Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

The Synchronizatron 3000

Monday, July 25th, 2011

In advance of my appearance at the Ultrachip Festival in Edinburgh next month (19th-20th August! Two nights of awesomeness from the UK’s finest chiptune musicians! Free entry! W00t!), I thought this would be a good time to reveal the secret weapon at the heart of my live shows. Ladies and gentlemen, behold… the Synchronizatron 3000.

Out of all my projects, I like this one a lot. I like it because it brought me out of my comfort zone and into the murky world of hardware design (aided by the Arduino project which does a fine job of making that world accessible to electronics noobs like me). I also like it because it elegantly solves a problem that, in all likelihood, nobody in the world but me has. But most of all, I like it because it has a pair of blinky LEDs on the top which serve no meaningful purpose.

Gasman live at Outline 2011!

Monday, June 13th, 2011

After the triumphant AY Riders gig at the Forever demoparty back in March, I had a hankering for some more Speccy-and-keytar-and-vocoder live performance action, so I jumped at the chance to play my first EVVAR solo set at last weekend’s Outline party in the Netherlands. Outline is by no means one of the largest parties, but there’s something magic about the atmosphere there which has made it one of the most eagerly awaited events in my calendar over the last couple of years. Most demo parties will give you the opportunity to chill outside in the sun with a beer or slave away at a hot CPU to finish off your creations, but it’s rare that the two activities flow together so smoothly as they do at Outline.

And with everyone’s spirits kept high, it means that when the evening activity kicks off, you have the most awesome audience you could possibly hope for. Big ups to TMC for the video, m0d for the other video which should be surfacing soon, Ziphoid for streaming the gig on SceneSat Radio, and of course Havoc, D-Force and the rest of the Outline team for making it all happen…


  • 1:51 Gasman – Out Of Neverland
  • 6:18 Gasman – Torch Dragon
  • 8:41 Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On
  • 10:23 Gasman – Cybernoid’s Revenge
  • 14:23 Madonna (arr. TDM + Factor6) – Hung Up
  • 20:17 Gasman – Oldskool Crusader
  • 23:47 Michael Jackson – Thriller (featuring Okkie)
  • 30:30 Purple Motion (arr. TDM + Factor6) – Satellite One

balls, touching

And after all that, I still had some spare energy to do some casual hacking around with sine waves and come up with an entry for the 128 byte intro compo. As you’ll see from the video, 128 byte intros are one of those peculiarly demoscene-ish things that demand a certain frame of mind to be enjoyed properly, to the point where it gets a tad surreal for outsiders. If nothing else, you can certainly count on the Outline audience to provide a soundtrack to a silent production.

balls, touching on Pouët

(…and before you ask, the title does indeed come from an infantile demoscene in-joke about genitalia. I’d actually only planned for there to be one ball, but then one of those fortuitous coding accidents from adding or removing an odd instruction happened, and I knew I had to run with it.)


Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

I wrote a Speccy chiptune for the Revision party this weekend (where it was presented on the 29th anniversary of the release of the ZX Spectrum, no less). The whole thing was done live at the party in the space of about six hours, and it’s very much in my signature style.

Download gasman_-_easterbirdie.mp3


FAWM 2011 retrospective / Geek Pop

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

February has been and gone, bringing with it my now customary jaunt into the world of February Album Writing Month. I fell some way short of the 14 song target this time, which I’ll blame on considerably increasing my production values this year, and not at all on being a lazy git.

I’m holding back a few of the songs from general release, because they’ll be going towards this month’s exciting musical happening: the Geek Pop virtual festival! Yes, all the greatest musical minds from the worlds of science and technology will be gathered in one place on the internet – and somehow I’ve ended up being one of them, performing on the Comical Flask stage alongside such luminaries as MJ “Hey Hey 16K” Hibbett. And because it’s a virtual festival, you don’t even need to drink beer out of a nasty plastic beaker or walk two miles to the nearest shower. Hurrah! Keep your browsers peeled (or something) at the Geek Pop website for the big unveiling on March 11th, or mosey on down to Wilton’s Music Hall, London on the 10th for the live launch gig.

In the meantime, here’s some almost-as-good-or-equally-good-but-not-as-geeky music I also wrote last month…

Avogadro’s Number by Matt Westcott

Big Conversation by Matt Westcott

In The Future by Matt Westcott

(Looking for the lyrics? Get them at my FAWM profile page)

Burton’s Wagon Wheels (Are Smaller Than They Used To Be)

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

In one of my rare non-FAWM outings, I’ve written a new song. A protest song. About biscuits.

Burton’s Wagon Wheels (Are Smaller Than They Used To Be) by Matt Westcott


jasmid – MIDI synthesis with Javascript and HTML5 audio

Friday, November 19th, 2010

The executive summary: At last weekend’s Barcamp London 8, I presented a talk entitled “Realtime audio generation for the web (because there’s not enough MIDI on webpages these days”. In it, I went over the current options for generating audio within the browser, and presented my latest hack in that direction, jasmid: a Javascript app that can read standard MIDI files, render them to wave audio (with, at present, some very simple waveforms) and play them directly from the browser, completely independently of your OS’s MIDI support.

Read on for the complete notes/transcript of the talk (in hopefully more coherent form than the talk itself – next time I promise to spend less time on the flashy demo and more time figuring out exactly what I’m going to say…)

Date Horse, 24th June

Monday, June 21st, 2010

A quick heads-up that I’ll be playing my first ever proper not-just-an-open-mic gig this Thursday night as part of the Date Horse comedy and music night at the Vauxhall Griffin, London. Come along for some silly songs about Paris Hilton’s pet monkey and much more (and RSVP on the Facebook event)…

JSModPlayer – a Javascript .MOD player

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

The epic Pacman 30th anniversary Google Doodle, along with Ben Firshman’s dynamicaudio.js library for dynamically generating audio, collectively persuaded me that I haven’t done any mad Javascript hacking for far too long. My response to this state of affairs is JSModPlayer, a player for .MOD music files (the mainstay of Amiga and PC sample-based music circa 1990).

So far it only implements a subset of the possible sample effects, and it demands a very fast Javascript engine – luckily all the new breed of browsers are pretty competitive at that now. Even so, unless your CPU is an absolute behemoth, it’ll probably struggle to keep up – the audio output is fixed at 44100Hz, and that’s rather a lot of numbers for Javascript to crunch, especially when the MOD file gets up to 16 or more channels. Which, amusingly enough, is exactly the situation we had back when we were using Gravis Ultrasounds on 386es. Hurrah for progress!

Update 2010-06-08: Oops. In the process of testing how Safari 5 shapes up, I discovered a rather silly oversight: the audio buffering routine was set up to never use more than 10% of CPU. Now that I’ve fixed it, it turns out that Chrome and Safari (at least) have no trouble at all playing Jugi’s Dope theme in its 28-channel glory. (However, taking the brakes off the buffering does mean that we can’t reliably pause the audio any more. A small price to pay, I think you’ll agree.)


Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Last week I posted possibly the most tedious Basic type-in listing ever to World Of Spectrum:

5 BEEP 0.212765, 20; 10 BEEP 0.106383,19...
(continues for approx 1500 more lines)

Anyone typing it in in its entirety would be rewarded with this:

Download midibeep_minute_waltz.mp3

Not bad for an evening’s work. Mind you, I did take an ever so teeny shortcut, by writing a Ruby program to convert a MIDI file to BEEP format. (Any .mid file will do, although ones with a single instrument will survive the rather primitive selective-note-butchering process better. Oh, and anything much longer than this one will exceed the 48K Spectrum memory…) And now you can try it out too:

Update 2010-05-26: Karl McNeil has adapted Midibeep into a variant called Mid2ASM, which outputs an assembler listing rather than Basic – this enables the data to be packed much more efficiently, paving the way for altogether longer pieces of music. Download Mid2ASM (453K, Windows EXE included)

Update 2010-06-02: Another update from Karl, featuring a Windows GUI, more space-saving tweaks, and embedding the output in a Basic REM statement. Download Mid2ASM v2 (3.4Mb)

Update 2011-04-09: Karl McNeil has released the last version of Mid2ASM for a while, version 3.2 – featuring primitive importing from .sid .psg and .wav, and the choice of Basic or assembly output. The source archive also contains the command-line version, midibeep2.


Monday, September 14th, 2009

This 1K intro for the Spectrum (which received 3rd place in the oldskool demo competition at Sundown 2009) was inspired by Bill Bailey. No, really. His current live show features a spot on the Yamaha Tenori-on, which through the medium of “getting someone in the audience to splurge their hand on it”, he demonstrates that it can’t fail to play something nice.

This makes it a good excuse for some experimentation with generative music. The secret is in the scale – it’s equivalent to playing only the black notes on a piano, and presumably has roots in oriental music (I previously rediscovered it while working on Haiku). To make it into something like a proper demo, rather than just a throwaway routine, I added a bit of subtle progression Cyberpunks Unity style, so it drifts in and out of randomness as the graphical effects change. It even has a proper ending…

In recent months Yerzmyey has been pushing for the revival of the 16K Speccy as a platform, so I’m pleased to announce that this demo is – so we believe – the third ever demo to run on it.