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Parallax

Martin Galway



The SID (Sound Interface Device) chip used in Commodore 64 consoles of the 1980s has taken on legendary status in the short history of video game music. The chip afforded the composer three monophonic (single-voice) oscillators, each continuously variable between four basic waveforms familiar from synthesizers: pulse, triangle, sawtooth, and noise. (The chip also allowed ring-modulation and hard sync between the oscillators, which were passed through a single filter.)


Looking back through the goggles of presentist techno-triumphalism, we are inclined to note the simplicity of the SID's design; when the chip was unveiled in 1982, however, it was hailed as "10 times better than anything out there and 20 times better than it needs to be." But constraints are the garb of genius, as demonstrated in this tour-de-force composition for the otherwise forgettable game Parallax (1986), by Martin Galway.


YouTuber Rolf Bakke, bless his heart, has created a series of videos in which each of the three oscillators is represented onscreen as an oscilloscope output, allowing you to see clearly what you're hearing. This beautiful visualization amplifies the brilliance of this composition, which demolishes any notion of a primitive early history of video game music. Its creative exploration of the potential latent in its format is sadly lost in the subsequent evolution of the medium into a fiefdom of popular and film genres.

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