Before DJ Shadow and The Avalanches, there was a French engineer and musicologist called Pierre Schaeffer, a pioneer of electronic music and sampling.
The art of sampling is commonplace in modern day music, but its origins arose much earlier. Musique concrète revolutionised how electronic music was created and heard. Pierre Schaeffer, a French musician and electronic polymath, began experimenting with “radiophonic techniques” in the 40s, helping to create a strange new art form. Techniques such as tape looping were a staple in his work and lead to the foundations of sampling. He even used turntables to manipulate music, predating DJ Kool Herc by decades. However as his experimentation manifested, they brought with them derision and displeasure.
Schaeffer’s compositions were regarded as unintelligible noise but while it continued to polarise, its influence could not be denied. A certain Jean-Michel Jarre was one of his former students and had this to say:
“Back in the ‘40s, Schaeffer invented the sample, the locked groove — in other words, the loop […] It was Schaeffer who experimented with distorting sounds, playing them backwards, speeding them up and slowing them down. He was the one who invented the entire way music is made these days.” – Jarre, 2007
FACT Mag have kindly put together a 10-piece list of his contributions to sampling and electronic music. You can find the link to their article below the YouTube player. Merci beacoup, Monsieur Schaeffer.