live controllers to selectively move through the wavetable

I hope this information maybe of i nierest to your readers, and we continue to enjoy the unique technically oriented musical format of your magazine

Kim Ryrie Managing Director Fairlight Instruments Pty. Ltd.

No comments:

Post a Comment