It’s been a while since I played in a brass band, but one lasting memory is the dedicated concentration you’d find coming up to a competition. A singular focus on a single piece of music to get it sounding the best it could possibly be. There are lots of composers of brass band “test pieces” but two of my personal favourites are Gareth Wood and Gilbert Vinter, largely because their music is very descriptive, interesting to play and interesting to listen to. Their writing doesn’t feel like music that is written just to test the band, but music to convey an idea.
These days there are lots of modern composers writing for brass band or wind orchestra who write in this symphonic, thematic way, but 20 odd years ago there was still a lot of arrangements of classical music being used in contests. I personally don’t have any decent recordings of many of these works, but in the days of the Internet, YouTube can provide.
Except when it can’t! I’ve looked everywhere I can think of so far and can’t a recording of my favorite Gareth Wood piece – The Margam Stones, so I’ve had to upload a slightly dodgy MP3 from tape from tape from tape from vinyl recording that I’ve had for ages. The playing quality is not bad, but there are a few dodgy moments and the sound is very wobbly, so I’m not sure it really does the piece justice, but it’s all I have for now. If you know of a better recording, please let me know!
I also couldn’t find a recording of Variations on a Ninth by Gilbert Vinter, so again I’ve uploaded a slightly better, but still a bit iffy version of that too.
So here, with links to videos, are my favorite Gareth Wood and Gilbert Vinter pieces, all of which I’ve been fortunate to play at various times (although not all in actual performances).
All amazing pieces of music from two very talented composers.
Blast from the past this one … and in some senses, a few months too late!
I stumbled across a spectrum emulator for the ipad (can’t remember how now …) and that let me to the World of Spectrum. Whilst knowing about Spectrum emulators (I had a paid for copy of one courtesy of, was it Brian somebody? I think I still have it on a floppy disk somewhere from around 10-12 years ago!) I haven’t touched one for a very long time.
Like many, I had a Spectrum in the 80s – the Spectrum+ was my first one, followed by a Spectrum 128 at some point. I followed all the typical titles from Ultimate (Play the Game), Melbourne House, Quicksilva and the like … and whilst there are so many I could mention, for some reason one that always stuck out in my mind and that I really wanted another go on was Starquake.
Don’t really know why, other than I remember when Crash magazine published the map of the game as a centre page I spent quite a long time exploring, using the teleports and basically working on it until I had actually completed it. Back in the time when maps were hand drawn and submitted to the magazines!
I wondered about getting the iPad emulator and having another go, but looking at all the instructions of how to get custom games onto an iPad, I didn’t get further than just downloading it .. but then I noticed a Java icon and sure enough, if you feel so inclined you can run games from World of Spectrum directly in your browser – so I had a few moments nostalgia running Starquake once again.
From the opening (always tinny, this being simple Spectrum sounds) jingle, through the in-game sounds and graphics and scarily, I actually remember a lot of how to play it and actually what you need to do at specific points – where you need to ride a platform here, but get off just there to go through this passage and collect this whatsit over here …
I wonder how much of my memory is taken up with trivial paths through games from that era … only to be reawakened via a Java emulator some 30 odd years later …
Its very interesting to note how those simple graphics often hid a simple, but very addictive gameplay. Something that gets forgotten a little with some of the large franchise titles these days, but something we perhaps are seeing a bit of a return to with some of the addictive mobile and social games.
Curiously, I still have my Spectrum 128 in the loft (along with my Atari 2600) … but I would be absolutely amazed if any of those tapes (assuming I still have a few) play any more.
But that will do for now, I have to go and find Sabre Wulf (with its colourful fauna and orchids), On the Run (more colourful fauna and very distinctive sound effects and puffy graphics), Atic Atac (‘ware the ghosts, find the keys and watch that bizarre roast chicken drain down!) and a few other real classics from the time and re-live this electronic part of my teens.
Below is a pixel poster, from the Edge magazine, with elements from the whole history of video games. I’ve been staring at it for a while now, and have spotted pong, space invaders, pacman, a spectrum computer, mario, what looks like a vetrex machine, a gameboy, tetris, the list keeps going!
See what you can spot from your past.