[The Y in FBY........]
A mystery that continues in the decades

The first time I saw FBY, he was sleeping on the stands of the arena where The Italian Gathering 1997 was taking place. The party was almost finished, and they were announcing the winner of the 4 channel music compo (which was FBY himself). Someone started yelling at him, but he continued sleeping, until they threw him his prize and he awoke.

FBY playing an A minor chord; some retro tech and retro guys on the right (Bernie and Alex)

FBY is a great musician. The parties he won speak for themselves: 1st at The Party 1995, 1st at Saturne 1996, 1st at The Italian Gathering 1997 and 1998, 1st at Outline 2006, and so on. But more than looking at placements, you should experience his mods in first person. If you haven't heard of him, well, lucky you: you have a world to discover today. I suggest (but it's just my personal opinion) to start with Apache, Strange flower and Sambing to have a quick glance of his art, and then dig deeper if you like his style (you will).

So I reached FBY and asked him to talk about his musical origins, tracked music and music in general.

I've read that you started with a guitar and that your sisters carried you (or forced you to go) to music lessons. Is your family a family of musicians? Did you study classical music?

Yes. I began to sing when I was young, and then my sisters and I started to take private guitar lessons with maestro Carlo Mascilli. It was really fun: our teacher gave us pieces to study at home, and then we had to replay them during the lesson. At the end of each lesson, the teacher played for us... he was fantastic. Ivana [his sister, Ed.] quit first, while Sandra continued studying really hard. I was not studying that much, but still managed to keep up with the lessons, and after a while I started to bring to the lesson my own pieces (I was starting to show the traits of a composer, more than a performer). At our first recital, I played music from Leo Brouwer, Dionisio Aguado and three preludes written by me :)

So yes, I had a classical education that influenced my first compositions, like the "Piano Sound" I-V and "FBY Studio" I-IV series. By the way, the first music program I used wasn't a tracker, but a pentagram-based composing software, "Aegis Sonix".

The loading screen of Aegis Sonix wasn't bad.

In 1998 you said: "I like travelling a lot, so I don't think I will stay in Florence much more or in a stable way; I'd like to spend quite some time in America, maybe near a big lake with big trouts inside". How did it go then? Did you catch some big trout in America? :)

No, but my father went there :)
I've been in New York and for some time in the flat-ish Florida. I was at Delray Beach and often went to Miami and the beaches near there. I travelled a lot, across Europe in the 90s and then also in Asia. In the last few years, I really dug into Tiziano Terzani's books on the subject. 

Italians at Assembly 1996. Can you spot FBY?

Tell us something about the "acid" period of FBY's music, the one that brought pieces like "Acido Puro". Too many hours spent at the disco or just a consequence of the 90s?

Both things, I would say :)
At that time, with my friends Francesco and Demetrio we were listening to "a martello" music [an Italian expression to identify music similar to gabber or with a pumping bass drum, Ed.] every evening. If you like Acido Puro, you should also like Tetriade and Klassica.

Did you ever compose that kind of modules where notes make drawings in the patterns or the pattens go backwards?

No, never. But I appreciate Audiomonster and other musicians that did this kind of stuff. Really ingenious!

Apache. What's the title about? The public release of the .xm dates to 1998, but there are two other versions in different keys. Can you tell us something about the birth of this module?

The title comes from the American Indian tribe... not from the open source web server :) The first version was made in 1988 with Aegis Sonix (4 channels), the second version was made with 2 Amigas playing simultaneously in Soundtracker (8 channels), and the third and final version was made with Fast Tracker and rendered with Deliplayer (with additional stereo sound and reverb).

How did I track one module on 2 Amigas, you may ask... My friend Bernie [Bernardo Innocenti, Ed.] invented an interface that duplicated the mouse movements on the 2 Amigas, when needed, and created a home-made mixer for sound output. He also wrote an Amiga utility called "XModule", that was able to merge two 4ch modules into an 8ch one, and to convert Oktalyzer modules [Oktalyzer is a tracker often used by FBY, Ed.] into .mods.

Another piece I really like is the soundtrack for "Mille e non più mille", a 64k by Spyral that was presented at Mekka/Symposium 1997. Did you have problems staying within the 64k limit (the mod is 20k)?

Not really. I was used to write chip music. For example, I produced other small mods, like "Lucky day" (43k), "Amiga monkey shine" (63k), and the more well known "Superjazz" (aka "Oh yes, Jazz!", 86k compressed), that won the chiptune compo at DiHALT 2007 in Russia.

What are those guys doing?

A question on "inspiration". Talking about non-commissioned music, how does inspiration come for you? You just stand in front of the tracker and start composing, or you imagine a melody when you're walking, or you play an instrument or all of the above?

The first option. I regularly opened the tracker, every afternoon, and started composing what came to my mind. As you can see in the page that collects all my mods (FBY ALL MUSIC), I really covered a lot of genres. I liked to experiment and I enjoyed composing music in every style and genre. For example Andalusia, that recalls Spanish/Andalusian music (I've also been there on vacation) and Paco de Lucia's one.

Is there a relationship between your mood when you are tracking and the quality of the music you produce, or this is really randomic? Where does quality, the thing that makes a piece stand as a masterpiece that is remembered, come from, in your opinion?

Yes, there is a relationship. But there is also a random, experimental factor. For me, the quality of a musical piece comes from its originality (that's why I love Pink Floyd, a band that experimented a lot) and then from its tracking and musical technique.

In another interview, you said: "In the future, more than affirming myself, I hope to create a series of skills, working practices, and a commercial system that would put in the spotlight artists, creators and not the usual merchants". Do you think that with Youtube, Soundcloud, and all the platforms to share music we are near to your idea of 20 years ago?

Yes, that's true: the "new" Internet gave to everybody the chance to put their music online, and for sure this is a good thing. At the time of that interview, anyway, I was starting the company "Nayma Software", in 1998, so in my mind there was the idea to establish a more open and free way of working to create software and electronic art. Nowadays, some companies, like Google, are near to that ideal, giving their employees that kind of freedom and flexibility.

Music in the demoscene has always been free, but very good, nonetheless.
Do you think that music should have a price? Or do you think that there can be a system that would give free music to the listener without letting the artist starve [maybe called Patreon or Spotify, Ed.]?

In my opinion, music should be free. In fact, my motto has always been "Fby's music is free music". Musicians have always been starving, little exceptions apart.

Last question: after all these years, you can tell us: F=Fabio, B=Barzagli... and Y=?

Sorry, it's a secret I will take to my grave :)

It has been a pleasure speaking with FBY and discovering his tracking secrets (but not the secret of his nickname, unfortunately). He's also involved in social themes (he mantains a portal on divorced fathers and paternity, www.paternita.info) and he writes thoughts and aphorisms (www.FabioBarzagli.net - in Italian).

We hope to hear more music from him soon!

posted by friol at 8/12/2020 04:53:00 PM - under: , , , , , , , - comments? here (0)
[Alexa, go make a demo about it........]
Amazon Echo meets the demoscene

Mixing my need to code with different tools and on different platforms (as of today, counting among the others, GW-Basic, the Nintendo DS, Arduino, iPaq OS and a lot of other forgettable shit) and the prison where a pig that ate a bat confined us, I ended up building a demoscene skill for Amazon Echo.

The skill can do many unnecessary things, like spitting out a demoscene fun fact and listing the upcoming parties or the top prods of the month, without you leaving your sofa. It will be available on the Amazon skill store when the Amazon testers think we are all dead it's time (they are saying on 24/4, at the moment) (UPDATE 17/04: the skill is now LIVE in English or Italian).

But anyway, the excess of spare time makes its victims too, and I decided to produce a video (!) about it (never edited a video in my life). If you can stand the loudish ambient noise, the lack of a microphone and my primitive English skills, you can watch it here (it's only 4 minutes long, after all):

Hope everybody survived this. This video, I mean.
Gosh, if this quarantine continues, I will start singing and playing the ukulele.

posted by friol at 4/13/2020 11:49:00 AM - under: , , - comments? here (1)
[Preserving demoscene poetry........]
If you can't beat them, collect them

I've recently switched jobs. The new job is boring as hell. The previous one was heavy and boring as hell.
So, things are getting better, uh?

During the last month or so, I've been assembling a website from scratch (but shhh, don't tell that to my company).

The website is this one. It's called "sceneþoetry" (yes, it is. With a 'þ', yes).

Basically, it's a repository of scene poetry and demo lyrics. Goals for it are easy searchability, easy visualization on all devices, making the data linkable and easily aggregatable. For sure my current work influenced it in some way (I'm working on Elasticsearch, at the moment. No, nothing demoscenic, sorry. Well, wait. How long for a demo on Kibana?).

Your contribution is really needed and appreciated.
On the website, there is a contact form that allows you to submit a missing lyric or missing poetry. And many of those are missing. Just compare with this list (I think a good 50% of the lyrics are missing). You'll find a list of demos also on the contact form.

So, let's build together the definitive list of scene poetry.

P.S.: now I must find another project to do at work.

posted by friol at 3/07/2019 09:20:00 PM - under: - comments? here (0)
[Subatomic particles and demoscene........]
Don't worry, I'm just reading another Penrose book

As promised before I am obliged very happy to present you the 2nd part in our decennal review of 4k intros.
(Wow, it seemed more the statement of some retirement club...)

This time I won't reveal you how many 4ks could fit your 1.44Mb disk, but, to make you understand 4ks, I would just use an easy concept: as someone said, "4k intros are like 4096 1-byte intros glued together".

Anyway. I have mixed thoughts about this second span of 4k history. I'm quite confident we exited from the "wobbly raymarched thingie" or "infinite fractal" trend we've seen starting around 2010, but the general feeling is that the way to find a new direction is still long and painful, and that new ideas are just starting to emerge.

Also, looking over this new decade, some black spots, or "black years" like 2014 come up, years that seem to show a general emptiness in terms of ideas and new releases. In general, we also saw a massive increment of 4ks that use the same synth (4klang), unfortunately often with the same presets, flattening the soundscape variety.
But, regardless of that, and confident that the scene is NOT dead, let's dive in.

2008 - Texas by keyboarders

The best 4k of 2008 couldn't be anything different from 'the best 4k intro so far', by definition.

I've seen people on Youtube asking if this intro really plays that music.
Yes, it does. On Windows Vista, at least. Understanding how (even if everybody in the scene knows that) is left as an exercise to the reader in the long, winter days.

By the way, I personally like the visuals more than the music in this one.

2009 - Elevated by Rgba

And, by definition, the best 4k intro of 2009 couldn't be different from Elevated.

2010 - Cdak by Quite & Orange

The music and the atmosphere in this one is spacey.
If you read the comments on Pouet, people even like this 4k's music more than the one in "Texas".

Historically, this intro places itself at the dawn of the "infinite fractal" trend that plagued pervaded the demoscene in the early 2010s. But come on, this is *the* infinite fractal demo.

2011 - D-Four by Ctrl-Alt-Test

The best 4k of 2011, according to pouet's "top of the trumpets" is "Code is my pron", but I consider that one, as the title says, just coder's porn. Even if I'm I've been a coder too.

Instead, Ctrl-Alt-Test manages to create something really unique/rare in the scene with this one: an intro based on a flow of words, with a solid and catchy tune. By the way, it's funny reading the source code and the names of the background colours in French (Fondu noir de début, Nuit, Jour, etc.).

2012 - Reionization by mfx

The best 4k from 2012 is this one. Not this one. Not even this one.
Why? Because it's from mfx, because muzik rules and because Youtube can't compress it and you have to run it on real hardware.
(Youtube screenshot follows)

2013 - HBC-00013: Highway 4k by HBC and Tekotuotanto

The clear winner for 2013 is "Highway".

I bet anyone likes camera-distorted tron-esque motorbikes with pumping music in the background.
Interestingly enough, this 4k is written in javascript and then compressed. It's one of the few 4ks using this approach (maybe the only one? there are 55 according to pouet.net, there was even a dedicated party, called DemoJS, seems everybody forgot about this).

2014 - Dismantlement by BluFlame

As said, 2014 was a pretty poor year.
BluFlame, experts in 4k, come to us and save the princess with their "dental mirrors".

In general, the techniques used in this intro are not so new, but the "torus factory" scene is enjoyable, at least.
Nobody knows, still, why some toruses are missing.

2015 - hydrokinetics by Prismbeings

Prismbeings debut at an already very high level with their first 4k.

Some nice touches make this intro stand from the other "normal" raymarched productions: the moody music, that has nice and trippy echoes, the camera distorsions, the dust effect, the *hexagonal* *lens* *flares*.
Wait a sec, they don't have hexagonal lens flares...

2016 - 2nd stage boss by 0x4015 and YET11

What Gargaj said. Really.
If you sum up a size limited intro, a story, spaceships, lasers and explosions, you won't find a demoscener unpleased by this.
Since Lithium by Vista.

2017 - Unprogress by Fairlight

And we end this walkthrough with one of my favourite (to say the less) groups, that seem to have passed through all the ages of demoscene and still being able to be great, even if now they have probably 389 years each one.

This 4k could easily be mismatched for a movie trailer. And it's the first 4k with "statues", I think, or the first 4k with scene titles. But I may be wrong. Disprove me in the comments.

P.S.: by definition, this list should include "the best intro ever" by Razor 1911, but it doesn't. Sorry about that.

posted by friol at 9/07/2018 10:29:00 PM - under: , , , , - comments? here (0)

the Tunnel - demoscene blog(c) friol 2o18