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Guest Blogger - The Music of Commodore 64s

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Producer Will Producer Will | 16:09 UK time, Thursday, 21 July 2011

Commodore 64


By Anthony Chalmers


Why am I writing this blog about computer game music? Well, I co-run a label Robot Elephant Records and we have a compilation for Commodore 64 Music coming out late this year so they thought I might have something good to say on the subject.

I've recently developed a bit of a fascination with music made for the C64 for a few reasons. For a start it's so amazingly good, despite the composers only having the most basic of technology to work with –a SID Chip only allowed three sounds going at any one time for a start.

In addition to that each composer had to individually program each of the sounds.

There were no keys to press that made notes, each one was individually unique. Plus there was very tight deadlines for the songs as there was a huge production line of games going on.

Not to mention of course, because the games took a long, long time to load, the music was vital to the enjoyment of the game.

This was real frontier music production with brand new technology. As much as the first Synth musicians and Radiophonic Orchestra for early electronic music.

For an alternate perspective, I asked Chris Abbott from C64audio.com for the linear notes for our compilation and he put it pretty well.

“When people talk about 'Commodore 64 music', it’s easy to forget they’re not talking about a style: they’re talking about a delivery mechanism for music. What that convenient phrase hides is the sheer amount of originality and creativity that went into creating the music for games and demos on the Commodore 64.

“Composers were limited to three voices at once and often didn’t even see the game before having to compose the music! It’s pretty well documented that humans are at their best when overcoming limitations or under deadline, and the classic C64 composers pared music to its essence.

“They had their own sounds, and their own way of playing them. And since they were pioneers, the only experience they could bring was from a rich diversity of other musical genres: everything from bluegrass to funk to electronica to punk.”

I hope that you will take the time to check out the ocean of good music there is that not a lot of people hear anymore!

You can also see what I do normally up on the God Don't Like It website.


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