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:
- You have to select the effect and its parameters with the mouse
in a menu ! What would think an ARM programmer about an editor in
which opcodes could only get entered that way ! A total waste of
- You can't edit with all the channels before your eyes. You must
edit the channels one at a time. This system allows for further
compression for a final file, but is a pain in the neck for
- There was a slight bug in the playback routine that made the
playing speed go back and forth. I was said it was fixed in later
- An excellent player ! It accepted 100% of amiga soundtrack
files I threw at it (I have around 256 Megs of tunes in this
format). It even allows loading and playback of so-called octaMED
files (Though it chokes on some of them).
- An excellent instrument editor. This part simply oozes with
power! The redraws are lightning-fast. Cut and paste operations are
stretched to points never seen before (on such programs). Some
simple, really useful, effects are included such as fade-in and
fade-out, but a separate program would have been needed to
introduce much more interesting effects (Audible frequency of
sample, resampling at any frequency, resampling a 8-bit sample to
16-bit, high-pass and low pass filters, and effects only achievable
through Fourier transforms in general). In fact, this program could
have been AudioWorks, but the latter blatantly lacks these features
- A module is provided to allow playback of tunes in your own
programs (games or demos)
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,
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 ?).
Back to my Risc OS page
Last edited - 1998, April the 2nd