_\\__T_A_T_I_C___L_I_N_E_____________________________________ September, 1999
\\//__ Monthly Music E-Zine __________________________________ 85 Subscribers
Table Of Contents
Message From the Editor
Letters From Our Readers
The Zen of Tracking -- The Hidden Power in Creative Blocks
Screen Lit Vertigo -- "Solids of Revolution"
by the Alpha Millenium Crew (party-version)
Call to Keyboards -- Wrapup: MP3 vs. MOD
New Topic: "Spread the word" or "Keep it
in the family"
Sodium Spray -- The intro Server
Message From the Editor
Wow, even though we're lacking a few columns, this is a big issue.
Thanks to all that have been getting involved in my new column -- Call
to Keyboards. It's really great to have our own little debate here in
this magazine. We're growing, and it's thanks to all of you guys.
Unfortunately, there is no song review this week. Tough times yield for
drastic measures. In case anyone cares, I am starting a new job in
three weeks, and I have several projects at my old job that I am
expected to finish up. Essentially, I got 5 weeks of work in 3 weeks.
I'm also moving back to Philadelphia over the next few weeks. So, I'm
up to my head. But, I still bring you Static Line.
What's new? Well, SeaEye of Immortal Coil has helped me to create a new
website for Static Line. It is still in the works, but should be in
order over the next few weeks. Stop by in a few weeks to check it out.
Well, I gotta get this posted, and get back to work. So I will let the
table of contents speak for itself.
See you in 2000!
Letters From Our Readers
-=- Letter from Puolikuu -=-
] of staticlines 13-15 [
Seven's partyreport reminded, that the sceners probably all around
the world have one thing experienced or to experience in common:
demoparty. Good partyreports remind me of the times I've been to a
party, which is nice by itself but leads me to thinking we're really
_sharing_ something here, be it a "community", or a magnificent
manifesto of the Great Spirit of Art itself or just a detail of this
world. Fun anyway.
[quote from #14's In Tune]
> completion. Even in the most basic song, the listener must feel as
> though the song is complete. There is a song by Pink Floyd that simply
> ends by the singer singing "Time is up, the song is over, thought I'd
> have something more to say..." and then the song essentially ends.
> This is what I call a dropped ending. And that is the only thing I
I personally think that the lyrical content of that song gives the
feeling of completedness (ugh), or maybe the lack of it and the power
of this words (over me that is) just hits me.
Don't have the album for reference here.. and can't remember the song
very well, it's on Dark Side of the Moon anyway, isn't it?
[Late entry for "Call to Keyboards (Re: Tracking Unions)
I agree with Seven.. feedback for feedback, it's a strange matter, but
we all need motivation, and with this free scene society (which includes
not getting paid) moral support, inspiration and guidance are what we've
got to give.
Anyway, sending feedback on an article sounds unprobable, as it seems
that even for a module feedback, if any, comes from people you
personally know, or if you ask it. Or me. ;-) Well, at least I try to
inform people I've heard their stuff and if something came to my mind
while listening to it. And yup, those tracking unions sound quite good,
but I hit an annoying obstacle with Trax in space myself - "Puolikuu
already exists in TiS". Make room for identity crisis..
--Puolikuu / tempo'pkbrp
-=> Reply from Coplan:
Good to hear from you again, Puolikuu. I like your view of the
demoscene. I think it's good to think of the entire scene as a family,
or a piece in the big celebration of art. When people look back, the
scene used to be considered a musical underground of sorts. But, I
think that anymore, that doesn't apply -- and if people continue to look
at it that way, they may not get what they intend to out of the scene.
The Pink Floyd song? You are correct, that is from the Dark Side of the
Moon Album. All you people out there that havn't heard it yet, you
might want to go pick up a copy -- it's worth it.
The Zen of Tracking
The Hidden Power in Creative Blocks
The world around you is all inside you. Your experiences of taste,
touch, smell, and hearing are all electrical and chemical responses that
take place inside your mind. Everything around you is a product of your
imagining. The images you see are your constructed version of reality -
they are patterns that you created, given only an input of various light
frequencies, mixing and interacting in much the same way that sound
waves mix and interact to form music.
Any time you perceive something beautiful - you are perceiving the
beauty in you - your response to a bunch of light or sound stimulus.
When you see something ugly in the world around you, the "ugliness" in
it is merely the negative response that you construct for it. It is
merely ugliness in you.
Have you ever tried to shut off your mind? To stop it from thinking?
To stop images from flashing through your head, or sounds from echoing
through your consciousness? It may sound simple enough, but it really
is not a very simple task. The moment you think you've done it, you
realize that in thinking you've accomplished your goal, that, in itself
is a thought. And when you delve even deeper, and manage to quiet your
mind, you might become aware that the emptiness you have achieved is
"something" in itself - and your mind is not truly empty.
Your creativity is so overwhelming, it is quite impossible to silence
it - even if you don't consider yourself a creative person. A creative
block is actually a wonderful thing... creative blocks are the potential
for creative streaks. It is when you hit the limits of your dreams and
imagination that you break the limits, and truly grow.
The silence and emptiness of a creative block should be understood, and
treasured. In it, you will find that you are more than a musician -
more than an artist, or a person merely "doing" something. You are
alive, and growing. It is affirmation that there is life after creative
At those times, you might find an opportunity to develop your manual
skills, or your grasp of chord theory. When your mind is empty of fresh
ideas, it may be a very good time to go over your scales and your
exercises, and develop your ability to play the music effortlessly when
the music returns to you.
In doing so, you develop a trait known to the Chinese sage as wu wei -
doing without doing. It is the state you reach when you have practiced
and polished your skills to the point that it is absolutely effortless.
You no longer have to concentrate on what notes you play, or how your
fingers move across the strings or keys - they simply move themselves in
perfect time with your will and emotion.
That is what they mean when they say "he does not act, but through him,
all things are accomplished". Non-action does not mean non-doing.. it
means doing without doing - knowing without knowing. Development of
your skills and your talents to the point that they become automatic.
Creativity, too becomes a matter of wu wei eventually. When you
encounter those "creative blocks", and you are empty of ideas - if you
have properly trained your body - you will find yourself with the
ability while in this state of emptiness to sit down at your instrument,
and begin to play, without planning it out - without hearing it in
advance - the sounds just spring into being through you. They are
instantly transformed from the Potential of Emptiness, to Manifestations
in Music. It is in these states that the best songs are written.
Let that creep into your head the next time you encounter a creative
P.S. If you find my ideas interesting, and want to learn more about my
philosophy, feel free to visit "the philosophy of One". There you'll
find introspective poetry, links to enlightening books, and various
articles about how to see more in the world than your average Joe:
Screen Lit Vertigo
"Solids of Revolution" by the Alpha Millenium Crew (party-version)
Found at www.scene.org
2nd place at Dreamhack'99 non-accelerated
Nothing mentioned, but I think the power of the CPU is more important
than the amount of memory. Something like a PII with 16 MB of mem. And
remember to unzip with winzip, for the long filenames, as this is a
Win9x demo 7.5 MB HD
Test Machine: PII 350 64MB SB16, Win98
I quote the info-file: "This demo was made in an effort to combine
studies and scene-life, and represents the near impossibility to do so."
And, to be honest, this is indeed a very unfinished production :) First
you can choose to see it in full-screen DirectX, a window or
double-sized window. You have to press a, b or c, the buttons on the
screen does not work. Then it starts with two scrolling backgrounds in
space, with the title, "Dreamhack'99" and such things.
It looks good, but it's interrupted by reading from the harddisk, and
by a static picture that looks like some control-screen from a nuclear
reactor. Then a text tells about Tellius IV, a planet that's the final
refuge of humankind. The camera zooms in on the planet, from which a
small spaceship escapes, seconds before the planet explodes. At first I
didn't understand much of this story, but when I took a look at the
pictures in the data-directory, things got clearer. There are several
versions of the reactor-control screen, each one giving more alarming
messages. But alas, due some bug the first one is show multiple times.
You can find also some pics from a missing part, where the shuttle takes
of from it's base (the reactor?).
Anyway, the demo continues with the shuttle flying between asteroids
and stars. At this point the story is given up, because the following
parts are just unconnected effects. In addition, the music changes from
a dark, symphonic tune with military-style drums to a happy-go-lucky
demotune with funky synths and bells. Not exactly the kind of music you
associate with the end of the world :) The effects include a standard
tunnel, a picture of a green-haired girl with motion-blurred particles
over it, some polar effects and the good old vectorball-snake, this time
with transparent globes. Of course there's some 3D too, like a kind of
ball with flares hovering over an infinite checkerboard, but the engine
seems to have problems with finding the edges of the polys, so you can
see ugly scars here and there. The backgrounds and the logos look quite
good and colorful, they are mostly photoshopped but we know that
pixelers are hard to recruit nowadays :-/ The demo ends rather suddenly,
with a short and repeating upscroll.
Another quote from the info-file: "It is, however, our first demo and
we hope it will not prove too embarrassing in the future." I'm afraid
that a first production is almost always embarrassing when you look back
on it, except when you never improve your skills :) And there's indeed a
lot of room to improve: optimizing the code, fixing the 3d-engine's
edge-bug, improving the timing for the windowed view (which is not
really enjoyable now :( ), removing unused files from the data-directory
(the music is included zipped and unzipped, the pictures), and writing a
loader for pictures with random dimensions (a 320*200 pcx-file for a
10*10 particle is quite a waste). But of course there are already some
good points too. The music and the pictures are more then enjoyable, and
there are some original design-touches, like the zooming and rotating
ring of circles. I hope that the final will fix most of the bugs, those
are probably the result from lack of time.
Call to Keyboards
Wrapup: MP3 vs. MOD
New Topic: "Spread the word" or "Keep it in the family?"
-=- Introduction -=-
Ooo, I think I hit a soft spot. I got a lot of response to this one,
almost within a few hours of publication. I have three replys that I
think you all should check out. I've reformated this colum slightly --
but only in the way that I respond AFTER the letters now. I think it'll
make more sense. For my response look for "What do I think:" after all
-=- Wrap Up -=-
Steve Gilmore's Reply:
As ever, a very good Static Line just thudded into my mailbox, and here
I am typing away on a subject I seem to have been discussing for at
least a year. I tend to hang out mainly on the MOD newsgroups, MODplug
and United Trackers forums and - on the odd occasion - on the myriad
#trax-a-likes on IRC. In short, I get around. Maybe not as much as
some sceners, but I'm not as able as some sceners...
Anyways, the MP3 vs MOD argument has been a-wailing and a-shreiking away
in these places for all this time, all to absolutely no avail. MP3 is
here to stay folks, shun it at your peril!
Pretty much everyone I've spoken to who tracks all say the same thing.
They may release MP3's where necessary or release in *both* formats. I
am not, let it be said, talking about 400k MODs here. Although if you
have a 400k track that you can tweak with DSP and release as an MP3 -
why not? If you are releasing for an audience, you surely *have to*
try and reach as great a number as possible.
I am making larger MODs now, simply because the technology is much
greater. I'm also releasing on MP3 to catch that bigger audience out
there blissfully unaware of the scene and it's talent. Why, because I'm
a raving egomanic (yep..hee hee) Actually, no. Because having spent
the last 10 years totally immersed in the MOD culture, I want to spread
the word as far as possible. This is a wonderful scene we have here.
Sure, it's not particularly happening in some sectors, but in others its
positively bursting at the seams. And the talent around cannot be
Grasp the nettle of MP3, it could be this scene's next big step - at
least as far as the musical side of tracking goes..
I have a general question for all readers of Static Line, just as a
mental exercise. How many trackers are there on MP3.com? I know some
are, because I know them. I know some are because I know of their work.
There are probably loads more. Why then is there no 'MOD' category on
MP3.com? And why are trackers not making themselves known on the MP3
forums? I'm sure a MOD thread would attract some attention. These are
Keep up the good work on the 'zine....
I don't like it when people make an mp3 out of a module just because
they don't want their samples ripped. I guess that's because i frankly
don't care if anybody uses my samples or not - if anything, i feel proud
when i notice it. I don't go looking in others' modules for unmarked
ripped samples ("No source on samples #13, #14 and #21.. got that
written down officer?") and I don't exspect anybody does. I seldomly
give credits to where I got the sample from (well, I don't rip a lot
anymore, I do have certain sample quality standards that sample CDs
often meet and ripped samples often don't) and if somebody uses a sample
I made, well, fine for them.. as long as they don't rip my songs, I
won't complain. Sample ripping is IMHO not really a valid point. I
mean.. it's just samples! The file size thing was the reason for my
(few) mp3 releases. But it's not like I wouldn't give out the tracked
file if someone asked me. Plus I got all the benefits of not having to
tell non-scene people a) what Impulse Tracker is and b) that WinAmp is
not cool to play the tunes in, and c) where they can get IT ("What? A
DOS program?!") or sonique to play the file right (doesn't always work
since sonique isn't perfect either). Also, you'd be surprised at the
amount of "sceners" (especially in europe) who refuse to install IT on
their hd or listen to .ITs, or those with totally outdated versions. My
guess is that out of 10 random sceners only 5 hear the .IT as it's
supposed to sound. When I release an mp3, it's all of them. It's
different with ft2, granted, cause there's better support for it in
winamp (and everybody has winamp)
Promotion to non sceners.. well, promote to non-sceners as much as you
can ;) I guess they'll be more receptive when you don't tell them to get
another piece of playback software when they already have a media
player, AND winamp. Honestly, telling someone (over IRC possibly) how to
download, install and properly configure a tracker and how to play a
song with it is not what I want to do in my free time (that's one thing
Coplan didn't mention - when they agree to download a player, you're
stuck with them :D). I rather give out an mp3 that they can just
doubleclick on. Less stress for me and them. When it's possible, I try
to release both tracked file and mp3, but with a 4 meg .IT and a 4 meg
MP3, i'll only release one, and now take a guess which. MP3 releases
will become inevitable for me, since I have rising standards in sample
quality (-> size) and something that hasn't been mentioned in your
article: I wave write the single tracks (or better: instruments),
process them with fx etc and assemble them in a multitracker, forming a
.WAV file that is noticably different from a "clean" diskwrite of the
song. Post-processing will become the main reason for mp3 releases after
a while, but for now it's file size first for most people.
> Non-scene exposure? Call me stubborn, but if anyone wants to listen
> to scene music, they're either in the scene, or should be. And if
Uhm, no. That's a stupid statement. What about the neighbour who got
internet access this week? What about your relatives in france who want
to hear what you did? What about your friends, people who like your
music but have nothing to do with the scene otherwise? People who don't
even know that there IS a scene and just like your music? What about
game developers you accidently meet online? (ok, so that's not exactly
representative ;) What about the record labels (maybe you'd be using a
CD there, but it's the same principle..)?
Please excuse my long-wound sentences.
Hey, mikpos' keyboard here. A lot of people seem to think that
distributing tracks in tracked formats will keep alive that warm, fuzzy
scene feel. I'm of the people that think that the scene is in the
intensive care unit right now, and in fact has only a marginal chance of
survival. The death of the BBS scene (before any BBS sysops flame, let
me say -- if you're still running a local BBS: cool! if only there were
more like you), the death of mpoli.fi, the death of Hornet Archives, and
perhaps more than anything else, the "retirement" of most of the old
skoolers seem to point to the death of the scene. Scene.org is
fantastic (traxinspace is quite a different matter, though), and I hope
it stays alive, but it's just not quite enough. Real demogroups (the
kind where you could talk to you coder face to face!) are being replaced
by "cyber" demogroups and tracking unions. Newbies are coming on the
scene (it seems at an alarmingly low rate) without any sense of the
history of the scene...we can't fully rely on them to inherit the scene
when they've never fully experienced it.
I think it's fairly well accepted that the biggest (if not the only)
problem killing off the scene is the globalization of the scene; or
rather, the de-localization of it. Frankly, if you're one of those
that's going down with the figurative ship, fighting tooth and nail to
keep the scene feel alive, then I don't think there's anyone that can
criticise your motives. But the file format songs are distributed in is
such a tiny detail that it certainly can't be expected to do much. The
methodology of the scene (and consequently distribution) is the problem.
The Internet was fine for the scene at the beginning -- suddenly I could
get Skaven releases within hours of their release, not weeks (speaking
from a small-city North American perspective). The Internet and the
scene do not need to be mutually exclusive, but some effort needs to be
exerted to recreate the local scene. As is with most industries
(especially technical ones), the explosion of the Internet has changed
it too fast.
We have to remember that the SID and MOD formats, and all their
descendents, were created for practical purposes. MP3 now is more
practical than tracked formats in some aspects: it can be smaller; it
plays roughly the same on all players; it can be streamed;
post-processing can be applied. Tracked formats also still have quite a
number advantages: they're usually smaller; coding a player is
relatively simple; wavetable cards can be used; they can act as a
learning tool -- the pattern and sample data is there in the open; and
they can be synced easily in games and demos. The last reason I think
is reason enough for the tracked formats to survive in one form or
another. You have to remember that tracked formats were almost
exclusively written for games, demos and cracktros in their infancy.
The scene has changed tremendously in five years, and the number of
musicians is way out of proportion relative to the numbers of coders and
visual artists. Every demo would have to have dozens of songs and every
game would have to be cracked hundreds of times in order for all of
these songs to be "put to use". If people aren't writing songs for
demos, they're probably writing them to be listened to. If that's the
case, the major advantage of tracked music is no more. This isn't
necessarily a bad thing; it's just the way things go. If you think it's
a problem, changing your file format probably won't help things much.
The MP3 format makes sense in a lot of cases where the sole purpose of
the song is for background listening. Tracked formats make sense where
syncing (or small filesizes) are important. Using IT instead of MP3
WILL NOT save the scene. Ever. If you want to save the scene, find
some sceners in your area, buy some beer, and have some fun. That guy
that sits beside in class has a C64? Your neighbour's kid is learning
Pascal? Go to his house, whip up some dancing vector balls, and write
some horrible music to go with it. Distribute the source on your local
BBS. You may not be pulling out a couple thousand polys a second; you
may be considered the lamest person in the tri-state area; you
definitely won't win anything at any prestigious Scandanavian
demoparties; graphic rumours will start about you and your new "friend"
having wild gay butt sex. If memory serves, that's what the scene's all
about. If you even get one laugh out of it, it'll be far more rewarding
than posting your MP3s on your website.
What do I think:
Well, I got to be honest...I'm stubborn. I am still a big fan of the
MOD based formats (MOD, XM, IT, etc), and though I'm a little more
accepting of the MP3 format, I guess I'm still not happy with its
presence -- at least not in the methodology that many trackers use it
But, I'm one of those guys "going down with the figurative ship," as
Mikpos would say. So, I guess I really don't have any choice but to
accept it as best as I can. One thing I'm still steadfast with --
release for size and expansion -- not to protect your samples.
Now, onto the new topic.
-=- New Topic: "Spread the word" or "Keep it in the family?" -=-
Okay, this topic is derrived from your responses to the MP3 vs. MOD
topic. What the hell do I mean? First, let me explain the topic, then
I'll share my views.
Spread the word: There is the belief that people need to expand their
listening audience -- and the release through formats such as MP3 can
help this. To save the scene ('cause it growing weak), one must spread
the word to non-sceners.
Keep it in the Family: The demoscene is MOD music and hardcore code!
Anyone outside the scene can listen, but they just won't understand.
Therefore, many believe that the old purist approach (MOD formats) are
the best where possible, and could care less if its easy for the
What I am about to say probably wouldn't come from my mouth a month ago.
I'll admit, the feedback from many of you has swayed my opinions about
this. First, let me say that the scene is, in fact, in trouble. Maybe
not nearly as much as one would think, but it is in trouble. I sit here
and think about the times of old, when I first got into tracking. I got
into tracking before I had internet access. I was some BBS visitor and
I happened to download a Necros Tune ("Ice River"). I was hooked. So,
then I strived to find out more about the format, and a tracker was
Well, apparently, it isn't like that anymore. The scene is much
more accessible to non-sceners these days. We have people coming in by
the hundreds, and oldskoolers going out the same door. But why? The
concept is still the same -- someone discovers the scene and becomes a
part of the scene. "Lamer" is the term given to a new preson in the
scene. Just because they can't track now, doesn't mean they can't track
later. And contrary to popular belief, there isn't a higher ratio of
lamers to experienced trackers. We're not getting over-run, there's
plenty of room. The fact that they're coming in by the hundreds is a
good thing. The more people that try it, the more will stick around. I
will still make an effort to help those who want it...as many else will.
As they become more active, the scene become more healthy. More
resources, more servers, more communication. More feedback! The scene
But Guess what?!? Your best friend's little sister doesn't know about
the scene until she gets to taste it. How will she taste it? Well,
hopfully, she'll download a mod player and play a tune she downloads.
But lets be real here. Out of 100 computers, I would say maybe 15 of
them have a mod player installed. But maybe 85 of them have MP3 players
installed (it's a big fad right now, I might even be low in my guess).
Well, guess what? She's more likely to download the MP3.
So, this brings me to the final answer. I say "Spread the Word!" The
scene needs help. Who knows...maybe the guy that downloads one of your
tunes gets so involved in the scene that he'll offer a huge network
system just for the scene (if you're that type of person, drop me a
message, we'll talk -- I'll manage the system). Imagine what that could
do to the scene! I'm talking the next Hornet here. But that person has
to get hooked on the scene first.
The scene isn't dead -- but we gotta send up the signal flares.
You're opinions here, please.
From: "frank studhel" <email@example.com>
Sodium Spray is a new intros server serving
exclusively 4kb and 64kb entries which have
already been submitted to demoparties.
Currently you can chose to download over
200 of the latest intros, with just 1 click.
Editor: Coplan / D. Travis North / firstname.lastname@example.org
Assistant Editor: Subliminal / Matt Friedly / email@example.com
Web Manager: Dilvish / Eric Hamilton / firstname.lastname@example.org
Columnists: Coplan / D. Travis North / email@example.com
Dilvish / Eric Hamilton / firstname.lastname@example.org
Seven / Stefaan / Stefaan.VanNieuwenhuyze@rug.ac.be
Virt / email@example.com
Staff Writers: Louis Gorenfeld / firstname.lastname@example.org
Setec / Jesper Pederson / email@example.com
SiN / Ian Haskin / firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical Support: Draggy / Nicolas St. Pierre / email@example.com
Jim / Jim Nicholson / firstname.lastname@example.org
Static Line on the Web: http://www.ic.l7.net/statline
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