Behind the Music: The Origin of the PlayStation 1’s Startup Sound

Sony is celebrating 25 years of play, and they went behind the scenes with the creator of the PlayStation 1’s startup sound. We often talk about the music in games being important, but what about the sound everyone hears when the console is powering up? How do you communicate ideas and emotions and (which ones) in a short bit of music for your brand new platform?

Takafumi Fujisawa sat down with Game Informer to pull back the curtain on that history. He was the creator of the original sequence, and outside the technical requirements, he was free to create anything he wanted. He only received a “general brief”. He mentions that Ken Kutaragi didn’t provide any guidelines he had to follow. He had a backup ready, but his first demo was approved.

There were technical and musical limitations. On the technical side, they wanted “to maintain the core image of PlayStation no matter what type of TV speaker it is played on, as there could be countless kinds of TV around the world”. On the musical side, he wanted the sound to be “welcoming”, and he describes the progression of the sounds as follows:

“My aim is to lead the sense of security when the console is turned on to the excitement after with the C major dominant motion showing the intention for continuing to be on the mainstream, the rich strings kick in and the last part features twinkling tones and setting the perfect 4th chords.

The function of this sound is to tell the user that the hardware is running like it is supposed to, and that the disc has successfully been read.

To add, the swooshing reverse sound is designed so that it can go into loop if the disc couldn’t be read, and we can understand if something went wrong.”

He created the sounds in about two weeks and recorded it in a studio over two days. It was an iconic sound that helped to launch one of the most popular and successful gaming platforms ever. The PS2 sound was chosen by a team competition, and junior sound designers created the PS3 theme. There is a little more to the interview on the PlayStation Blog, and it’s fascinating to read about the origins of something that let me know I was about to have a great time.

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