Feel the beep: This album is played entirely on a PC motherboard speaker

If you’re craving a truly different sound with which to slay
the crew this weekend, look no further than System Beeps, a
new album by shiru8bit
— though you may have to drag your old
486 out of storage to play it. Yes, this album runs in MS-DOS and
its music is produced entirely through the PC speaker — you know,
the one that can only beep.

Now, chiptunes aren’t anything new. But the more popular ones
tend to imitate the sounds found in classic computers and consoles
like the Amiga and SNES. It’s just limiting enough to make it
fun, and of course many of us have a lot of nostalgia for the music
from that period. (The Final Fantasy VI
opening theme
still gives me chills.)

But fewer among us look back fondly on the days before
sample-based digital music, before even decent sound cards let
games have meaningful polyphony and such. The days when the only
thing your computer could do was beep, and when it did, you were
scared.

Shiru, a
programmer and musician who’s been doing “retro” sound since
before it was retro, took it upon himself to make some music for
this extremely limited audio platform. Originally he was just
planning on making a couple of tunes for a game project, but
in this interesting
breakdown of how he made the music
, he explains that it ended
up ballooning as he got into the tech.

“A few songs became a few dozens, collection of random songs
evolved into conceptualized album, plans has been changing,
deadlines postponing. It ended up to be almost 1.5 years to finish
the project,” he writes (I’ve left his English as I found it,
because I like it).

Obviously the speaker can do more than just “beep,” though
indeed it was originally meant as the most elementary auditory
feedback for early PCs. In fact, the tiny loudspeaker is capable of
a range of sounds and can be updated 120 times per second, but in
true monophonic style can only produce a single tone at a time
between 100 and 2,000 Hz, and that in a square wave.

Inspired by games of the era that employed a variety of tricks
to create the illusion of multiple instruments and drums that in
fact never actually overlap one another, he produced a whole album
of tracks; I think “Pixel Rain” is my favorite, but “Head
Step” is pretty dope too.

You can of course listen to it online or as MP3s or whatever,
but the entire thing fits into a 42 kilobyte MS-DOS program you can
download here. You’ll need
an actual DOS machine or emulator to run it, naturally.

How was he able to do this with such limited tools? Again I
direct you to his lengthy write-up, where he
describes, for instance, how to create the impression of different
kinds of drums when the hardware is incapable of the white noise
usually used to create them (and if it could, it would be unable to
layer it over a tone). It’s a fun read and the music is… well,
it’s an acquired taste, but it’s original and weird. And it’s
Friday.

Source: FS – All Tech News 2
Feel the beep: This album is played entirely on a PC motherboard speaker