Small world, tracker music edition

I love to hang out with online pal Cabel Sasser, founder of Portland software company Panic, whenever our paths cross in real life. But I only just realized that he was an early 90s tracker musician whose work I listened to in England as a kid, on my Commodore Amiga, decades before we met.

One of my favorite things to do on my Amiga was write music in trackers, a unique, note-by-note way to write tunes that was half-music, half-programming. … Then, Cut to Yesterday. Rob Beschizza, out of Boing Boing, read my post about The Incident music. To summarize: not only did [a U.K.] magazine actually publish my dumb song, but a 13-year-old Beschizza remixed it, and as internet pals we had no idea until yesterday that we shared this connection.

You're pretty cool, universe.

Cabel says his work's aged badly; bear in mind that these were free digital sampling apps hacked to run on home computers a fraction of the cost of a Fairlight. But what made his tune cool and useful to 12-year-old me is the fact that it was a simple, melody-based track with just two or three cleanly-looped instruments sampled at the same pitch.

Back in the glory days of tracker music, songmakers would hurl in every possible feature to push the low-tech hardware to its limits. Notes would be programmed to warble at as high a hertz as possible to emulate chords on a single audio channel. There'd be elaborate collections of samples in multiple keys, intricate envelopes coded into the notation, and general nerdliness throughout. The underlying code was often impenetrable–and effectively uneditable.

Cabel's track, however, sounded great, made perfect human-readable sense under the hood, and was fun to experiment with. It's no surprise at all that he's now the co-founder of an app-maker renowned for its perfectly-designed, no-nonsense creative apps.