Let’s get down and dirty!

Demo coders, don’t you just love em?

Always pushing the ST to its limits. Dreaming up new ideas and techniques and squeezing that last clock cycle out of the poor Motorola. All well and good for gamers who don’t care what goes on under the bonnet of their fave game. However to me, a music ripper, it’s another matter. Four people stand in the dock, accused of crimes against music ST rippers :

Jochen (Mad Max) Hippel, Tim (Manikin) Moss, Jurgen Piscol and Paul Summers.

Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty as charged.

Let me explain. You see making SNDH’s isn’t just about extracting the code so it plays in your favourite machine code assembler – genST of course. Nope, that’s the easy part. We also need to ensure the code is memory address independent and system friendly. The former isn’t too hard to do, you just need to change absolute memory addresses to the location that the SNDH file is loaded, a bit faffy but pretty straight forward. The latter can be easy or a pain in the ass. System friendly? You see when we play tunes using JAM or SND-Player the operating system (OS) is still running in the background doing exciting things like updating the system clock, plotting and reading the mouse etc –however most games/demos nuke the system to gain valuable processor time and memory.

Thanks guys, thanks a lot.

Due to these problems I’ve had a number of tunes on the back-burner :- Wings of Death digital, Baal music, Lethal Xcess digital, Turrican 1 & 2 digital, Grand Monster Slam digital , To Be on Top digital, MUDS digital , Z-Out digital, Amberstar digital and Sound-machine digital musics – do you see a pattern?

The two major problems with these musics are :-

  • Routines steal data/address registers to optimise the music driver code (making it run as fast as possible)
  • Routines use practically all the CPU time

Stealing registers means the operating system cannot run in the background. Fixing such tunes often requires lengthy modifications – however this slows the music routine which can affect the sound quality.

Excessive CPU load is even more difficult to fix. It can sometimes entail a complete re-write of the music driver to gain sufficient clock cycles which allows the OS to run. This can be an impossible task as the drivers are already heavily optimised (e.g. Wings of Death by TLB and Lethal Xcess by TEX). The other factor is time – I simply don’t fancy recoding a full routine.

So that leaves us with tunes which play ok but don’t like the OS. That is why I decided to code a non-OS player “Dirty-SNDH”, so you can listen to tunes on native ST hardware. Unfortunately current players – SND-Player & JAM won’t be compatible. However Winjam plays the tunes and SC68 is currently being updated to handle the files as well.

Currently LX, WOD, Baal & Amberstar are fixed and work in the new player.

Grazey. September 2016.

SNDH-Unripped-tunes

As you are probably aware the aim of the SNDH archive is to contain all sound chip music ever composed on the Atari ST.

However this is where I need your help! You see, I would say approximately 80% of all game chip musics and 98% of demo musics are already ripped and contained in the archive . The difficulty is identifying which game tunes are still outstanding.

My proposal is to use my "Automation Bible", this is an excel spreadsheet which lists the contents of all 512 Automation menus plus menu contents of D-Bug, Cynix and the BBC. I've combined the current SNDH tune list into the spreadsheet to indicate which tunes are already present in the archive. What I need is information regarding each game, specifically :-

  1. If a game contains chip or digital music
  2. Type of music - digital/chip?
  3. If it does - is the composer known?
  4. Is the music in the SNDH archive

To make this task systematic I'm going through each Automation menu in turn booting all the games then populating the excel spreadsheet. It's a long labourious task so any help would be really appreciated! I've already done D-Bug, Cynix and the BBC.

The bible is located on the D-Bug web-site :- The Bible

The aim is to complete the whole Automation listing, this will then give a comprehensive list of what is still outstanding.

I realise not all tunes are on Automation menus but it's a good place to start.

Finally I am still looking for support with the ripping/SNDHing process, I'm toying with the idea of posting a ripping tutorial. If it would increase the support given to SNDH. Anyway let me know your thoughts! Grazey.

500 Barrier broken

Well we've finally broken the 500 composer barrier. The honour goes to 607 who sent us a couple of Quartet tunes.

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Above: 500, yay!

We have already added 10 tunes for the next update. New stuff includes an unknown Lotus/Hotline Synth dream tune. Plus "Lotus 3 - The Ultimate Challenge" now has the full compliment of subtunes 22 as opposed to 6. Shoddy ripping by me!

SNDH 4.6

It's August! This appears to be the SNDH release month so without further ado 4.6 makes it online.

As I mentioned previously it's a mixed bunch of tunes ranging from cutting edge X-Bios 32 tunes, to simple Maxymiser and Sid Sound Designer beeps.... or is that the other way round?!

In the old days I wasn't really interested in ripping and SNDHing exotic digi formats. I'm a chip connoisseur at heart, stemming from my C64 beginnings. However things changed when I wanted to listen to the superb Great Giana Sisters digi title track in Winjam and alike. The rip gave birth to SNDH-Digi. The resulting Giana conversion was pretty straight forward, similar to converting digi-drum tunes - read: MFP malarkey. Nowadays another reason for adding digi tracks is simply because most chip tunes are now included in the SNDH database. New modern tunes are practically all composed in either Maxymiser, Sid Sound Designer or Music-Mon - soon to included the DML tracker?!

Anyway I digress. One such game with exotic digi was the ancient Turbo Cup by Loriciel. At the time people thought it was a sequence of samples but it was in fact Loriciel's own in-house tracker. It amazes me that the ST did not follow the Amiga path, admittedly both machines had a myriad of exotic chip tunes in the early days but the Amiga soon progressed through SoundMon, Future Composer and later the behemoth that is Sound/Pro-Tracker to make exotic tunes the exception not the norm. The ST on the otherhand continued with individual musician assembly routines right to the twilight of the ST. At least this keeps me in a job. Back to Turbo Cup, the rather funky composition was by Michel Winogradoff. Thankfully he kept the same music code for future Loriciel releases: Bumpy and the weird but cool: Disc.

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Above: L-R Turbo Cup, Disc & Bumpy

I hate the Unknown Composers folder. Why oh why didn't Sid Sound Designer have a nice composer field, why didn't game manuals have full credits? We will never know. At least as we move forward snippets of information appear which reduce those unknowns. This time tunes gaining rightful ownership include a batch of tunes from Jovis of Zuul. Delirious Demo 2 reset (a common tune in cracktros) which now sits with Stan Mercury of OVR, originally this was in Unknown, then it moved to Doclands. However Doclands has confirmed he simply improved Stan's song to make it "listenable!". Other tunes finally credited include Karate Kid II (by the legendary Steve Bak).

"Bittner, bit, bit, bit ,bit Bittner" carrying on the digi exotic theme. The classic Bittner rap makes its rather belated entry into the database. Sampled sick.... so love that.

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Above: Bittner rap!

ST News editor Richard Karsmakers decided to convert some of his old demos to the CODEF framework <http://st-news.com/issues/bonus-materials/>` , the demos mostly feature tunes written in Activision's Music Studio. His work identified that some Music Studio SNDH files did not sound 100%. On closer inspection it was because I had re-written the play routine to work with Timer C. However, I've have now reverted to the original play method using Timer A at a rather speedy 980hz! As well as the MS files, Richard sent me tonnes of X-Bios 32 tunes, these are now in the archive as well. An added bonus is that I've written two little utilities to automatically convert X32 and Music Studio files to SNDH. See the tools section on the SNDH page.

New composers this release :- Fred Eric Gerard (Titus programmer responsible for Crazy Cars III and Super Cauldron), yqn, Lonestar, black (active coder and composer!), Mr Man, Ged and Michael Open.

We have a smattering of new tunes too. Tomchi, DMA-SC, gwEm, !cube, xfalcon, 505, 7AN, Wiecz0r, Lotek & EIA continue to fly the flag. All credit to you 21st century YM troopers.

Finally, the SNDH database now contains 499 different composers.... so... who is gonna be number 500!?

From Hull and back (part 1)

Well a little blog post to fill in the gaps since the last SNDH release in August 2015! Crikey, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? More like: time flies when you’re heading into the realms of middle age and you have no time for the ST.

As far as the collection goes, currently (as of 12th May 2016) we have 158 new/updated SNDH’s comprising 225 tunes. Quite a mixed bunch of tunes ranging from the MusicMon delights of BITS demos to the winning entry Flash of the ROM by fellow PHF member gwEm at last year’s epic STNICCC. Anyway that’s just a taster of what the next release will feature. Now a few thoughts about PHF / SNDH related goings on :-

As I mentioned in December 2015 all three current PHF members descended on the Netherlands for the third STNICCC party. Cal & Grazey attended the last party in 2000 but this was gwEm’s first experience of a vintage and current scene cocktail, kind of like Babycham mixed with Red Bull I guess. Well the Northern contingent of the crew decided to insanely bike from the Kingston Upon Hull (UK City of Culture 2017 – more of that later) to Gouda. gwEm quite rightly took the more speedy and civilised flying route into Schiphol.

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Above: L-R Grazey on his way, Cal made it!, PHF (Grazey, Cal, gwEm)

From an Atari music perspective the party far exceeded all my dreams and expectations. Firstly there was the small matter of two chip musician legends within my floppy disk throwing arc. Then there was the plethora of new ST chip tunes submitted to the compo! Within a few minutes Richard Karsmakers introduced me and Cal to Rob Hubbard, yes, “Rob fucking Hubbard”. Rob was my true hero back in the day. Strangely at that time (1985-6ish), around Zzap! 64 and their Musician’s Ball articles I did not realise Rob came from our home city. I’d never met Rob before even though I only live less than 10 miles from the maestro. In fact it was Hubbard and Jeroen Tel/MON tunes who were the catalyst for my music ripping ‘career’ – my first rips were on the C64 before moving to the ST.

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Above: L-R Paul Loraine, Rob Hubbard, Grazey

Within seconds both myself and Cal were immersed in “’ull speak” dialog, it was if we’d known him for years. Also in our conversation was Paul Loraine who I’d met at a 40th birthday party in Newcastle, I’d know Paul’s brother for years from many Glastonbury festivals, but never knew his brother had been a commercial chip musician – releasing game tunes including Huckleberry Hound, Popeye 2 and Arcade Trivia Quiz.. Dutchies and Germans looked on as our conversion became more indecipherable, this continued to lunch time when we shared rather delicious Dutch meatballs.

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Above: L-R. Rob Hubbard, Grazey(PHF), Tinker(Teenage), gwEm (PHF), BBM(Demografica)

During this time I quizzed Rob on the origins of his ST music routine. Rob only did a handful of ST tunes, the most notable been Goldrunner which was a cover of his C64 Mastertronic Human Race IV tune (one narnty narn!). Rob explained that it was Steve Bak (coder of the ultra smooth Goldrunner) who actually converted a Z80 music driver to 68000. He then gave this to David Whittaker who used it before writing his own ubiquitous music routine. He also confirmed that he did write the ST music to Thundercats. Whittaker was often wrongly credited with writing the tune due to the use of Rob’s driver and no credits within the game. It was during this time Rob eventually moved to California to work for Electronic Arts – there his ST tunes dried up with the exception of the digital track for Populous (still not SNDH’d – shock!).

One other snippet, as I mentioned myself and Cal biked to Gouda from Hull, we did this via the P&O ferry from Hull to Rotterdam. This is a big overnight ferry which can carry in excess of 1500 passengers, 200 cars, 200 lorries, it’s like a floating hotel. Anyway on board there’s 2 restaurants, 1 dance stage, 2 cinemas, 4 bars. The top deck bar is called the “Sky Lounge” this is frequented normally by the older generations, the Sky Lounge consists of a cocktail bar and the music is provided by the in-house Richard Cladermanesque pianist.

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Above: L-R. Pride of Hull ferry, Sky Lounge pianist

Back to the plot, I asked what Rob did when he returned to the UK from EA, you know what?! He became the resident pianist on our ferry!! Sooooo wish I’d known at the time, mmh piano version of Phantoms of the Asteroid or Commando anyone?!

Anyway our chat moved to things closer to home – notably Hull City of Culture 2017

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Hull was named as the UK’s City of Culture in 2013, known for being the home of poet Philip Larkin, Sir Tom Courtney, Mick Ronson, Amy Johnson, William Wilberforce, John Venn & of course Rob Hubbard. I asked if Rob had any plans to be involved – I was thinking something along the lines of a SuperByte, but Rob said he was hopefully planning an orchestral extravaganza performing some of his greatest works to a local audience. Lets hope so!

There the Hullites went their separate ways, Rob drifted on a historical tour of Gouda, Grazey & Cal shifted upstairs for a bit of coding and movem.l d0-d7,$ffff8840.w – shadow!

Anyway that ends the first part of my STNICCC SNDH blog, part 2 will feature Maaaaad Maaaaxx

SNDH 4.5

Here we are 4.5 finally! Taken quite a while, but there's a lot going on behind the scenes. Our intention was to release this update with the BIG changes ahead, however we decided to get this beast in the wild so we can concentrate on the future of SNDH.

Ok a few notes about this release which entered my head:

Barry Leitch Driver

Stefan Lindberg hinted that my SNDH for Zone Warrior did not sound the same as in the game (I remember years ago that my Utopia rip never sounded 100% but never really investigated why. First the game contained an extra 10 tunes, which are now added. But more importantly my SNDH did not play the tunes as they sounded within the game. This was because I assumed the music driver was only called once every 50th of a second (VBL). On closer inspection I noticed there was also some music code within the game's Timer B raster code and two routines were called for the play routine and not one. Fear not, the SNDH now sounds the same as the game. A knock on effect from this is that some other Barry Leitch musics also feature this driver - hence updates of Utopia, Viking Child, Raiden, Impossamole, Pegasus and Super Cars 2 and  Harlequin which all sound much better :) Just as I was about to release 4.5 I was pointed in the direction of a Youtube interview with Barry in the interview Bazza divulged that he also composed the music to the ground breaking ST busting Postman Pat .... so that makes it way into the archive too!

Moonshine away......

I've had a semi finished rip of Richard Joseph's Moonshine Racer on my hard drive for years. The reason for this is the 'faffy' way the game plays the intro music. Rather than having one tune it calls multiple sub tunes which are embedded into the game's code. Anyway I finally added my own timer routine into the game which measured exactly when each sub tune was called.... so now you can hear the tune as it sounds in the game :) As usual I checked Atarimania for any un-ripped Joseph tunes, therefore I've also done Dragon's Breath and Demoniak.

Piscol Cross-Out fixed

Seems sub tune 9 of X-Out was buggy, all fixed now.

Obscure music add on

Stefan once again came up with some obscure unknown information relating to the Gremlin game Federation of Free Traders. We are all aware of the famous title music for this came which was the opening piece for my UMD 8730 intro. However I didn't know the game featured another 18 sub-tunes which could be loaded from a separate music disk. Needless to say they are now included!

FOFT Music Disk

Dave Lowe or not Dave Lowe, that is the question

I've recently backed Dave Lowe's successful Kickstarter project which will be updating his old tunes onto CD (including a full orchestral version of Frontier - Elite 2!). Anyway I mentioned on his site about updating Venus The Flytrap. Surprisingly he responded to say that it wasn't one of his tunes! After further investigating I found the 68000 music driver code is identical to my new SNDH of BSS Jane Seymour. I'm therefore pretty confident that both tunes are by Jason Sheppard. But it doesn't stop there! I'd never SNDH'd many of Dave's digi tracks - so you now have Carrier CommandStarglider 2 and the funky After Burner which features his sample sequencer. Oh and more of his sound chip stuff too: RafflesBetrayal and The Games: Summer Edition.

PHF, Live!, D-Bug co-production

A bit of self promotion next. Over the summer I released a little MSA imager called Trans D-Bug Express the program gives the best success rate for imaging old disks (far higher than MSA 1.4, MSA 2.3 or Fcopy DIM format). This was a team effort with additional code by GGN, lush GFX by Ukko and Kraftwerk music by gwEm. In the archive you will find music from TDE both in its release form and gwEm original which features additional samples!

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More Jochen Hippel rarities

Warp Preview -  as usual we like to include exclusives. This time an ancient Mad Max preview version of Warp using his old music driver. This also includes a sub tune unused in the final release version!

Fresh tunes!

It's not just old stuff, we've got many party releases and tunes by new composers like Shinobi (particularly dig your Dropzone tune!)

Bugger to relocate!

Finally I've ripped / SNDH'd some tunes which were in my "can't be arsed / too difficult" folder.... firstly there's Sapiens most of you will recognised both sub tunes as Chrispy Noodle  of the BBC did chip covers of both of these. Quite an advanced digi synth for the time Mr Soulet.

Give Eve the apple!

The other major format I've done for this release is Sierra's AGI & SCI interpreter, so now you can hear all the unmistakable Al Lowe tunes from Leisure Suit LarryKing's QuestSpace Quest and cutting edge games like Donald Ducks Playtime! thanks to Don Adan for some of the data files from the Amiga versions.

Enjoy - Grazey / Showaddywaddy, Evil DHS

SNDH to SNG

Some guy on Atari-Age asked me if I could write a little progette to convert Music Studio SNDH files back to their native format so he could play via midi.

No problem, the massive 1kb PRG is here

Oh and Dave Lowe's kickstarter  has reminded me I had not ripped Carrier Command or Starglider 2, remedied and in SNDH 4.5

Grz

I'm alive

Don't worry, the lack of post on here doesn't mean I've been dormant. There's been plenty of activity SNDH wise. Looking ahead we should have an SNDH update back ready for the Outline party in the Netherlands in May. Plenty of good stuff will be included including many of the Sierra games :)

I'm also doing other things with my D-Bug hat on which again may see the light of day at Outline.

SNDH 4.4

Here we are with SNDH release v4.4 (available at http://sndh.atari.org )

Let us start with the rather Dutch slant this time. Well you can blame Lowlife/Hotline for that! :)

He posted on Facebook that he had found some old disks containing unreleased stuff! This included music files and the source code to TLB's Killing Spree (which we released at the Outline demo party).

On inspecting the disks I found many new tracks from Scavenger, ISO, Dr Beat, ENS and EVE. This provides the back bone of v4.4.

The Dutch theme continues with a comprehensive Lotus release. His Synth Dream music driver was rather nastily coded, well in the day it was quite innovative but from the sense of making it Falcon and OS compatible it's nasty! So finally we have all his tunes in SNDH format after co work from myself and gwEm.

Next we have 20 tunes from French composer Charles Callet, once I worked out his music format ripping other games became easy. As usual Atari-Mania assisted in locating obscure titles written by Charles. Although I've found many other Callet tunes which are yet to be credited in their database.

Other worthy mentions include Quartet tunes by Flix / Delta Force and some nice C64/ST conversions by Simon O.

I also located a very early Mad Max tune of Axel F used in a TEX cractro plus an un-released tune for Rings of Medusa!

As usual a some duplicate tunes have been deleted including Thundercats which is written by Sir Rob Hubbard and not David Whittaker.

Final mention and grateful thanks to GGN who with my help wrote a massive batch STOS song extractor!! To some this deserves a severe kicking, to other YM aficionados it deserves a pat on the back and a cup of Yorkshire tea! :) Expect more of these STOS treats in the next release!

SNDH 4.3

Well once again we peer under the bonnet of the latest SNDH release (available at http://sndh.atari.org ) giving more information to you inquisitive types.

Firstly as I mentioned at DHS this release comes in two parts. So lets start with actual new stuff :-

  • Relix Demo by 505 : The vast proportion of new tunes in this update are attributed to 505. This guy is a composing machine. Thankfully all his tunes are written in easily convertible formats which ease the SNDHing process. Oh how I wish I'd used those rare SSD tunes he gave me at Outline 2009. Now they are not so rare :)
  • Big Alec: Punish Your Machine : k:\rips\bigalec\to_do ...... welcome to Grazey's hard-drive. I so hate "to_do" directories. For yonks two Big Alec tracks have sat there. The actual tunes were easy the rip, the hard part is that both tunes are woven into the full screen / sync of the main menu and best part of creation screens.  On a number of occasions I've looked at them, then moved on to something easier. Finally I bit the bullet and with the assistance of Evil and GGN I succeeded. So now finally you have the proper 15khz digi drums with the tunes rather than Gunnar's chip drum equivalents.
  • Quartet : Good to see my Quartet 2 SNDH utility continue to prove useful. This time we have some tunes used in Sewer Hedgehog's rare Hibernation demos 1 & 2. I used to be contact with Hedgehog so please get in touch if you ever read this Mr Stafford guy :) We also have new tunes from Edd The Duck (aka Vobrien), Rob "Quartet" Povey and a guy named "X The Beermat"!
  • Nostalgic-O update : When this demo was released Tao sent me all his Magic Synth tunes in SNDH format. However to the ultra geeky YM folk it was apparent the songs were not identical to the tunes from the demo. You see Frank added an extra Sid voice to many of them as he was not constrained by Leonard's cycle counting demo screens. I recently decided that for completeness the archive should include the original demo tunes (with 2 Sid voices) in addition to the 'enhanced' tunes (with 3 Sid voices). After all, the SNDH collection strives to be an historic archive!
  • The Ancients :  I still find it incredible that I continue to discover many un-ripped tunes from well known prolific composers, examples in this release include : Ben Daglish, Barry Leitch, Holger Gehrmann, David Whittaker, Karsten Obarski and my personal favourite and ex-Cnetter Ant Lees!
  • Paul Summers : Look at my previous blog entry for info regarding Paul's tunes.

Now to the explanation regarding the massive number of SNDH fixes.

Back in August we received an email from Ben of The Overlanders, the coder of SC68  I first met him at the ST News Conference back in 2000. Since then we have had occasional contact discussing various topics regarding ST music. In recent conversations between Ben, myself and Evil we have debated the way forward for the SNDH archive, database and file structure. This debate is continuing as we speak and hopefully we should have more information to share in the next SNDH update.

In relation to updating SC68 Ben has created some very useful tools which will greatly assist in SNDH maintenance. One of his tools can interrogate the whole SNDH arcihve (4000+ files) and identify duplicate tunes from the actual musical notes! and any tunes which crash.

For example

Did you know Cloud Kingdoms and Warlock The Avenger (Both by David Whittakeruse exactly the same music file? Cloud Kingdoms uses all 10 sub-tunes whereas Warlock only uses sub-tune #7 for its title tune. Ben's program told us exactly that! Or that Backlash crashed at song end and didn't loop correctly ? Again Ben's program highlighted this bug.

His program also identifies duplicate files, hence the additional "Deleted" category in the full SNDH 4.3 read me file.

That's why we have many fixes in this update...and... why we will probably have a similar number in the next update!

So thanks to Ben for his hard work, fixing and more importantly the unearthing of some unreleased Jess tunes. Oh,  and fixing all my old Jess SNDH's - making them system compliant and giving the tunes their proper titles.

I think that will do for now.....

Grazey