Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I was on the ground floor of Melbourne's City Library when the most unlikely music made me freeze and look up. I knew what it was immediately, there was no mistaking that I was listening to the sound of my childhood. I ran up the glass staircase immediately, without contemplating my frantic outward appearance and I found myself breathless and winded, trying desperately not to disturb the calm and sedate audience. They were watching a seated older man, playing the strangest looking instrument I'd ever seen.

"Do you know this music?" He asked me, as he kept pushing the buttons on what seemed to be a weird augmented harp of some description. I replied joyously, "Of course I do!" He went on to explain to the audience: "In the 80s, I composed music for a computer game called Defender of the Crown. This is the music that you'd hear when you won the game." I smiled in bemusement, "That's probably why I'm so familiar with it." Everyone laughed. It was the most unique and surreal live experience, ever.

I didn't stop to talk to Jim Cuomo after the performance, although I wish I did. Instead I ran downstairs to call my brother, Andrew to tell him what had just happened. It was so much stranger than having a DJ publicly drop your most obscure, in-house dance hit. To my mind, I had never considered that Defender of the Crown could have been performed in public, well away from the Amiga 1000. The Amiga does not have the same kind of kitsch currency as the Nintendo. Despite its tremendous legacy, it's unusual to find people around these parts who share that specific childhood gaming experience.

Since I accidentally witnessed that performance, Andrew re-introduced me to online communities who preserve, restore and remix the music of Amiga games and demos. Free from the distraction of any visual presence, you can begin to truly appreciate the Amiga's ability to mimic the rhythmic and melodic style so many genres, nominally Acid House, Techno and Italo Disco. More often than not, the modern-day Amiga remix is a slamming dance anthem which indulges that unspoken fantasy of actually hearing it out loud at some club where, stripped of its context, it is treated as a really good (and truly legitimate) song.

So I'll leave you with a podcast that seeks to glorify the musical output of the Amiga. Despite the various bleeps and bloops, I genuinely maintain that its appeal has nothing to do with any nostalgic affiliation, but I do warn you. My persuasion is a bit biased as I really did spend a lot of time playing Defender of the Crown.

Have at you!

Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: Amiga Podcast #54
Pino Zulpo - Test Drive II
Piepie - Enigma
Foxx (SA) - Secret Rites
Marx Marvelous - Unusually Bright
Hans-Hermann Franck - Cobra-stage 2
daXX - Lotus III - Shamrip
BeeZerk - Final Fight
Bill Williams - King of Chicago

Download (46.7 MB)


smudgeon said...

Ah, I spent hours playing this game on the C64...I think I might have nerdsploded if I had heard the person who wrote the music performing it live!

I wonder whether the Amiga-rendered version was much different sounding to the C64-rendering...

Thanks for the post, El - many good memories of that game :) Got the castle-raiding theme firmly wedged in my earholes right now...

Eleanor said...

Thank you so much for your comment, Smudge! It's lovely to hear from you! And it's lovely to hear that you would have nerdsploded too, it somewhat justifies my crazy reaction! Haha!

I just had a listen to the C64 version on YouTube, it sounds a little more tinny but it's more or less the same music!

This is the C64 version!

This is the Amiga version!

You can judge for yourself!

smudgeon said...

Ja, it took me a long time to master that game - at the time, it seemed so sophisticated! Can't beat the classics, huh?

There's definitely a huge cult following of the old C64's audio chip (SID), mostly because if you pushed it hard enough, it almost sounded like a guitar with a shit-tonne of overdrive...can understand why in the shred-happy 80s, it had such appeal. I think you can even buy synths these days with a genuine SID installed.

Is the DOC soundtrack composer a Melbourne local? Or was he on a library tour of the South Pacific? :)

Eleanor said...

Yeah, it's great! A while ago, Cinemaware had a Shockwave version on their site which was faithful to the original EXCEPT it was about a million times harder. I'd play it when I'd have something pressing like an exam or a forthcoming assignment.

I have some MOD files which have that crunchy guitar sound you're talking about. There was one I was listening to the other day which sounded half as if it was either a very rock n roll guitar OR a very dusty disk drive, attempting to load a corrupted version of Kick Start.

The composer (Jim Cuomo) was definitely American, from what I could tell he does various gigs around the place. Very lucky I was there at the right time though, I'm so rarely at the City Library. They only have about 30 books.

Shot97 Retro said...

What an awesome tale! I can almost see you giddy running into the room and his response! This would have been another wonderful gifable moment from you! Told to well I felt like I was there with you. I'm just starting on the podcast, but oh wow, that's some nice Test Drive II! You were afraid of playing cause you might fall off? Oh, I played it as a kid TO fall off! haha. What a sensation it provided!

Eleanor said...

I'm so glad you loved it, Shot! It was such a huge thrill to meet Jim, one of the better musician-meeting tales of my time! I hope you love the podcast too, there are so many great Amiga chiptunes to showcase!