Research Output
Following the Auteurs: Kate Bush and the Fairlight CMI
  I’m a big fan of Kate Bush’s music but my priority in this paper is not to praise her many achievements. Instead, I want to look at how she was using music technologies in the 1980s and, more specifically, her relationship with the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument (CMI). The Fairlight CMI was designed in Sydney, Australia in the late 1970s and is generally regarded as the first commercially available digital sampler. Its designers, Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie, though, were more interested in replicating the sounds of acoustic instruments; organisations like the Musicians’ Union were concerned that orchestral musicians were going to be replaced. Early users of the Fairlight like Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, however, began to use it to sample the sounds of everyday (and non-everyday) life: broken glass, rifles being cocked. In this paper, I use terminology and concepts from Science and Technology Studies (STS) to suggest that rather than treating Kate Bush as an auteur, we might follow both the human and non-human actors involved in the production of her music and pay close attention to the collective practices of music making. As Bush became a key user of the Fairlight CMI and assumed more control of the production process on Never for Ever (1980) and its follow-up, The Dreaming (1982), she moved away from the stereotype of the teenage pop prodigy that accompanied the reception of her first two albums. Using interview material with ‘support personnel’ including Richard Burgess and JJ Jeczalik, I look at what Kate Bush as a social actor was doing with the Fairlight CMI and how she and others used it to digitally reproduce ‘natural’ sounds.

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    12 December 2019

  • Publication Status:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Harkins, P. (2019, December). Following the Auteurs: Kate Bush and the Fairlight CMI. Paper presented at This Woman's Work: A Kate Bush Symposium, Edinburgh College of Art


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