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Bear Stearns Bravo

Album artwork (a floating CD-ROM jewel case) for Empire Sunrise: Music for Bear Stearns Bravo

Empire Sunrise:
Music for Bear Stearns Bravo
Available on BravoNET for $5

If you’ve experienced Bear Stearns Bravo, you may have wondered about the music: synthesized yet expressive, and reminiscent of games of the FMV era. I think the key is a choice we made early in the game’s development: to compose the music almost entirely for a 4 MB wavetable synthesizer from 1996, the Yamaha S-YXG50.

When released, Yamaha XG synths were some of the most powerful tools available for computer musicians, particularly the SW1000XG sound card. Although now considered obsolete, there is still an active XG community. A few features, often missing from modern samplers, remain useful:

Diagram of Yamaha XG parameters (source: Sound on Sound)

Diagram of Yamaha XG parameters (source: Sound on Sound)

  • Filters: no need to insert a plugin — every channel has a low-pass filter with Resonance and Cutoff controls
  • Vibrato: instead of riding the Modulation wheel through a phrase, there are Vibrato Rate and Vibrato Delay controls to add feeling — automatically!
  • Expression: to give legato phrases their shape there’s an Expression control, freeing up Volume control for what it was intended (balance within the overall mix)

The track used in the trailer, Move Objects and People, has examples of the Vibrato and Expression controls (guitar and saxophone) and Filter controls (bass and arpeggios)

Harnessing the full power of the S-YXG50 would not be possible without some great software, some new, some old:

Screenshot of XGedit95 configuration for Move Objects and People

Screenshot of XGedit95 configuration for Move Objects and People

  • XGedit95: its primary function is to save and recall XG synth configurations — it also provides interfaces to features only accessible with SysEx (System Exclusive) messages, including the ADSR envelope, reverb, chorus, and special effects
  • SAVIHost: a standalone VSTi (virtual instrument) host (used to host the S-YXG50)
  • Cakewalk SONAR: a MIDI sequencer (for recording and playing back notes)
  • LoopBe1/LoopBe30 (a Windows 7 compatible replacement for MIDI Yoke): allows for virtual MIDI routing (used to connect all of the above together)

Categories: Composing.

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2 responses

  1. I’d love to get my hands on the music, but I don’t have much interest in joining the game. Is there a way?

  2. Hey, L. Including BravoNET access, the total price for the soundtrack is still only $13 — we’d sure appreciate your support. If you just can’t spare it, though, it looks like a fan has made it available on YouTube. Either way, please enjoy, and thanks!