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Ed's Music

(Last revised: November 20, 2008)


MUSICAL EXPERIMENTATION

Note: I am not a musician or composer! Just a computer geek!

When I was 17 years old and still in high school (mid-1990 to be exact), I managed to get my hands on an AdLib audio card for my computer. At the time, computers weren't capable of any sort of meaningful sound or music, beyond the simple beepers they were equipped with. Specialized audio devices had just started to become available, with the SoundBlaster eventually setting the stanard. But before the SoundBlaster was the AdLib, which was a simple FM-Synthesizer.

Having one of these at the time made me "the coolest kid on the block", so to speak. For the first time, I was able to play games with actual music and sound effects in them. But one of the main functions of this device was to allow you to also create your own music. It came with a "Visual Composer" program that was simple to use.

Having only taken some piano lessons, and never quite getting the hang of standard musical notation, the Visual composer was exactly the sort of thing I could work with, appealing to the engineer in me. It plotted the notes as almost a sort of graph, with pitch versus time. This made it similar to musical notation, except that the length of a bar determined its duration. You want a half-note? Draw it out to a length that's half of the full measure. Simple.

So for a couple of weeks, I taught myself to compose some music, and here's what I came up with. Now remember, my goal was not the composition, but simply to have fun and experiment. For that reason, these pieces generally become a bit chaotic or noisy towards the end, or the finish at an odd time. And the later compositions got more strange and experimental. Still, for a teen-age non-musician taking an engineer's approach, I felt I did well.

A few years later, I needed to be able to include digital sound effects with my shareware games, and play them at different pitches while mixing them in real-time in the background. I realized this was only a stone's throw away from making it also play music, since all that would be required is playing the voices at controlled pitches at specific times. So I wrote my own composer program with the same visual component as the one from the AdLib, and taught myself the math behind the pitches of the various notes. A sample of my digital music can be heard in this youtube video of one of my graphics demos from back then (maybe around 1994?).

Other than a few digital compositions for my games and demos, I haven't tried music again since. I just simply haven't seen any other music editors/sequencers that sound good and have that same sort of visual approach to composing. If you know of one, please drop me a line and let me know!

Anyway, here's what I made back in 1990, in chronological order. I'm releasing these MP3 files under the Creative Commons license, which basically states that these music tracks are free for non-commercial use and redistribution, however I retain copyright ownership.

Creative Commons License
(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License)

03 Mysticism [2:54, 2.7MB] (My first actual composition, probably second best)
04 Stormy Night [2:26, 2.2MB] (Everyone's favorite, probably my best)
05 Temporal Flow [2:44, 2.5MB] (One of my favorites at the time, because of the chords)
06 Cosmic Entity [3:15, 3.0MB] (Fast and odd, never lets up. Entirely 16th notes)
07 Temporal Paradox [4:24, 4.0MB] (Slower paced, slightly gradual build-up)
08 Eternal Continuum [3:01, 2.8MB] (Slower paced)
09 Temporal Flow Too [4:48, 4.4MB] (Extended version of Temporal Flow, minor enhancements, gradual tempo shift, etc)
10 Temporal Paradox 2 [6:22, 5.8MB] (Extended version of Temporal Paradox, more drawn out ending)

Before making the above, I made two tracks that were just tests of the various available voices, and served to teach me the interface:

01 Orderly Chaos [2:30, 2.3MB]
02 Rotation [2:05, 1.9MB]


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