Music on the early ZX Spectrum was very cumbersome and limited by the fact that only one note could be played at any given time. Technically speaking you had a single tone generator with an on/off state being available to the composer. This at the time produced music that was more of an afterthought as appose to being part of the overall experience. As with anything there will be exceptions however at the time and still appreciated today was the introduction of the multichannel pieces that where written in Machine Code (the geek language of the Spectrum) which in turn controlled the speaker in ways that up and till this point could not have been imagined.
010101010 composers brought the illusion of multi-channel music by making shorter lengths of tones and pulse width modulation techniques that gave the illusion of multichannel sound being produced. The resulting sound when first listened to is nothing short of breathtaking. Of all the pieces produced in this way a couple that stood out from the rest where the music that accompanied the game Agent X and Chronos both from the budget software company Mastertronic.
Both the mentioned pieces where created by Tim Follin who was one of a handful of composer able to produce music in this way. Thankfully the internet has allowed the knowledge of these pieces and there enjoyment to be listened to by far more people than ever.
It would however be unfair not mention the talented programmer Jonathan Smith (Joffa Smith) who was a pioneer of this type computer music most notably the title music for Ping Pong by Konami.
If listening to these pieces gives you a thirst to find out more or even try composing piece using the mentioned techniques then be sure to give Beepola a drive round the block. This cleaver piece of software for the PC and MAC allows you the composer to recreate those magical moments of a bye gone era or even better create some of your own pieces. I must say after using the program for a very short time I’m almost swayed to the idea of using this within a future compositions.
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