Soundfonts Ruined Computer Music

by Backtrace

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    Inspired by 70's Minimalism and 90's FM synthesis chips. I used to write pieces like this in the early 90's for a my PC, which had one of the SoundBlaster audio cards with the built in FM synthesis chip on it. There were a few of those General MIDI patches that actually stood on their own (like the Orchestral Harp)and didn't just sound like tinny approximations of acoustic instruments. Going deep into the world of FM Synth eventually led me to hacking directly on the soundcard, which became the "Writing Software the Play Music to Write Software To" project.
    By the late 1990's, the FM Synthesis chips were getting replaced by soundcards with digitally sampled instruments (soundfonts) which for me took all of the nuance out of composing directly for a sound card. These newer sound cards sounded like inferior samplers instead of standalone mini-synthesizers. Of course, the change in hardware also meant that the software I'd written no longer worked and I'd have to start collecting vintage hardware from resale shops and maintaining obsolete computers to continue the "Writing Software..." project.
    These 2 pieces are a reconstruction of how I first started composing electronic music. I created a simple FM Synthesis instrument in SuperCollider, and then wrote some simple algorithmic sequences for it. Everything you hear is just oscillators, there's no effects or post-production - the timbre and texture are the result of frequency + phase modulation and some subtle microtonality.
    The second piece is a radically slowed down (256x slower) subsection of the first piece.
    SuperCollider source code is here:
    ... more

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released April 28, 2016




Backtrace New York, New York


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