Herbie Hancock Blows School Kids' Minds with the Awesome Power of Synthesized Music

Legendary jazz keyboardist Herbie Hancock stops by Sesame Street explain the inner workings of the state-of-the-art (in 1983, at least) Fairlight CMI synthesizer and it's monochrome touchscreen monitor to a bunch of seven year-olds. Among them, a girl that would one day play Will Smith's cousin on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and go on to child-star obscurity. And people want to defund PBS. [Open Culture via It's Okay to be Smart]


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A. It's a sampler. The first commercial sampling keyboard.

B. The creator of the Fairlight has turned it into an iPhone/iPad app that does much of what the original did, and includes all the sounds, the ability to record new sounds, and the Fairlight's song-composition mode.

A pricey one, but hey, $50 is a lot cheaper than the $50,000 the Fairlight cost originally. The $50 version gets you the enhanced CD-quality sounds from the Fairlight CMI Series III, and the ability to compose new songs.


Features from the original machine that aren't implemented include waveform editing, and the ability to set up the keyboard to have different sounds on different sets of keys.

The app is compatible with MIDI hardware, so if you have a full-size keyboard it can be used to control the app. A USB music keyboard can be used with the iPad, using the camera connection kit. (If they keyboard is powered by the USB bus, you need to connect the keyboard to a powered hub, and connect the hub to the iPad.)

FYI: One of the included sampled sounds will be familiar if you remember the 80's Yes song "Owner of a Lonely Heart".