Hello everyone. What you are about to read is a personal review of how I came around to making music. I will not attempt a full-scale musical autobiography but merely to reminisce about my origins and the paths I have taken.
My first encounter with music on the computer was in the form of the .mid file; A MIDI file for the uninitiated is a file that contains note information, and nothing more. As a result, most MIDI files are extremely small (on the order of tens of kilobytes). Looking around the hard drive of the family computer, I would find midi files of songs that I had heard. Listening to them, the timbral qualities of the generating soundbank rang some ancient memory bells.
Harking back 9-10 years, I was a little kid playing TIE Fighter with a joystick over a system that possessed a sound card with midi support. The score to the game was based around the Star Wars soundtrack with which I was well acquainted. Musical selection inside the game was intelligently controlled by events which led to a good feeling of immersion. Mix that with compelling gameplay, long hours logged playing the game, and the recipe for a nostalgic memory was complete.
Fast forward 6 years from there and I was sitting in bed listening to Andy Hunter’s “Exodus” album. This would constitute my first major interaction with electronic dance music.One of the aspects of the music that really struck me was the focus on instrumentality and the way the sounds mixed together. The synthesizers helped me conjure a futuristic world in my imagination due to all science fiction exposure in my earlier days.
Again travel forward in time a couple years and now I have begun to use a laptop computer regularly. Through my travels around the internet, I discovered bits of the TIE Fighter soundtrack in its original midi form and downloaded it. Listening to the files brought back some strong memories and I began to build a small collection of MIDI files. Through listening , I noticed that the files sounded different than I remembered, so I did some internet research, consulted my engineer dad, and discovered that a MIDI file was just a collection of notes, instructions for the computer to play, and that the timbres varied depending on the soundbank the computer utilized. After some more searching, I found a freeware MIDI editor, Anvil Studio, with which I was able to open MIDI files and see the notes encoded within.
Taking a break from this recollection, I have noticed that my development in music could be broken into two areas; The technology and engineering side, and the musicality side. In my experience, both areas developed through different motivations but neither was fully isolated from the other. My drive to disassemble the MIDI files came from my curiosity to see how they worked and also to see if I could possibly modify the songs to fit my musical tastes.
Once I had opened several songs inside the program, I quickly found out that I could change the instrument for each MIDI track. After I figured that out, I proceeded to re-instrument just about every song in my collection (most of which I used #81 Square Lead, #82 Sawtooth Lead, #88 Bass + Lead). My song collection now consisted of a group of original files and a corresponding “electronic re-instrumentation version”. I did not re-instrument all of my songs with electronic sounds, as some deserved better than that, such as Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” which I fitted with a wonderful organ sound and doubled up the tracks with pan in order to give a stereo sound.
Further experimentation with the MIDI files would continue to enlighten my understanding of digital music and the file formats used to contain it. Next time I write, I will document my shift from re-instrumenting MIDI files to creating my own music, and discovering the VST standard.