New (Old) Album and History

I have just released a “new”* album. The only caveat is that the music in it was composed… between 8 and 10 years ago!


Storytime:

Back when I first started getting into the Internet, I was interested in listening to music from my favorite game series: Final Fantasy. I used a search engine (… what, Metacrawler? Alta Vista? something like that) to track down Final Fantasy midis. I found the UnOfficial Squaresoft Home Page (which later morphed into RPGamer), and among all of the pages for MIDI files, there was also a “Digital Music” section.

Digital? How futuristic! (Keep in mind, this was the 90s)

I was not sure how to play these files, but there was a little guide that explained that there were 4 digital module formats: .MOD .S3M .XM and .IT. The program that was compatible for playing all four of these formats was Impulse Tracker. MS-DOS, woohoo! Until I loaded it up, I didn’t realize that the program was also used for writing these tunes.

Having taken several years of viola lessons and playing in the orchestra at school (and the Youth Philharmonic), it was only a matter of time until I started tinkering with Impulse Tracker to write my own tunes. So, in 1997 or so, I made my first Impulse Tracker module.

It was awful. But hey, we’ve all gotta start somewhere.

Meanwhile, I was also interested in making music for games. So in the UOSHP forums, I read some posts where folks were talking about using tools to create their own Final Fantasy- or Phantasy Star-esque games: VERGE … and it just so happened that VERGE games used .MOD .S3M and .XM modules for their music. So I wrote the beginning of a battle theme, shared it online, and posted to the VERGE section of the forum something along the lines of “I am learning Impulse Tracker. Who wants to make a game together?”

My forum post was answered very rapidly via email by Ben “Grue” McGraw, who was making a game called Saga of the Stars. It was a long time ago, but I basically remember the email saying something like “I’ve just graduated high school, which is exciting, and I’m making this game, and although I already have a friend writing music, the game will need a LOT of music, so please write music for me.”

So I did! I learned how Impulse Tracker worked by writing a bunch of tunes for parts of Saga of the Stars (I really enjoyed writing battle music). I got a lot of help from other IT users, and hung around in IRC chats in the VERGE community. Every once in a while there would be an “X Hours of VERGE” Game Jam. All the participants would have a certain number of hours to make a functioning game. The first one I took part in was to make music and sound effects for a side-scrolling shooter called Time Toilet. (I’m sure it’s out there somewhere…)

The guy who made all of Time Toilet except for the music and sound was Guilherme “Zaratustra” Töws. We worked together on a few more HoV Game Jams, including Pac-Shark, Robobo, Fugue, and a retro cave exploration game called 4Four.

4Four won the compo it was submitted in, and after a few other compo games, Zaratustra set about making a sequel called 4Four: Quarter. It was very audacious, and had all sorts of really neat mechanics including manipulating time and physics. It got to a certain point of development but wasn’t quite finished (which is perfectly reasonable, and was the fate of many VERGE games back then).

I kept all of the music I wrote for 4Four: Quarter with the notion that someday it’d come back to life. This was sometime between 2004 and 2006.

Meanwhile, Grue had tapped me to write music for Dungeons of Dredmor and I began working with Nicholas “Mordred” Vining. He later brought Dredmor to some friends who joined up to create Gaslamp Games. Sometime in the middle of all of that, Zaratustra made Eversion, and I had the pleasure of writing a couple of NES-style tunes for it. I also went to school, moved to Seattle, went to school some more, and finally here we are today.

Every once in a while, I poke through all of the HoV Compo game music and find 4Four: Quarter’s tunes. I think it’s interesting to listen to these tunes that I created before Dungeons of Dredmor. I listened to a lot of trance music back then, and had this method of writing tunes where I would create a melodic segment, and then create a bunch of countermelodies. Then I would cut and paste melodies and countermelodies into later parts of the track, and add variations. I go about things WAY differently now.

Over the last few days, I exported these tunes to wav files using Schism Tracker, which is an Impulse Tracker clone that works on modern OSs. I did a little basic mastering, making sure that the tunes weren’t so tubby that they’d disturb your speakers. I asked Zaratustra for an album cover, and he got back to me in less than an hour (what a guy!). So, finally, after nearly a decade, these tunes will be out in the wild.

I’m hoping that this will help populate my Bandcamp page, which has been showing two Dredmor-related albums for a long time and nothing else. Finally: something else!

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