Of course, people had been doing this kind of work for years - except not always in theatre. The roots for me weren't theatre at all but early hip hop records. I know; a weird leap. But Hip Hop was at the time taking old records and cutting the good bits - the drum break or the vocal hook and splicing them with other records to make a whole new soundtrack. I must have been about 13 when I discovered this music, by chance one night searching out pirate radio stations in my bedroom. I listened to the music and taped the shows on TDK cassettes. I bought old reel to reel tape machines at jumble sales and an editing kit from Tandy and taught myself how to splice 1/4 tape. I never knew at the time Id end up doing it for a living. I made echo machines out of tape loops strung across my bedroom floor and round broom handles. I bought 2 record decks and, by my late teens, owned 1000s of records - still no girlfriend surprisingly. I got work as club DJ and worked on various pirate radio stations all through my youth and even when I was at Guildhall training. This work was seemingly unrelated but now when I look back it was the best apprenticeship ever.
Of course, Hip Hop didn’t start it. The french had, years before with the musique concrete movement. Using everyday sounds to make music. The sound is pretty dreadful and unlistenable to. Classical composers like Alvin Lucier were also working with sound in strange way - as where the more fashionable (and more listenable) like Steve Reich and later Philip Glass, Terry Riley and Gavin Bryers. The other genius at this were the BBC Radiophonic workshop and Deliah Derbyshire. After Princess Laila in Star Wars and Clare Grogen from Altered Images - she was my intellectual crush. She produced the original Dr Who theme and invented the Tardis sound - just so you know. I was also in complete adoration for George Martin - The Beatles producer.
One big thing was changing that wasn't to hit the hip hop movement till later and theatres later than that. Sound was going digital. Until then then the process of recording and playing back sound had been an analogue affair. A method of capturing impulses on magnetic tape. Digital meant storing it as a series of ones and zeros. Computers were still things that played chess at IBM or ran NASA space ships but the process of sampling sound - storing tiny fragments digitally was coming. It arrived in the early 80s and by the 90s was available - just - in the theatre sound world in the form of the Akai S900 sampler. (Theatres couldn't afford Fairlights) It's moved on a lot but for us lot the digital switch over happened 20 years ago.
2 Back in the 80 samplers worked on RAM - computers still do. 5MB of RAM cost £30,000 then. To understand this better - that means my 32Gb iphone would have cost around £197,000,00.00. Times have changed.