I remember the Apple II. By way of the Franklin ACE 1000 clone that was later sued off the market, I grew up with the Apple II as my first computer. I programmed it – or tried to – endlessly. Trying to get music and sound right with the native Apple II speaker was an especially bruising experience: endless data tables, pokes, and very seldom getting what I wanted out of the machine. A whole sub-industry was born to bolt better audio capability onto the Apple II via add-ons like the Mockingboard sound card. It was never as easy as just plugging a MIDI-capable keyboard into it and just playing what was in your head.
Except that now, it is. And that’s how we got Class Apples – a new MIDI controller interface, and a modern-day software hack allowing for samples to expand the sound of the Apple II, and 8 Bit Weapon doing what 8 Bit Weapon does. The entirety of Class Apples is performed on Apple II computers, with minor post-production tweaks providing the finishing touches that the Apple itself can’t (reverb, stereo tricks, a bit of flanging here and there). It’s still the same lo-fi machine that it always was, but the Apple II can do more musically thanks to persistent fans of the machine grafting new abilities onto it, inspired by technological developments that have taken place since the Apple II’s heyday.
The music here is all from the classical repertoire, and heavy on pieces with complex counterpoint. Everything has a beat to it, and there’s a strong Hooked On Classics vibe to the whole thing. It’s hard to nominate any one track as a standout – each of them have their own charms – though I’m always a sucker for “Ave Maria” and, well, just about any flavor of Bach.
Computer music may be nothing new, and classics filtered through computer music may be nothing new, but there is something new here – significant musical capabilities have been grafted onto a machine that was known for little more than the plaintive PR#6 “BEEP” that accompanied a startup or reset. Just as 8 Bit Weapon helped alert the public to the possibilities of the NES and Game Boy as musical instruments, the same can now be said of the not-especially-musically-inclined Apple II. It’s a musical tech demo that is, if you know anything about the Apple II’s native sound capabilities, surprisingly listenable. You had me at INIT HELLO,S6,D1.
- Sheep May Safely Graze (Bach – 2:55)
- Two Part Invention (Bach – 1:03)
- Prelude and Fugue 1 in C Major (Bach – 1:29)
- Für Elise (For Elise) (Beethoven – 2:14)
- Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music) (Mozart – 5:24)
- Invention 8 (Bach – 0:51)
- Prelude in C Minor (Bach – 1:35)
- Rondo Alla Turca (Mozart – 2:07)
- Invention 14 (Bach – 1:13)
- Air Tromb (Bach – 1:29)
- Ave Maria (Bach & Gounod – 2:52)
- Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven – 4:43)
Released by: 8 Bit Weapon
Release date: July 22, 2017
Total running time: 27:55