Ok so a little context first…checkout this demo and interview with one of the designers of the Fairlight Peter Vogel from 1980.

Next you can watch this video of Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones working out with a Fairlight and you can also read a post that I wrote about my feelings on their use of the equipment here.

And finally the inspiration for this post…

I literally was talking about this with one of musical cohorts the other day before the Whodini episode of Unsung came on and when they started talking about their use of the Fairlight in the studio and the fact that at that particular time there were on 12 in the world. When you work with a tool that not many have access to, and you can work with it skillfully that is going to immediately put you front and center or it should.

My buddy and I were talking about how everyone uses the same programs, plugins, sounds, approaches, and on and on. Over the past decade and a half a space has been created where now everyone has the equivalent of a Fairlight in their laptop, which is both a great thing and an awful thing at the same time. Great because the barrier to entry has been lowered for many and awful because many have used the ability to enter as a way not to develop as a musician because quite frankly why would they have to? I mean if you see someone making money by using the musical equivalent of Colorforms why would you listen to someone telling you the benefits of learning all the scales in every iteration possible? I mean that takes too long and I got this hot, I digress…

But one thing that I hold fast to and there are folks out here doing exactly what I’m about to describe and that is: I think it’s important to be aware of what is happening musically, but I think it is even more important to have the guts to say “I hear what people are doing right now, but I want to take this music somewhere else.”

I mean look at Whodini’s example, I mean not only the use of the Fairlight but the change in environment when they went to record, I mean to me that’s so important. When you go to a different town or state or country there are different smells, foods, energy and on and on. That’s where creativity lies. I want fresh sounds, sounds no one has ever heard or that no one has used in a very long time. I think the purpose of technology is not to make us all the same, but to assist us in being more unique than we ever thought possible over the arc of human existence. We may all have access to the same or similar tools but it’s time more than ever that we start using them in our own personal way.

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.