Freitag, 9. Januar 2009

Hip Hop Genealogies - Planet Rock / White Noise

Just got the news today that White Noise's 1969 LP "An electric storm" is being rereleased. White Noise were playing quite experimental electronic music and their 1969 debut album is considered groundbreaking and avant-garde for its use of synthesizers, audio samples and sound effects. Here's the first track off that LP:

Now, what does an old British prog band from the hippie era have to do with hip hop?
Just bear with me for a few seconds and I'll try to spell out a rather interesting genealogy.

Maybe the use of sampling techniques made them precursors to hip hop? I doubt it. First off, White Noise's albums were only known to an extremely limited audience and there was no influence on whoever was djing at block parties in the South Bronx 10 years later. More important, while hip hop's use of samples is constructive, White Noise tend to be deconstructive: Hip hop takes small bits and pieces of sound and uses them as the syntax in the creation of a pop song. White Noise start with a pop song and use audio samples as Trojan horses to question and eventually dismantle the song's integrity, stripping it until it dissolves into mere sound.
So where's the connection?

Enter David Vorhaus ...

Pictured above sporting the latest urban street fashion is David Vorhaus, member of the group White Noise and electronic music pioneer. The stick he is holding in his hand is called a Kaleidophon; something like a master keyboard - a device that controls a synthesizer. Only that it is not built after a piano but after a bass, making it more useful in controlling monophonic and voltage controlled synthesizers.

He invented and built the Kaleidophon himself, even winning him a first prize in an Austrian competition of electronic music instruments. He had to share the first prize with another nominee, though - Peter Vogel and his Fairlight CMI synthesizer. The two became friends and Vorhaus later helped to develop and further refine the Fairlight. Here's a picture of the Fairlight:

The Fairlight wasn't only a synthesizer, it also contained the first digital sampler of the world. Vorhaus himself created a number of samples for the Fairlight. One particularly famous soundbite was called "ORCH5". It is an orchestral hit that was sampled from an old recording of Igor Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite". Listen to it here:

A Fairlight CMI was also present when keyboard player John Robie and producer Arthur baker recorded the music to the seminal Afrika Bambaataa track "Planet Rock". Robie stumbled upon the ORCH5 sample and decided to fatten it a little bit - making it into a minor chord by adding a 5th and a minor third. Here's what Robie probably played:

... and here's the final product (do you recognize the ORCH5 sample?):

And voilà, there is - in the words of Robert Fink - the classical ghost in the hip hop machine.

1 Kommentar:

  1. So this would be the same sample that would continue to influence hip-hop production i.e. B-Fats 'The B-Fats'(Teddy Riley)and similar orch.hit found on Awesome Foursome's 'Monster Beat'.Great post anyway.Cheers