Tag Archives: history

I Know All the Positions!

Wait, what? Is this actually a NSFW post? Hold on. Let me explain…

While the bulk of my day to day music life revolves around the bits and bytes of synthetic sound, my musical background is actually much more traditional. I began by singing (poorly) in school and church choirs as a young kid. I also have a number of relatives who play various instruments, ranging from the traditional like the guitar or clarinet, to the more obscure like the organ or the accordion. The relative with the most impact to my future musical endeavors was my cousin Jeff who is two years older than me. While I was in 2nd or 3rd grade I found out he started playing the saxophone. This was the very early 80’s and saxophones were really cool then, so of course I raised my hand as wanting to be a sax player too!

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SIDtastic! comes to Sounds of Solarno

Back in the mid to late 80’s, and into the very early 90’s, the majority of my musical experimentation was done using my venerable Commodore 64.  The Commodore 64 contained a little piece of hardware called the SID, a sound chip which would go on to become one of the most influential 8-bit sound chips of all time.  The signature sound of the SID can be prominently found in the recent chiptune resurgence of the past 5 years or so.  Artists such as 8-Bit Weapon and Computeher feature the Commodore SID chip, along with other well known sound chips commonly heard in various game consoles, and even use them live in concert.  (My jaw hit the floor of the Viper Room when I saw 8-Bit Weapon tapping out melodies on a C-64 when he opened for Information Society a couple of years ago.)

During my high school years I spent countless hours programming music on my Commodore 64.  While I created plenty of original music, I also transcribed dozens of songs by commercial artists.  I did this out of curiosity, to see just what I could recreate using a choice of 4 monophonic soundwaves and three total voices.  There is essentially no percussion in any of the songs I created as I never truly mastered the use of the noise waveform that was available.

The desire to finally archive this early music of mine resulted in me digging my C-64 out of storage about a month ago to see it it even still worked.  Even if it did there was still the concern over the age of my original floppy discs.  To my surprise, and other than a few worn out keys which need to be coerced to function, it all worked.  The featured image of this post shows the new home of my C-64 in my personal studio, Robot Junkyard.

Having a functioning C-64 with access to all of my old music has led to the creation of what I am calling the SIDtastic! Collection.  This will be a series of four to five collections of my SID compositions, both original and covers.  Other than leveling out the volumes, I will be doing no mastering to these songs, choosing to leave them in their natural raw form.

The first volume is now available to listen to and download.  It contains SIDified versions of the songs from The Manhattan Transfer’s 1983 album Bodies and Souls, and can be found here: SIDtastic! Volume 1.


A little bit of history

Just for fun, I imported all of the music related posts from my Myspace page.  I forced them to show as published at the same time of their original publish date/time on Myspace, so feel free to scroll down to read them.  Most of them talk about the creation of Remotely Programmed Moonshot as part of the RPM 2008 music challenge, with a handful that are older.


Tools of the trade

My current studio is 100% digital. It is really amazing what modern hardware and software is capable of, and I’m not even using anything terribly groundbreaking.  The ability to meld both synthetic and organic sounds all based in a digital domain is extremely liberating as I don’t have to take time to track down sources.  Yes, there are drawbacks.  One sound form that I have a very difficult time recreating is a simple repeating acoustic guitar strum with all it’s beautifully human inconsistencies.  Yet, lacking the ability to mimic certain organic sound sources forces me to be creative and use my existing synthetic tools in new, unknown manners.

Thinking about it, if I go back into my past, I’ve almost always used some sort of digital source in my studio setup.  My first years of writing music was done using the Commodore 64’s SidPlayer.  It really doesn’t get much more truly digital in a raw sense than that.  Three monophonic voices.  Four waveform choices.  ADSR modulation.  All controllable in a tedious note by note manner.  I spent countless hours nearly every day, programming notes and rhythms, tweaking sounds, listening to the changes, and tweaking or programming again. And again. And again.

In reality, that distilled process is still how I work, I just have much prettier interfaces to look at.

For fun and nostalgia, I’ll occasionally revisit how I created music in the past, and some of the lessons and techniques learned from those times.

Hop on over to the ‘Equipment‘ page to see a complete list of everything I’m currently utilizing.