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Re: Looping History

At 11:56 PM 10/28/2004, samba * wrote:
>   I'd always thought Pierre Shaeffer had invented looping(at least I 
> thought that since I found out about such things) ,and according to this 
> history<http://csunix1.lvc.edu/~snyder/em/schaef.html>, he did,only he 
> did it by cutting a nonspiral groove into a phono disc  In 1942 while 
> working for Radio Televison France.

I would call that an early form of sampling, not really looping. Looping 
more of an interactive performance technique, where the sound is being 
recorded to the loop and played back at the same time, and the performer 
interacting with it all. That doesn't seem to be what Schaeffer and others 
like him were doing at all.

The work Schaeffer and others doing Musique Concrete did was mainly 
compositional. It seems like a direct ancestor to many forms of music 
that are composed by combining together many different samples, like 
various forms of electronic dance music and hip hop. That is certainly an 
interesting historical lineage to follow. But it isn't exactly the same 
thing as what people call Looping.

Looping is clearly very related to these ideas, and there is crossover 
between the concepts all the time. But for the most part Looping is a 
distinctly different concept that has gone along in parallel with sampling 
composition techniques for decades. If you want to do an honest historical 
study, you need to understand the difference and follow the different 
through time. There is a reason why Loopers and Samplers and Audio 
Sequencers have totally different features in them and one does not 
the others.

>So he would have had access to cutting edge technology so to speak.  His 
>engineer/assistant ,Pierre Henry was a student of Messian. Apparently 
>Shaeffer's work lead directly to the Mellotron,arguably the first 
>commercial looping device 

It is clearly not a looping device, as it lacks the basic features that 
make something a looper. No way to record the tape as it plays back! The 
Mellotron is an early form of a sample playback synth.

>In some circles Les Paul has long been given credit for inventing 
>multitracking,I don't know how accurate this is ,but he does seem to have 
>introduced it into popular music.

Also, as we discussed in the past, Les Paul never really did looping 
either. His "Les Paulverizer" was really a bit of a showman's gimmick. He 
triggered pre-recorded samples of himself (on tape), but did it in such a 
way as to fool the audience into thinking what they heard play back was 
what he had just played. Similar to the overdubs he then made, it was all 
pre-recorded, but performed to look like it was done in real time. So he 
was pretending to be looping, but not really doing it. Perhaps he would 
have done it for real if he had the technology to do it, and you could 
argue that from the audience's perspective it was real.

Certainly many people were experimenting with tape recorders in the 40's 
and 50's. (and earlier in Germany). Clearly many of them independently 
across the idea of setting the tape in a loop and allowing the record and 
play back to be engaged at the same time while they played into it, thus 
"looping". It may not be possible to decide who "invented" it. As with 
concepts, the times and technology developments set the right conditions, 
and suddenly many people found it at once.


Kim Flint                     | Looper's Delight
kflint@loopers-delight.com    | http://www.loopers-delight.com