Theme from Stationary Ark: Commodore 64 Synth Sample [Exploded Mix]

by Radio Landscape

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***NOTE: DUE TO THE INITIAL MAXIMUM UPLOAD SIZE RESTRICTION IT WAS NECESSARY TO SPLIT THIS PIECE PRIOR TO PUBLICATION. THIS WILL BE AMENDED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

When I was in High School, I had a friend with a Commodore 64. His dad had a program called ‘Laser Show’. The audio, I was to learn eventually, came from the ‘Synth Sample’ demo by someone named Georg Feil. We ran this program countless times when I visited his house. We especially liked the first selection. I patched the audio to my tape recorder and listened to it over and over. That cassette was eventually used for some less noble purpose but I always believed that I would hear it again. One day years later, I thought to ask my friend about the computer and learned that his parents had long since gotten rid of it.

Every once in while, I’d decide that I simply MUST track that music down and hear it again. In October of 2011 I was amazed to find that some freak out there (actually several) had captured the output from a C64 running Synth Sample and uploaded the result to YouTube. Owing to my boundless fascination with this subject, I became aware of at least two facts:

1. The musical selection in question was a reworking of a piece written by a Canadian Composer named John Mills-Cockell who wrote it as the theme music for a Canadian television series entitled ‘The Stationary Ark’ which aired in 1975. Sadly, the original version of this music languishes in obscurity to this day.

2. The unique sound of this music (which was, in the main, what drew such ardent attention from my friend and I) was largely attributable to the MOS Technology SID chip used in the C64.

This meant that I would fall short of my ultimate goal of getting all of the way back to the original artifact. It also meant that I would need to be certain that the capture that I chose for this project was made utilizing the same version of the chip that was in Feil’s machine when he created his original program otherwise the sound would differ from what I heard as a boy. These things matter.

This is another example of what I have termed for argument’s sake as an exploded mix. The idea here is that each part of the music is seen from multiple vantage points in relation to itself and in isolation from its adjacent parts. Each change is set in two loop configurations: one at the full length, another truncated by a half of a count. These begin in sync and repeat until they wind up in sync again (yes, Steve Reich). Beneath this process is that same part stretched to the total length of time that the looping process takes to complete (Reich again).



“The Commodore 64 stuff is awesome! Such a great sound/texture, and so strangely…sad. Man, I spent a lot of time staring at that screen, transported to…somewhere.”



For Mike

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released June 4, 2012

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Radio Landscape

I live in Milwaukee, WI with my wife and our four children. The creation of music has long been an avocational pursuit of mine. The body of work that I offer under the moniker of Radio Landscape has obvious antecedents in American minimalism specifically and electronic music in general.

Thank you for your interest.
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