Friday, April 21, 2006

The THX Sound

Here's the fascinating story of how the THX trailer sound (officially called "Deep Note"-- thank you, sexually frustrated audio engineers) came to be:


As Andy Moorer says in the introduction to the article, it's quite possibly "the most widely-recognized piece of computer-generated music in the world." My favorite part is the fact that the generator program uses random numbers as the basis for its component oscillators, so it will never perform exactly the same gestalt of frequencies:
Every time I ran the C-program, it produced a new "performance" of the piece. The one we chose had that conspicuous descending tone that everybody liked. It just happened to end up real loud in that version.

Some months after the piece was released (along with "Return of the Jedi") they lost the original recording. I recreated the piece for them, but they kept complaining that it didn't sound the same. Since my random-number generators were keyed on the time and date, I couldn't reproduce the score of the performance that they liked. I finally found the original version and everybody was happy.
People say that electronic music has no soul, but maybe what we call "soul" in this case is just an ephemeral variability that feels organic. Let's face it, a perfect synthesizer would not sound synthesized. Get over it.

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