Be like Jean Michel Jarre… on your C64!

I’ve always been a huge fan of Jean Michel Jarre, from his early records (back on vinyl in those days) to his more recent work (I just looooove the track “Vintage”).  I remember trying to play tunes from Equinoxe or Magnetic Fields on my keyboard back at my parent’s house when I was a teen, but never quite got the tunes right (or the notes for that matter).

It always struck me, that some people (like Martin Galway) did get those tunes right, and they truly did it magically on a Commodore 64 (just listen to the wonderous intro of “Yie Ar Kung-Fu“).  The SID chip is indeed a remarkable piece of technology and already back then way ahead of its time.  It’s no surprise then, that even today, people are still using this powerhouse of a sound chip to get that sound of those classic 80’s synthesizers.

One such project, is the Cynthcart, which basically is a program that turns your Commodore 64 into a cool synthesizer that you can play like a keyboard.  The software comes on an easy to use cartridge and features:

* 3 Note Polyphony
* No latency
* Adjustable vibrato
* Portamento effect (sliding notes)
* Support for 2nd SID chip (stereo chorus effects)
* Filter, pulse width, vibrato, and pitch via paddle controllers
* Control of attack, release, and many other sound parameters
* Tuning adjustment
* SID hex editor for advanced users
* PAL and NTSC tuning tables with automatic selection
* Designed to be used easily without a TV/monitor
* Copies itself to RAM (cartridge can be removed after loading)

A cool feature I find is the support for a 2nd SID chip, but how do you get that into your C64?   Well, the easiest way is to get a SID Symphony cartridge (a somewhat rare cartridge with a second SID chip) and a cartridge expander that lets you use more than one cartridge at once. Another way is to install a second SID into your C64 (a bit tricky and you got to know what you’re doing!)

Naturally, I’m interested to explore this some more, and I recently came accross something really really cool: a completely customized “ready to rock” C64, including a 2nd SID chip!

This breadbox style C64 has been completely overhauled and fully optimized for the Cynthcart music software.  The extensive lists of modifications include: an all-over flat black paint job, a mounted & installed “Incredible Musical Keyboard Overlay”, a red colored RCA composite Video OUT, a complete SID2SID with two original 6581 SID chips, 1/4″ Audio IN and OUT for each SID, a Feedback knob and on/off switch for each SID, a Audio IN ground switch for each SID, and a cooling fan.

The sounds this little wonder produces are absolutely whammy!  I haven’t seen one on sale “yet”  (c’mon when does one of these show up on eBay?)
If you take a look at the video, you’ll have to admit, it’s all pretty amazing!

Now where did I put that old keyboard again…

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One Response to Be like Jean Michel Jarre… on your C64!

  1. Pingback: The MC Guffin – Richmond Music Scene » Blog Archive » Martin Galway – Rambo: First Blood Pt 2 (C64) [Title Music]

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