“It fucks with the fabric of time!” Tony Visconti describing Pitch Shifting to Brian Eno and David Bowie in 1976
That not so subtle description does quite neatly sum up what the Pitch Shift programs on the Tiptop Audio Time Fabric card do! In the second half of the 1970s, digital technology became ‘affordable’ enough to start showing up in professional audio equipment. Digital memory allowed the sampled audio to remain in memory without degradation and this ability led not only to delay and reverb devices, but some clever people (like Tony Agnello at Eventide) found that playing the samples back at a different rate than recorded produced pitch changes. With some careful engineering this effect could work in real time on any audio signal, and thus pitch shifting emerged.
First, Lexicon released their Varispeech device aimed at aiding in transcription and speech research (dubious for the intended use, but great at mangling sounds), but it was really the Eventide H910 ‘Harmonizer’ that made Pitch Shifting a must have effect. Although designed to provide automatic ‘Harmony’ for any signal, the effect was so wild and new it became instantly recognizable when abused. Pitch shifting became the method for the wacky sounds and voices on P-Funk records, snare drum on the above mentioned Bowie album ‘Low’, and any male voice shifted down an octave became the voice of Satan in countless 80s horror films.
Pitch shifting would eventually have both more experimental applications like the Eno/Lanois ‘Shimmer’ and crazy backwards Eventide ‘Crystals’ effects, but also be relegated to mundane tasks like doubling country music vocals and widening hair metal guitars. Both paths have made Pitch Shifting into an essential effect for any studio and now your Eurorack rig.