Written between 1935 and 1936, Carmina Burana is a scenic cantata based on a book of medieval poetry. This was a hugely important piece of music to me growing up. I’d like to say that it wasn’t Ozzy Osbourne using O Fortuna as his entry music while playing live that got me interested in this piece of work, however, I would be lying if I said that.
Later in life I would see this performed live at the Lincoln Center in New York City which would rekindle my interest in this piece of music and allow me to explore the other two works of this musical trilogy: Catulli Carmina and Trionfo di Afrodite.
Working with large orchestral works tends to make the sounds of the NES resemble the sound of organs. Layering all the tracks over one another is often reminiscent of a work heavy with synths. I tried to keep these as 8-bit as possible but there’s so much going on with the layering and the dynamics that either I am desensitized to the 8-bit sounds or it loses a little of that NES feel to it.
Ben Folds Five’s 1997 sophomore album, Whatever and Ever Amen, was one of my favorites released that year. This album presented a new challenge: converting a piano-driven album to NES pulse waves. Some of the album is rollicking, some of it is soft and understated, but none of it lends itself to the sounds of the NES quite as well as other genres of music. This album introduced me to Ben Folds Five and made a huge impression on me. One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces of You is one of my favorite songs by the group. It’s probably not the track that came out the best of my 8-bit versions from this album but the opening piano still takes me back to the summer of 1997, even if they’re processed by the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Before huge hits like “The Wall” and after “The Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here” there falls the 1977 album “Animals.” This has always been my favorite Pink Floyd album. The 17-minute song “Dogs” is my favorite by the band, a blending of Gilmour and Waters’s contributions, mashing up multiple songs and ideas into one. This was the hardest track to recreate as it contains numerous tempo changes. This is some of David Gilmour’s finest playing and it is impossible to capture that feeling and style with 8-bit synths. I ended up having to play drums along to the song then move the drum hits around manually to lock them directly to the beat, recording each fill individually and manipulating it. At the end of the day I’m happy with the result especially since there were multiple times I was about to give up thinking this entire project was just going to be impossible.
The Planets was written by Gustav Holst between 1914 and 1916. There is a piece for each planet (except Earth) that had been discovered at the time. Pluto had not yet been discovered or reclassified as a dwarf planet.
I discovered this work of music when it was explained to me that it was likely a heavy influence for the soundtrack of Star Wars. It doesn’t take too long into “Mars, the Bringer of War” to see the merit in this assessment. It’s a wonderful piece of music and I found myself listening to it quite a bit in my early teens. It’s based more on astrology than astronomy, hence the order of the tracks.
I found that classical pieces lend themselves really well to the 8-bit format. In fact, there are so many instruments playing at once (far more than the NES would be able to handle) that it blends together so much you almost lose the 8-bit quality of the music.
Randy Rhoads made two studio albums with Ozzy Osbourne before his unfortunate death in 1982. The second of these albums was 1981’s Diary of a Madman. In my opinion this album always edged out Ozzy’s first solo album, The Blizzard of Ozz, released earlier the same year. To me the last three tracks of this album were the pinnacle of classic early Ozzy, all made possible by the incredible guitar work of Randy Rhoads. The album ends in epic fashion with a choir singing along to the syncopated 6/8 rhythm of the guitars, reminiscent of Ozzy’s classic opening theme: O Fortuna. Ozzy is a ridiculous, silly man as can be learned from simply looking at almost any of his album covers, but put together with the right musical ensemble he is behind some of my favorite early heavy metal titles.
Unintentionally moving ahead a year chronologically comes 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magic by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. This is another hugely influential album to me. I found doing an 8-bit version of a metal album fairly easy but trying to fit a funkier feel into the limitations of 8-bit was a little more challenging. This is another of my all time favorite albums. Not every song stands on its own but as an album everything fits together and flows perfectly from start to finish. Some songs were harder than others. “Apache Rose Peacock” is still not perfect and there are a few imperfections in “My Lovely Man.” I am working on cleaning up both for the Google Play release.
Megadeth’s 1990 album was one of the first CDs I ever purchased. I remember seeing a commercial for the upcoming album on “Headbanger’s Ball” where they played the palm-muted interlude toward the end of the song with a strobing image of the fallout shelter symbol. The second I heard it I prepared to purchase the album the day it came out. I had liked previous Megadeth recordings but was primarily a Metallica fan at he time (don’t judge me). This album quickly turned me in a primary Megadeth fan and to this day remains, in my opinion, the greatest metal album of all time. That being said, my knowledge of metal ends pretty abruptly around 1992.
I found out about Jamuary a few months after the first one happened in Jamuary in 2017. I was super excited when I learned about it from AfroDJMac and I couldn’t wait to participate in 2018. The idea is recording or making music every day for the month of Jamuary. I completed it hitting all 31 days and ending up with 31 tracks of varying quality, creativity, and style. The point isn’t to make everything perfect, it is simply to make music every day. This was the first time I’d made music every day in probably 20 years and it felt great. AfroDJMac also proposed “Finish February” and above is the result of that. His idea was to polish some of the Jamuary tracks and make an EP. I had the poor idea to just release all the tracks after a few quick tweaks. There are some I love, there are some I hate, and there are a lot in between but it was a great experience. Looking forward to 2019!