The artists of noise
How did we get from the sound of early man making noises by hitting things to the all-singing, all-dancing computer-based recording tools that we have at our disposal today?
We plot the journey in this not-altogether-exhaustive look at the history of sound design technology.
For a complete guide to sound design check out Computer Music Special: The Sound Designer’s Handbook (issue 60) which is on sale now.
Palaeolithic man strikes bone on wood, creating a dull thud. He realises that it sounds rubbish and invents civilisation, hoping that one day it’ll come up with something more banging.
Early Chinese theatre relies on music and sound to underscore the action. Participants have no idea that South Korea will eventually beat them to the first YouTube clip to garner a billion views.
Italian Renaissance theatre uses sound effects to heighten the physical comedy. Years later, the Chuckle Brothers’ seminal TV series ChuckleVision would develop the technique to perfection.
American electrical engineer Elisha Gray inadvertently invents the single-note oscillator. Trance enthusiasts would have to wait 121 years for the Roland JP-8000’s supersaw oscillator to make its debut.
Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta laboratory invents the first audio tape recorder, which uses wax-covered paper coated in a solution of beeswax and paraffin. Critics brand it “pungent”.
The first ever radio broadcast is, er, broadcast. It’s a live performance by several opera singers from the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City (pictured). Civilisation braces itself for The Archers.
Ampex’s Ross Snyder develops the first ever multitrack tape recorder. The idea is stolen by a time-travelling lout from the 1980s and sold to Chuck Berry.
In a bid to achieve worldwide fame and have his name pronounced incorrectly for the next 50 years, Robert Moog releases the first commercial synthesiser. His plan works perfectly.
Australian boffins release the first commercial synth with sampling capability: the CMI Fairlight Series I. The ten-year-old Sean Combs has no idea of this event, or the enormous significance it has for him personally.
Steinberg releases Cubase VST 3.0, software that enables multitrack audio recording on a home computer. Thousands of children born in the same year will go on to use its successors to create SpongeBob SquarePants-themed dubstep tracks.