Research Output
'Need we Say More': Contemporary Responses to the Fairlight CMI
  Often described as the first digital sampler, the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument (CMI) was primarily a digital synthesizer and computer workstation. Launched in 1979, it was one of the technologies that were used to re-shape the practices of music making and the sounds of popular music in the 1980s. In 2017 the National Science and Media Museum adopted sound technologies as a major component of its collecting and exhibitions remit and one of its first acquisitions was a Fairlight CMI. In this panel, we want to explore the social life of this instrument and how it continues to shape cultures of music making.

For the past decade, Rob Puricelli has been working with Peter Wielk, former Studio Manager at Fairlight Instruments, to acquire, restore, and re-sell Fairlight CMIs around the world. Rob’s contribution will focus on the issues involved in the preservation and restoration of Fairlight CMIs and the importance of keeping these machines working for future generations. In the last year, Stefania Zardini Lacedelli began a placement at the Museum to explore how digital platforms can expand the narratives as well as the communities around its Sound Technologies collection. Her contribution will describe the development of a YouTube playlist dedicated to the Fairlight CMI and the online conversation it generated. Finally, Manuella Blackburn will present a collection of samples from the library of the Fairlight CMI in preparation for a new composition of electronic music. Her work to date has focused on short sound materials and the CMI samples present a similar challenge as they were limited to one second. One of the earliest advertising slogans used to sell the Fairlight CMI was ‘Need we Say More’. In this panel, we will bring its many stories to life and reconnect the object with its sound cultures.

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    14 December 2020

  • Publication Status:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Harkins, P. (2020, December). 'Need we Say More': Contemporary Responses to the Fairlight CMI. Paper presented at Sound Instruments and Sonic Cultures: An Interdisciplinary Conference, National Science & Media Museum, Bradford/Online



Fairlight CMI; music; organology; sampling; synthesizers; technology:

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