Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The Art of the Loop: JJ Jeczalik and the Fairlight CMI Series II/III

Harkins, Paul



The socio-musical practice of sampling is closely associated with the quotation of sound recordings, the technological processes of looping, and an aesthetic based on appropriation and repetition, primarily within the genres of hip-hop and Electronic Dance Music (EDM). Yet early digital sampling instruments such as the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument (CMI) were not designed for this purpose. The technologists at Fairlight Instruments in Australia were primarily interested in the use of digital synthesis to imitate the sounds of acoustic instruments; sampling was a secondary concern. The sample time on the Fairlight CMI Series I and II was limited to one second and users such as JJ Jeczalik employed it for ‘popping in some interesting bits’ to recordings and inserting ‘short punchy sounds’. This began to change with the release of the Fairlight CMI Series II in 1982 and the Series IIx in 1983; both contained a built-in sequencer called Page R (or Real Time Composer), which enabled users to build rhythmic patterns of sampled sounds. Jeczalik and other members of Trevor Horn’s production team started to use the Fairlight with other digital instruments to add sampled loops to recordings by Malcolm McLaren and The Art of Noise in ways that mirrored the hip-hop aesthetic of isolating and repeating rare breakbeats using analogue technologies such as turntables and magnetic tape. Using material from an interview with Jeczalik, this paper will trace the use of digital sampling technologies to create a loop-based aesthetic in popular music of the 1980s.


Harkins, P. (2015, June). The Art of the Loop: JJ Jeczalik and the Fairlight CMI Series II/III. Paper presented at Over and Over: Exploring Repetition in Popular Music, University of Liege, Belgium

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Over and Over: Exploring Repetition in Popular Music
Start Date Jun 4, 2015
End Date Jun 6, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 9, 2017
Keywords Digital Sampling, Fairlight CMI, Looping, Repetition, Technology
Public URL