Sweet Sym­phony

Chris Ab­bott talks about the 8-Bit Sym­phony Con­cert

Retro Gamer - - CONTENTS -

Chris Ab­bott tells us about the ex­cel­lent 8-bit-themed con­cert he has planned

on the 15 June 2019 Hull City Hall will play host to the Hull Sym­phony Orches­tra, in as­so­ci­a­tion with Hull Col­lege, per­form­ing or­ches­tral ren­di­tions of clas­sic 8-bit mu­sic. C64au­dio.com’s Chris Ab­bott has long dreamed of this day, and tick­ets are now on sale.

The con­cert was orig­i­nally a stretch goal of the Sym­phony 64 and Pro­ject Hub­bard Kick­starters, are you glad to be go­ing ahead? Very glad. In the end, the reach of those Kick­starters wasn’t big enough, but it was prob­a­bly for the best, since it gave us ex­tra time to pre­pare. What is the sig­nif­i­cance of Hull as the venue?

Hull has a great orches­tra! And a

C64 pedi­gree as Rob Hub­bard’s birth­place. The con­cert is sup­ported by Hull Col­lege as part of its role to cham­pion the city’s tal­ent and show­case the op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple in­ter­ested in work­ing in the city’s grow­ing dig­i­tal sec­tor.

I met the col­lege’s CEO, Michelle Swith­en­bank, after the col­lege per­suaded Rob to write the mu­sic for a mo­bile game they re­leased to pro­mote their dig­i­tal cour­ses. The idea for Hull as a venue for 8-bit Sym­phony snow­balled from there. The con­cert was ready to be ac­ti­vated, and Hull Col­lege were look­ing to make a pos­i­tive im­pact on the com­mu­nity and the city. And they did.

Have the orig­i­nal com­posers been in­volved in the process?

Rob Hub­bard is the mu­si­cal di­rec­tor. He’s the QA for the scores, as well as an ar­ranger. Mark Cook­sey did a great ar­range­ment of Ghosts ‘N Goblins. Ben Daglish was in­volved with coar­range­ments. He was go­ing to con­duct, but sadly that’s not to be. Was it dif­fi­cult se­lect­ing the fi­nal tracks?

There was so much po­ten­tial ma­te­rial. The pro­gramme is a mix­ture of scores that were fur­thest along, scores to hon­our com­posers in at­ten­dance, and trib­utes to com­posers we’ve lost. Plus iconic tunes that C64 fans de­mand!

What has been the big­gest chal­lenge in tak­ing three-chan­nel SID mu­sic made for com­put­ers to the size of an orches­tra?

It’s all chal­lenges! While it’s pos­si­ble to con­vert a SID to a MIDI file and then bring it into a score pack­age and make it sound or­ches­tral, mak­ing it in­ter­est­ing for the orches­tra, tidy, and playable live is much tougher.

Chip­mu­sic was of­ten op­ti­mised for mem­ory usage, which meant lots of rep­e­ti­tion. That works great on the com­puter, but when you ask a hu­man to play the same four notes over and over again for five min­utes… that’s not good. This is es­pe­cially true for basslines.

Also, an orches­tra can’t play loud through the en­tire piece, and I’m not sure the au­di­ence would like them to. So there have to be loud bits, and

Con­duc­tor Robin Tait, An­drew Penny of Hull Phil­har­monic Orches­tra, Chris Ab­bott, Rob Hub­bard, and Michelle Swith­en­bank (CEO and Prin­ci­pal, Hull Col­lege Group).

Thing On A Spring takes time out from plat­form­ing to try its hand at some com­pos­ing.

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