Tim Follin: European genius in video game music


A chiptune virtuoso who brought British progressive rock to video game music. We move forward in the process: we are taking more seriously the role that composers have played in the evolution of the medium.

The sound aspect of video games and, above all, the visibility of the people who made it possible, are increasing in interest for the general public as specialized studies, master’s thesis and doctoral theses are emerging, but above all we are the players themselves who are becoming aware that behind the music there are people who dedicated their lives to it. There are already names that enjoy the highest consideration (the Koji Kondo, Michiru Yamane, Yoko Shimomura, Nobuo Uematsu …) due to their decisive importance in everything we hear today, but there are also true masters whose music is more unnoticed today. , especially among the European composers to whom it seems that the recognition does not finish reaching them -with the happy exception of the great teacher David Wise-. Among the latter, Tim Follin’s case is possibly the most striking. Although it is unknown to many players of today, his musical talent shone in the generations of 8 and 16 Bits in Europe, with soundtracks that today surprise by their true virtuosity in the handling of the sound chips of these machines.

Tim Follin is a very young person. The accounts don’t lie: if he’s 49 now, it means he was insultingly precocious when composing music for the Spectrum or Commodore 64. A typical teenager of his day, with the Spectrum under his arm, he spent many hours experimenting, programming and playing that computer. All these hours of experimentation must have been done while listening to his great musical influences, no less evident than recognized. Tim Follin’s music resonates with absolute clarity the best albums of the legendary bands of British progressive rock of the 70s (Yes, Jethro Tull and, above all, Genesis) from which anyone who knows his music can find almost literal quotes by everywhere. Of course, it is also perceived in certain uses of the counterpoint that knew the music of Bach and Mozart, but it always seems in his compositions that this knowledge came rather through those progressive bands that already incorporated classical music resources into his work. With these influences and an evident musical talent, his career as a composer should have put him on the same level as the greatest. However, everything went down a somewhat different path from that of the top geniuses of the video game, among which is found by talent beyond any reasonable doubt.

A virtuoso composing for the … Pictionary

It is not crazy to consider Follin’s career as a kind of antithesis of the Koji Kondo, if we consider what we said about the Japanese genius a few months ago. Listening to his music is enough to realize that he dominated the chiptune medium as very few composers have, within systems such as the Nes or the Commodore 64. All this, by the way, although this type of music did not finish filling him, according to comments in some interviews and podcasts worth listening to. A pragmatic man who saw how his great hobby could become a profession, Tim Follin has the problem of having composed almost always for games that have not gone down in history, if not for true mediocrities that benefited from music they would never have imagined. . Just the opposite of what happened to a Koji Kondo who was in the right place at the right time, regardless of his outsized talent.

The fact is that, even if we think about all this recent wave of admiration for video game composers, Tim Follin’s is not a name that usually appears among the most cited. Yet in British magazines of the 1980s and 1990s reviews were written that spoke more about his music than about the game itself, which he surely did before any other composer in Europe – at a time when composers were the last. step in the production of a game, a detail that should not be forgotten. His music maintains the type for enthusiasts due to its always outstanding quality, but the era of microcomputers in which he developed a large part of his career is long past, which may have overshadowed his legacy. His profile, in any case, is that of the classic pioneer of video game composition: self-taught, curious, with very little musical training but endowed with great melodic intuition and an enormous desire to experiment with the resources at hand. Of course, ready to program music, much sooner than to compose it. We are going to see (and hear) what sounded in some of his works, which in some way can help us to know this artist tan peculiar.


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