Obsolete? Standing Room Only

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The sound of vintage machines jamming – musically

14 May 2009 Hot news: Obsolete? now available on iTunes. UK purchasers go here.

Pixelh8 played the latest in real techno music to packed houses at The Mansion in Bletchley Park last weekend to great acclaim. The performances of Obsolete? were a culmination of months of intensive work by Matthew Applegate / Pixelh8 in recording and composing music using some of the rarest and oldest computers in the world at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) at Bletchley Park.

A genuine musical first, Obsolete? uses the sounds of vintage computers to create 12 musical pieces interweaving themes of mathematics, logic, ciphers and codebreaking, interspersed with flashes of musical humour. It is an audio and visual study of the people, machines and history of TNMOC at Bletchley Park and uses the sounds of its computers from century-old mechanical calculators through the code-breaking Colossus to the games machines of the 1980s.

Matthew used more than 30 machines in the creation of Obsolete?, some of the sounds coming direct from the internal sound chips, others from the external electro-mechanical sounds.

“I used the true, untampered sounds that anyone can hear on a visit to the Museum,” explained Matthew. “For instance, in the Late At The Office segment I was inspired by the thought of what these machines might get up to when no-one is around – a jam session, if you like – it’s a laid-back groove with machines punching in and out every now and again.”

Taking a break from recording her third solo album, Imogen Heap was a very special guest at Obsolete?. She spotted the talents of Matthew Applegate at an early stage and gave him his first big break by inviting him on tour as support act.

Imogen said: “I love the way Matthew turns the tables in Obsolete? Whereas we use the computers to record and mix other sounds, he goes further and composes the music here from the actual whirrs, tickings, bleeps and chatters of the old forgotten heroes, such as the first digital computer, Colossus. He’s making music out of the computer's own voice, and bringing them to the musical party rather than using them as the drinks trolley. I enjoyed it very much.”

Kevin Murrell, a director of TNMOC, said: “The performance was brilliant and fantastically well received by the audience – we’ll never be able to look at our exhibits in the same way again. Perhaps not surprisingly for a musician recently featured on everything from BBC Radio 1 to BBC Radio 4, the audience was exceptionally diverse – teens to seniors, musicians to geeks, neighbours to international visitors. This is a marvellous boost for the profile of our rapidly developing Museum and we look forward to lots more innovative projects with Matthew and others.”

Obsolete? was commissioned by TNMOC and supported by the Performing Rights Society Foundation.

Obsolete? is expected to be available as a download from the usual outlets in May 2009.

Notes To Editors

Obsolete?'s Musical Segments

While / Opening Credits – Math – Flowers For sale – Late At the Office – THEN GOTO 1980 – 200320092000 / 21032092000 – Rewind the Tape – More Math – Even later At The Office – Function – Monster – Obsolete? – Encoded Message / End credits. Details of the segments are available at http://pixelh8.co.uk/obsolete/

Computers used in composing Obsolete? include:

  • Elliot 803
  • Colossus MK2 Rebuild
  • Dragon 32
  • BBC Micro
  • SORD M5
  • MSX-HX10
  • Atari 800XL
  • Amstrad CPC464
  • IBM 029 Key Punch
  • Brunsviga Adding Machine
  • Bulmers Adding Machine
  • Block & Anderson Adding Machine
  • Crete Teleprinter
  • ICL Line Printer
  • PDP 11
  • PDP 8
  • 380Z Research Machine
  • RM Nimbus Power
  • MAC 5500/275
  • DecTalk

About The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park

The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, an independent charity, houses the largest collection of functional historic computers in Europe, including a rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic programmable computer.

The Museum complements the Bletchley Park Trust’s story of codebreaking up to the Colossus and allows visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the mainframes of the 1960s and 1970s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s. New working exhibits are regularly unveiled and the public can already view a rebuilt and fully operational Colossus, a working ICL 2900, one of the workhorse mainframes computers of the 1980s, and many of the earliest desktops of the 1980s and 1990s.

For more information, see www.tnmoc.org

Matthew C Applegate / Pixelh8

Internationally renowned chip tune musician Pixelh8 (pronounced Pixelhate) makes his music from reprogramming vintage computer systems such as the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Game Boy. His unique blend of Electronica has taken him across the globe, performing at Microdisco in Berlin, Apple iTunes in California, BBC Maida Vale Studios for Radio 1 in London, Assembly 2008 in Helsinki Finland and the Game In The City Festival in Holland.

In 2006 he won a MySpace competition to open for Grammy nominee Imogen Heap on her UK tour and in March 2008 he won Playback Album of the Month from Sound On Sound Magazine with his second album "The Boy With The Digital Heart".

Pixelh8 has also created software like the Pixelh8 Music Tech Game Boy Synth and Pro Performer for other musicians including Imogen Heap and Damon Albarn.

Matthew C. Applegate also lectures and runs music and computer related workshops across the United Kingdom and is a mentor at the British Academy of New Music, London. Patron of the Access To Music Centre, Norwich, and is currently studying for his Masters at The Centre for Design Innovation, University Campus Suffolk. He is a STEMNET Science and Engineering Ambassador.

For more information on Pixelh8 visit www.pixelh8.co.uk and join the mailing.

About PRS Foundation

PRS Foundation is the UK’s only independent funder dedicated to supporting new music of all genres. Widely respected as a refreshingly approachable and adventurous funding body, the Foundation supports an amazing range of new music activity -- from unsigned band showcases to composer residencies, from commissions for new music to experimental live electronica. The organisation has a unique remit to support all genres of new music across the whole of the UK. Since its launch in March 2000, it has successfully funded over 2500 imaginative new music initiatives to the tune of over £10 million. Visit www.prsfoundation.co.uk for more information and www.myspace.com/prsf to hear examples of work we have supported.

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