Hugh Davies: A History of Sampling, 1996

Since the mid-1980s commercial digital samplers have become widespread. The idea of musical instruments which have no sounds of their own is, however, much older, not just in the form of analogue samplers like the Mellotron, but in ancient myths and legends from China and elsewhere. This history of both digital and analogue samplers relates the latter to the early musique concrète of Pierre Schaeffer and others, and also describes a variety of one-off systems devised by composers and performers. (…) In the subsequent century many other recording systems were developed, both analogue and, more recently, digital, all of which have been proposed or utilised as the basis for musical instruments and comparable systems, whereby, cuckoo-like, the instrument has no voice of its own, but can be said to ‘speak with the voice of another instrument’ (Wiffen, P. n.d. [?1991]. A history of sampling. Roland News-link (Summer): 20–3). For the lack of any better word, sampling is used in this survey to describe all of these methods of storing and replaying sounds, using both analogue and digital techniques. Indeed, recent terminology describing digital systems can not only be usefully applied to analogue ones but also gives us greater insight into the ideas and ingenuity behind them.

Davies, Hugh. “A History of Sampling.” Organised Sound, International Journal of Music and Technology, vol. 1, no. 1 (1996): 3–11.