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Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon in 8-bit
Catalog Number N/A
Release Date Mar 29, 2010
Publish Format Doujin/Indie
Release Price 9.99 USD
Media Format Digital
Classification Arrangement


Composer / Nick Mason, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright, Clare Torry
Arranger / Bradsmith


Disc 1

01 Speak to Me 1:16
02 Breathe 2:52
03 On the Run 3:42
04 Time 6:53
05 The Great Gig in the Sky 4:32
06 Money 6:37
07 Us and Them 7:51
08 Any Colour You Like 3:34
09 Brain Damage 3:50
10 Eclipse 2:06
Disc length 43:13




What is this?

This is a transcription of the entire Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon for the Nintendo Entertainment System. No expansion chips were used; this album works entirely within the limitations of the standard North American NES.

How did you make this?

I used three free programs to create this music.

First and foremost, Famitracker, which was used to sequence the whole thing. Huge thanks for Famitracker.

The sound was rendered with NSFplug, because I like the sound of it better than any other NSF player.

Final editing was done with Audacity.

How long did it take?

It's hard to say, because it was spread out over a very long time. Probably more than 100 hours.

I started it back in December of 2006. I worked really hard for a couple weeks then, but only got about halfway through the album, so I kept it on the shelf. At that point I started a new job, and I got into a procrastinating mode about it, and I didn't really touch it for a very long time. In February 2010, I got back into it, working a little at a time, and by the end of March it was finally done.

Why did you do this?

This was a combination of several things that I enjoy.

I have an interest in old game hardware, and part of that is the enjoyment of its music. I also like the challenge of making something large fit into a small space. In this case, the small space is the limited sound capabilities of the NES. I like to make transcriptions and arrangements of music. By taking a piece of music and rewriting it for a new instrument or ensemble, I feel like I gain a deeper relationship with it. It becomes more enjoyable, more memorable, and it's always a good lesson in composition.

I am attracted to old video game music, not just because I appreciate the difficulty in working with such a limited means, but I think composers were forced to find a unique style because of how constrained their available palette is. Of course, sometimes composers fail under these constraints, and you end up with boring music, but when it's done well you can get something really interesting.

Familiarity I think is one of the basic aesthetic elements that can produce a pleasurable response. A lot of people grew up playing NES games, and the sound of a NES has a deep bank of memories to draw upon and colour the experience. Drawing out these memories and comparing them against something different, something separate, like Pink Floyd, maybe causes your brain to scramble to make new connections between them. Like a joke, it makes the right connection, and you laugh, you feel pleasure. At least, that's a little bit of how I think aesthetics works.

Why Dark Side of the Moon?

Dark Side of the Moon as an album has been around me all my life. It's one that I've talked about and listened to with many different friends, and people of different ages.

There are a lot of albums I really love, but of my favourites this one I think is the most widely appreciated. I wanted to make something that a lot of people could understand, and Dark Side of the Moon seemed like a good option.

Is this a joke?

Well... a little. When I first started working on it, I thought I'd probably put it on at a party or something just to get a confused reaction out of people.

It's only partly a joke though. I spend a lot of time listening to old game soundtracks, and I do find them fully aesthetically satisfying. The concept of MOON8 is a bit funny, but that joke is over pretty quickly. This is a cover. This is me presenting Dark Side of the Moon in a way I hadn't heard it before, and in a way I think is actually beautiful and worth sharing.

What inspired you to do this?

When Kind of Bloop came out, and it's a fantastic album by the way, it reminded me that I had my own chiptune album still sitting half finished on the shelf. I think that project spurred me on a little.

As I said above, sometimes you get very unique art by working within a limited means. A few years back I read Christian Bök's book of poetry, Eunoia, which dealt with a very arbitrary and limiting set of constraints, and it was exciting and inspiring to read.

My favourite video game composer is Hiroki Kikuta. I first heard his music in Secret of Mana, which is my favourite game soundtrack. My second favourite is Pierre-Eric Loriaux's Atari ST Toki soundtrack. I've always been impressed by the unified theme that carries through all of Koji Kondo's Super Mario World (also check out Shnabubula's incredible remix). Shinobi III on the Genesis has a unique sound, and it pushes the hardware hard, using both the Yamaha FM chip and the old TI chip from the Master System at the same time. Tim Follin's Solstice on the NES is another one that really went to the limit of what could be done with that system. Actraiser 2 had the probably the best orchestral sound on the SNES. Rob Hubbard's One Man and His Droid, Ryoji Yoshitomi's Metroid II... I should stop this list before it gets too long.

Which parts were easy? Which were hard?

Sometimes it is hard to represent the sound with just three tonal instruments to play with.

Things like the guitar solos were usually easy; all I really needed to keep was a bassline, and put the solo in one of the pulse channels, leaving me with an extra channel for an echo effect.

Other times, I really want to get a chord sound, but I don't have channels to spare, so I try to cram it into one channel with a really fast arpeggio, i.e. if I play all the notes in the chord really fast it's almost like you're hearing them together. This effect was more typical in home computer game music, like the Commodore 64, but the NES could do it too.

Still other times, the original album is just really dense with tones, like with the organ echoes in Any Colour You Like. In these cases I try to pick out the more salient sounds and just give an impression of the rest.

A lot of the expression you can get from layered sounds was completely untranslatable. Eclipse, for instance, has a long build-up where each individual part is not very complicated, but the overall effect as many of them accumulate is a rich and complex sound.

There's a weird moment in Any Colour You Like, after the opening passage on the organ, I was trying to represent the stereo hocket between the two guitars, and I had to do it with mono sound. What came of the attempt sounds very strange to me. It's a musical passage I would never ever have thought to write, but at the same time I really liked it.

When transcribing the drums and bass especially, I noticed that Waters and Mason hardly ever play a pattern the same way twice. This is actually common in a lot of music, but it's not something that you really notice until you start writing down every note you hear. It kind of reveals what part of the composition was premeditated, and what parts belonged to the moment. With video game music, though, everything must be premeditated, and because I was transcribing a lot of this pretty close to what's on the record, tracking a slightly different version of the same bass pattern in every measure felt like a bit of a style clash. I enjoyed that, though. I got to make NES music out of something that wasn't, and see if it might still be a beautiful thing that way.

Why didn't you include sampled vocals? Couldn't the NES play samples?

The NES actually had the capability to play back low quality sampled sounds, but I didn't want to make extended use of that. For the most part I just used it to play a synthesized sounding snare drum, but I did also use it for the cash register sound in Money.

I didn't really want to use it for vocal snippets, because that really was outside the realm of NES sound (the only exception I remember is Blades of Steel). Occasionally I tried to substitute something close with the square waves, like the laughing in Speak to Me, but for the most part I had to let them drop out of the experience.

If you're interested in what it would sound like, though, you're in luck! John Saylor has produced an edited version of MOON8 with synthesized voices. See above for a download link.

Will you cover another album?

I don't have any plans to right now. I've got other projects I'd like to work on first before I'd consider it. I was thinking if I did another one it might be Aja or The Downward Spiral, but don't wait for it, it might never happen.

Would this really play on an NES?

It's certainly possible. All of this sound could be produced by the standard North American NES sound chips. I didn't "cheat" anywhere by using extra sounds.

There would be some technical difficulties trying to get this onto an actual cart. I didn't write this for compactness, i.e. every pattern is unique data, so you might have a hard time fitting it all in the limited memory. You could replace similar patterns and try and get it down; there's probably some way it could fit on a cartridge, but this would be a lot of work.

So... if you really want to, feel free to try to play this on a real NES. Let me know if you do.

Can I have this in NSF format?

I have made the Famitracker source files available. You can export NSF files from these with Famitracker. But, even better than NSF, you can edit them easily with Famitracker, or just take a look at how I wrote it.

If you do happen to make your own edits or additions, please send them my way. I'd love to hear them.

Can I redistribute this?

I personally don't mind my recording being redistributed freely, but there is a legal complication that this is a cover album and the original songwriters/publisher may be entitled to royalties for downloads. If you do redistribute it, please keep it intact, leave all the files together in the zip, and don't remove my name.

Will you make MP3s of just the individual songs?

My original release of this album did not have individual tracks. I think people who had this on vinyl might understand why I only wanted to present this as the two sides. However, now that I am offering it for sale by digital distribution, I was forced to make these divisions, so, the answer to this question is yes.

Have you been interviewed about this? Gamelife 4/06/2010 4/08/2010 (Greek translation)
G4TV The Feed 4/03/2010
Hightower and Jones 4/01/2010
Floydian Slip 4/01/2010
drop-d 3/29/2011

If you have questions or comments, e-mail me.

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