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The Amiga

Dr Kenny McAlpine explores how the native sound sampling of the Amiga began a move from chip music to a new, more production-style of game soundtrack.

When Commodore’s Amiga launched in 1986, it was a machine ahead of its time.

Packed with innovative technology and design, its sound chip, Paula, could play back four sampled sounds simultaneously, something that just a few years earlier had been the sole preserve of high-end electronic synthesizers that cost more than the average house in the UK.

In this video, we’ll discuss how the launch of easy-to-use composition tools transformed computer music-making from being a musically-informed technical programming task, to a technically-supported creative one.

The Amiga’s sample playback gave it a voice that distinguished it from the computers and consoles that had come before it. It could sound like microchip music, but it could also sound orchestral or rocky.

Below, I’ve provided links to a selection of Amiga game music, and from a selection of MOD files, short pieces of music written using the Amiga as a production platform, but intended to be standalone pieces of music.

What I’d like you to do is compare and contrast these with music from the other platforms we’ve been exploring. What do you notice about the sound and the arrangements? You might like to think about the richness of the sound, the density and complexity of the arrangements and the overall sound and feel of the tracks. Please post your thoughts to the comments section.

You can access the collection of Amiga music here.

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Video Game Design and Development: A Bit-by-Bit History of Video Game Music: Video Game Sound and Music

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