Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Infinity of Space blog 2 – Levels of inspiration

Growing up as part of the Commodore Amiga gaming generation of the 1990s, the electronic in-game soundtracks were just as exciting and important as the games themselves as were of course, the graphics. And there was some fantastic game music, as I have previously blogged about – this is perhaps one of the more unlikely influences of my own work. Or is it?

The Amiga heralded a new dawn for computer arts and music, and over twenty-five years later, those game soundtracks still inspire my music, just as the Amiga’s pixel art and the designs of the games themselves have influenced my artwork.

I always loved how each level of arcade games had it's own soundtrack to suit the surroundings, whether you're controlling a warrior clambering through a rocky alien terrain or a fast spacecraft hurtling through strange worlds. The music would be a great match for the different worlds, and I would often find myself looking forward to particular levels just to hear the music!

There were so many great games – hundreds – with titles such as the Turrican series, The Chaos Engine, The Settlers, Disposable Hero, Apidya, R-Type, Menace, Blood Money, the Eye of the Beholder series and the Shadow of the Beast series being among my long list of personal favourites. Every game offered the chance to escape in a different time or universe, with each looking and sounding unique.

When I wasn't playing the games, I would put a cassette recorder in front of the speaker and record all the various game music that I loved. Who needed the radio, when you had an Amiga? So much skill and creativity went into every aspect those games, and I still find it incredible that they managed to fit so much on to just one or two floppy disks!

While I loved many different games, I always had a soft spot for sideways scrolling shoot-em-up games, which usually took you on a fantastic voyage through space and alien worlds. With so many interstellar themed games, you could fly off into space without even leaving your bedroom!

So that whole era had a huge impact on my teenage self and ultimately shaped my career path. It has also been a real nostalgic thrill over the past few years, as many magazines and books celebrating the Amiga and the games scene of the time have been published – and many of the games themselves have been emulated for iOS and Mac, so I've been able to re-live the enjoyment without the hassle of digging out my A1200 from the loft and trying to find all the other bits to make it work.

It really is no surprise that today, in making what you might call computer music, that influence has come full circle. Game music is actually an area I would love to work in.

When I'm working on an album – especially one about space travel – this rich influence is something I always keep in mind. Each track is a different adventure, and it is easy to imagine each being a different level in a game, carrying you through different places.

So, when putting an album together, imagining it as the soundtrack to a computer game or even a movie, helps me to determine the structure and atmosphere, scene by scene. I loved the sense of travel and adventure in so many of those games. One moment you might be exploring a city, and the next deep in a jungle, so I'll often think about what kind of landscape would suit the music I'm making, even if it has no bearing on either the end result or the listener – for my creative process it helps with that feeling of journey, especially on a concept album.

With Infinity of Space being about space travel, some of the ideas going through my mind included super fast flight, cautious, slow travel and encounters – which could be other starships or undiscovered planets. Just trying to imagine what kind of sights would await you on such a mission really is a feast for the imagination, and I really wanted to get some of this into the music, and make each track represent different stages in the ongoing journey, and pose different questions.

Below is a brief preview of the track Cruise Velocity.

Infinity of Space is out now via Bandcamp:

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