Our blog buddy Matrix just sent this one: how do you create music that embodies an operating system? On our bad computer days, I suppose that would involve crashing death metal and lots of expletives. Let me rephrase that: how do you create music that embodies Windows Vista when Microsoft has hired you? Legendary guitarist Robert Fripp (founder of King Crimson) is creating music for the upcoming Windows upgrade. An MSDN Channel 9 camera, led by Charles Torre, got into the studio to watch exchanges like this one:

“Why don’t you build up a 5 to 7 minute loop — you find the theme, the texture, the context that goes back to . . . the idea that Vista embodies the Aero principles. It’s clear, confident, and connected.”

[Fripp interrupts] “And there’s plenty of green and blue.”

He’s not kidding, either: D and E make green and blue, according to Fripp. We didn’t get to watch Eno in the studio creating the iconic Windows sounds (ironically, on a Mac), but at least we get to watch this master guitarist creating some pretty cool landscapes. And hey, why not make a musical score for the dominant computer platform on Earth?

Check out the full video at Channel 9. (Warning: hypnotic soundscape, adjusted painstakingly in Pro Tools over the course of 20 minutes, will most likely leave you sound asleep.)

Via Scobleizer, where you’ll note the person responsible is none other than Steve Ball, the engineer of Microsoft’s new A/V group for Vista who’s working on the new Audio Stack. Word is we’ll see some very cool new audio features, somewhere along the lines of Mac OS X’s Core Audio. (More on that soon.) So for those of us who are likely to turn OFF this startup sound after the first install, the good news is Vista will appeal to serious computer musicians, too. It’s nice to see musicians again infiltrating the ranks of software developers; Ball apprenticed with Fripp.

Now let’s just hope Vista works as well as it sounds. If not, maybe Microsoft will release a CD and we’ll all go bliss out in a field somewhere. Fripp worked with Eno, and Microsoft is actually tying together the musical themes of Windows95, XP, and now Vista. It’s kinda like Wagner’s Ring Cycle — oh wait, that didn’t end happy, did it? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

For more on tiny music, from the Windows95 theme to the Mac chime to the THX and Intel sounds, don’t miss Music thing’s brilliant Tiny Music Makers roundup from May of last year.

Hint to Microsoft: you may want to hire CDM’s readers next, based on the entries to our 1-second music festival.

  • pokeintheitunes

    I went to see King Crimson in the early 80s at Her Majesty's Theatre in London. Whilst waiting to get in we noticed Mr Fripp flouncing up and down outside the entrance. My girlfriend at the time decided to ask him for an autograph. In his best Dorset accent he replied:
    "I only sign my own work…" :roll
    On hearing this, I scrambled round for a dog turd, but how come you can never find one when you really NEED one? Great guitarist, grate personality.

  • alfonso.el.sabio

    I don't suppose anyone involved in this venture happened to make a note of the gear he was using to create this new masterpiece (I only mean that semi-sarcastically, as I sit here writing this with my G5 Mac…8-}…). You know, that stack of signal processors and delays right there next to him.

    I was struck by the delay between his intonation and the response of the processors, so I was wondering what the rig was…

  • johnsrude

    Now, now, children, be nice. It is true that Fripp may be his own best caricature but he did invent a new vocabulary for electric guitar as well as for looping. There's very few people in the world that can lay claim to either of those accomplishments.

    I also was disappointed in the video not to get a glimpse of Fripp's looper. I was wondering if he was using an Echoplex Digital Pro and a Roland GR-33 guitar synth together with the Fernandes Sustainer on the Les Paul.

    If you're interested in emulating the sound but don't want to lay out a lot of cash you could look at one of the Frippertronics plugins that are out there. or go to Loopers Delight. Or maybe just hook a couple of Revox reel-to-reels together.

    Kevin http://www.TheNettles.com
    The Nettles

  • johnsrude

    After posting the above, I found the following about Fripp's "Soundscaping" rig at: http://www.elephant-talk.com/gigs/frip9712.htm

    "…Fripp then got his guitar and played for an
    hour and a half or so. The music was pretty dark and spooky – a lot of
    piano and bell sounds along with the standard soundscape-tone. I got a
    good look at his gear. His pedals from (his) left to right: Roland GR-30
    Guitar synth, Roland GR-1 Guitar synth, a couple of volume pedals, Digitec
    Whammy II, Rocktron controller, three more volume pedals, foot controllers
    for rack units. Rack (top to bottom): Pair of Eventide Ultra Harmonizers,
    TC Electronics processor, two Roland GP 100s, four (yes four!) TC
    electronics 64 second delays, some processor in between the delays,
    amplifier. After a while, Fripp stopped the loop (it had been one constant
    loop, although parts were deleted and added along the way)…"

    The Nettles

  • alfonso.el.sabio

    Hey, Kevin, thanks a ton for the comments AND the link!

    I've got a GR-1 coming in next week, and while I don't have the Eventides and the TCs, I do have a small rack of Lexicon gear I've been cobbling together.

    One of the things that bugged me about the video was the he seemed to be having tracking problems when he would start a sequence up…almost as if he hadn't triggered a pedal or something…but there was a definite "ping" as he hit the strings and then a lag before those beautifull bell tones would start up. That was what prompted the question about his rig.


    Dennis http://usrslashsbin.angrek.com/audio/

  • johnsrude

    You're welcome Dennnis. I think the "delay" in tracking would be due to Fripp having the volume pedal up. Using a volume pedal to fade in a tone is good you're building harmonic structures in loops because then the loops doesn't capture the attack.

    For drones on the Echoplex Digital Pro (EDP) you start a loop that's a second or less long. Then you overdub tones, fading each one with the volume pedal.

    When you're ready to play over the drone, then you use the EDP's "Multiply" function to multiply the loops in real-time while you play the line.

    Fripp's probably doing something similiar with the delays.

    The Nettles

  • rolandreinke

    I, too, find Fripp one of the most inspiring guitarists. I just got a DVD of KC's early 80s performance at Alabamahalle in Munich — incredible band! I love Tony Levin….

  • Lets see with what pleasurable tone can the legenedary guitarists comes up. The XP tones are shrill but not pleasurable to ears.