Rettward von Doernberg – Stay A While
After his first release “Be Water” which has been featured on over 350 radio stations, broadcasts and podcasts worldwide, Berlin composer Rettward von Doernberg now releases a special, new musical work called “Stay A While“.
“I’ve always been fascinated by chiptunes”, says von Doernberg, “which is the video game music of the first home computers and gaming consoles. Usually you associate with this only annoying beeping – but there was also some amazing stuff.”
The problem was that making music on these early computers was very limited. For example, you could only play a very few notes simultaneously – only three or less. Also, there were no real instruments, only synthesizer waveforms such as sawtooth, sine and noise. Neither were there effects such as reverb, delay, chorus, etc. The composers for the video games back then made the most out of these limitations and accidentally created something completely new: a very special, unique sound.
“When it was time to begin a new piece”, remembers von Doernberg, ” I was wondering: What would it be like to create a piece with this very special sound of the chiptunes but without having to deal with the limitations that the composers back then were facing. In other words, what would happen if I would do a full music production, with all the bells and whistles using this sound? What would that sound like? Is it possible? Or would it still simply remain a curiousity?”
Rettward von Doernberg was fascinated by this idea and got to work immediately. As a sound source he chose the Commodore 64 (C64) home computer because it had the best sound chip of all 8-bit computers at the time. It was also very popular back in the 80s so literally thousands of very good chiptunes were created from which a composer could learn. Furthermore, today there is plenty of software that mimics this special sound.
“As the subject matter for the piece I chose the video game “Impossible Mission”, says von Doernberg. “You play some kind of James Bond, who infiltrates the underground lair of a Dr. No, in order to eliminate him. The game already had, back then, revolutionary, speech samples. These would come in very handy when composing the piece.”
Executing the idea proved to be not easy. “It took me a long time to finish the piece because it was very difficult to realize. After a first complete version I chose to replace the main theme. After that I had to change a lot of things. Aside from that it was a real challenge to get a good sound for this piece and to bring it to the level of quality of today’s music productions. For that I had to expand my knowledge about mixing greatly.”
But what has all of this have to do with pocket calculators? “The actual chiptune sounds of the piece were generated by a certain software”, explains von Doernberg, “that tries to mimic the original sound of the C64 very closely. If I wanted to use original hardware I would have needed seven C64 computers. Combined, these would have had the processing power of about 35 pocket calculators. As a comparison my laptop alone has the processing power of 15,000 pocket calculators.”
To be released on 04/19/2018, “Stay A While” will be available via online music stores and streaming services including iTunes, Spotify and Amazon but only for a limited time. However, von Doernberg will release an earlier version of “Stay A While” for visitors of his website “Aboard The Caravel”.
“Composing feels to me a bit like discovering new continents”, says von Doernberg. “Every new piece is an opportunity for me to learn and to improve. At the same time, I like to share what I discover. That’s why I created ‘The Caravel’”.
“Aboard The Caravel”, named after the type of ship used by Christopher Columbus, is a website dedicated to Rettward von Doernberg’s music as well as to sharing his secrets on the art of composing that are not found elsewhere.
If you would like to check out right now what is happening “Aboard The Caravel” then you should subscribe to the podcast of the same name. A good deal of the membership website’s content is available here for free.
Rettward von Doernberg has many years of experience in writing, recording and performing music. His music has been featured on radio, TV, in movies and in video games. In addition, smaller as well as larger ensembles have played his music where he gained experience as a conductor.
He studied at the Musicians Institute and at the University of California, Los Angeles. He also had the opportunity to learn from acclaimed film composers and Academy Award winners such as James Newton Howard, Alan Silvestri and Hans Zimmer.