Martin Galway

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Martin Galway (born 3 January 1966, Belfast, Northern Ireland) is one of the best known composers of chiptune video game music for the Commodore 64 sound chip, the SID soundchip, and for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. His works include Rambo: First Blood Part II, Comic Bakery and Wizball's scores, as well as the music used in the loader for the C64 version of Arkanoid.

Biography[edit]

In 1983, Martin Galway was a 17-year-old student writing games and music for the BBC Micro, along with his friends at Parrs Wood High School in Manchester, England. Parrs Wood's original Computer Studies teacher, Peter Davidson, had already left his job at the school to work at Database Publications in Stockport – publishers of The Micro User magazine. Database Publications had started a software arm, Optima Software, that would advertise its games in the magazine for no charge. They needed some programmers to create the software and Davidson contacted his former pupils. Galway (who had, at the time, only one year of computer experience) was recruited, along with others including Kevin Edwards (who now works at Traveller's Tales). With no tools except the BBC Micro and its BASIC+assembler, Galway whistled the tunes to himself and typed the notes in one by one, providing the music for Edwards's and Optima Software's first game – Atomic Protector (an unlicensed Pac-Man clone. Galway was paid £50 for each of the six weeks of the job (the length of the school holidays).

Continuing to create music and sound-effects for his friends' games into the following year, Galway realised that Eyes (another Pac-Man rip-off) by school friend Paul Proctor could be worth "proper" money, and he picked up a copy of Personal Computer News to look for a publisher. By March 1984, that magazine's back cover was regularly advertising Ocean Software in Manchester, so they were spotted first; Galway approached them as Proctor's agent. The game was liked, and after a meeting with David Ward, Ocean paid £300 for it. Eyes was never published. Keen to offer his skills as a musician to David Collier, Ocean's development manager, Galway brought with him some BBC Micro disks to the office of Richard Kay, who was their in-house BBC programmer (later to start Software Creations). After this demonstration, Ocean saw Galway as a potential replacement for their current music supplier, who lived in Portsmouth, which was a logistical challenge. They loaned a complete Commodore 64 assembly language development system to Galway, who began analysing the system and composing immediately.

During the 1980s, Galway made music for many of the popular Commodore 64 games, and became one of the most famous SID artists. Galway is best known for his soaring, anthemic compositions, for making heavy use of the SID chip's ring modulation feature, and for compositions which made unconventional changes to SID register settings while notes were playing (producing his trademark echoey sound). Perhaps his most famous song is the title-piece for Comic Bakery, a sweeping 3-voice tune. This is also one of the most ripped C64 songs, as it was featured in a number of intros (what crackers used to put before a pirated game to brag) and on music discs[citation needed]. A cover of the Comic Bakery tune was also used for the first level of the game Jurassic Park, released by Ocean Software for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1993. Another song that many Commodore 64 users remember is his adaptation of the Rambo II theme used in the game.

Galway also made music for one of Origin Systems' first adventure/roleplaying games, Times of Lore, with several tunes that were intended to suit the medieval setting. As he was also a programmer, he wrote an algorithm that randomised the chords that the guitar voice plays, making for a very long and varying piece.

He was also the first musician to get published with sampled sounds on the Commodore, with the theme for the Arkanoid conversion. When asked about how he did it, he answered:

"I figured out how samples were played by hacking into someone else's code ... OK, I admit it ... It was a drum synthesizer package called Digidrums, actually, so you could still say I was the first to include samples in a piece of music. [...] Never would I claim to have invented that technique, I just got it published first. In fact, I couldn't really figure out where they got the sample data, just that they were wiggling the volume register, so I tried to make up my own drum sample sounds in realtime – which is the flatulence stuff that shipped in Arkanoid. [...] After the project was in the shops I gained access to some real drum samples, and I slid those into my own custom version of the tune. The one that's in the shops is kind of a collage of farts & burps, don't you think? [...] Later I was able to acquire some proper drum samples and by Game Over it got quite sophisticated."

Galway has said that he will never remake his songs, as they were made for the SID chip and would sound wrong on real instruments. However, he says that he could possibly start making music for real instruments. His original SID music can be found from The High Voltage SID Collection.

In 2007, Martin Galway completed his 25th year in the games business, working as operations/production manager and audio director of Certain Affinity, an Austin, Texas based software company.

Galway is presently working as Audio Director for Cloud Imperium Games on their upcoming PC game Star Citizen,[1] created by Chris Roberts of Wing Commander. Star Citizen is expected to release Q1 2015.

Galway's father, George Galway (born Belfast, 23 December 1940), is a Jazz musician (Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone) and teacher based in Manchester. His uncle is the famed flute player Sir James Galway.

Video game music[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Meet Martin Galway!". Star Citizen Kickstarter Project. Retrieved 24 October 2012. 
  2. ^ "Lost and found: BBC Cookie". stairwaytohell.com. The BBC and Electron Games Archive. Retrieved 9 June 2007. 

References[edit]

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