MANIC (IN G MINOR)

For Quintet and ZX Spectrum

Games are loaded into the Spectrum 64k computer via analogue tape. A normal tape player is linked to the computer keyboard and is used to download the machine code required. I believe that there exists an entire generation of people who grew up with the rise of the personal computer and the games console and all would remember the distinctive sound of the loading process; mainly because it usually had to be played very loudly and because it often failed, requiring that it be played repeatedly.

Because of the nature of programming and audible sound of binary and machine code, when the code was played it had its own sense of rhythm generated by its repeating fragments and its own sense of screeching melody. Because of the protocol observed by the computer language, almost every programme loaded had the same form; there was a series of initial tones and squeaks that loaded up waiting screens and then a barrage of wailing sound.

One of most popular games of that time was Manic Miner, I remembered quite clearly how the sound of the code seemed to be the “most” musical of all the games; slipping briefly into a kind of tango.

The goal was to score the machine code required to load Manic Miner for accompanying quintet.

The title may just be a joke, but the initial tone of the code was a clear G, spread throughout the octaves, though the complex nature of the code may mean that the music will not fit snugly into G Minor. All the scoring was done by breaking down the code into segments dictated by the digital glitches inherent in the sound, which formed a steady three four rhythm, tempo of sixty-five. The pitches were matched by concentrating on the areas of the code that stood out from the background of electronic noise, everything that fell into a wall of sound was used as a background for more inventive musical sections. This allowed the piece to develop musically, periodically rushing into synchronisation with the code.