Brief presentation of Symphony

In case you don't know, Digital Symphony is a soundtracker player/editor for the Acorn Archimedes/RiscPC that appeared around 1993, often claimed as the best in its category. Although I agree for the player, which is superb, I can't agree for the editor.

Basically, the editor has the following bad points:

However, the main good points are:

The tunes I've made for Quark

Quark is about 5 years old, so I've decided to release them, available to anyone. Please note that they're NOT public domain, though.

All these files are gzipped Symphony files, whose compressed sizes range from 14Kb to 41Kb. If you don't have gzip nor SparkFS, click here to get my patched StrongARM-compatible version. Please note that this file is zipped, so you'll have to have ZIP or SparkPlug anyway.

There are also some bonus files: If you have the original game, you can notice the difference of quality between the game musics and the one supplied on this page. The explanation is simple: the tunes were created with Symphony and had to be converted to the Coconizer format first, a pre-symphony soundtracker that allowed to separate instruments and score. This also explains why instruments look so similar from tune to tune...

And why have we used Coconizer instead of Symphony ? Well, partly because of the memory gains involved with Coconizer, and partly because Hilaire Fernandes, the programmer, wished to supply everyone a game that ran at full frame rate (50Hz) on ARM2, something which turned out to be impossible with Symphony.

If you take a look at the numerous 3D games offered on the PCs, you immediately notice very few of them actually offer full frame rate. Geez ! Standards are slipping...

What I think about computer music today

In 1990-91, I was very much into soudtrack music and it was about at that time that I started collecting musics in this format. Ten years after, is this format still ruling ? Of course no, but there are alternatives. In my opinion, the best one is MIDI. It allows to edit separately as many channels as you like (up to 64). And with a product such as ReMIDI on the Acorn, it wins hands up against soundtracks: better quality, more instruments, flexibility, but more processing power needed and it can't be used in games, or demos (This is untrue on the PCs, for example Maxis' Space Cadet).

Another possibility could be the S3M format, which is very similar to the original soundtrack in concept, but has evolved to propose 16-bit replay, more channels, probably more effects too. The big problem is that there is no editor on the Arc (You'll have to revert to a PC for that). Fortunately, there is the possibility to replay back such files on the Arc, which sounds interesting, given the number of S3M files on the Net.

...And one final hint

Oregan was our game publisher. We thought it was the best option. Unfortunately, we've had quite a bad experience with them. They simply 'forgot' to pay us. We (Hilaire, in fact) had to threaten them about a lawsuit so that everything went fine again. My best advice is: If you want to publish a freelance project, avoid dealing with them. (Maybe AcornSoft is the best choice nowadays ?).

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Last edited - 1998, April the 2nd