Welcome to the Sublime Loop

For nearly 25 years I’ve been haunted by a tune. Perhaps less than a tune : four bars, twenty notes. Just a riff, really. A loop. And not even a particularly unorthodox tune. A simple vamping pattern. The most ordinary chord sequence in the world maybe.

And yet …

I first came up with this tune in sometime in the mid-late 1980s. Playing as a teenager with a program called Music Processor on the BBC Micro. I made a piece that I loved. But I knew that it didn’t do justice to this sequence. To what it could be. To the sublime, vibey, bite of it.

Over the next 25 years, I’ve toyed with this riff to make tracks in one genre or another, with one name or another, with one theme or another played over the top, but I’ve never felt that I’ve had the power to do justice to what it could be. To what it has within it.

In 2009 I had another go.

And then I decided that I never would capture the rolling, continuum energy of the thing. My musical understanding was too amateurish. My skills too feeble. And I knew that another strategy would be necessary. I’d create a web-site where I’d show all my failed attempts to build a magnificent home for this loop. I’d document my obsession.

Finally, here is that site.

What is this tune? It’s laughably simple really.

And here’s how it sounds …

(Rendered by MuseScore)

Perhaps not the most ordinary chord sequence in the world. I’ve shockingly managed to avoid learning enough basic harmonic theory over the last 30 years or so to really understand what I’m playing with, but the site http://www.gootar.com/piano/ tells me that the chords are these :

C m aug5, D m aug5, D aug5 sus4, C no5

I guess that’s C minor with augmented 5th, then D minor with augmented 5th, D major with augmented 5th and a suspended 4th?? (or is that just G minor?), and then a C without any sort of 5th at all (although the E is doubled across two octaves).

For all I know, this could be the way that every other pop song on earth goes. Although I think I’d like more pop music if it did. I’d love to know. Or to hear of songs using this sequence.

Anyway, I’m not claiming any originality with these four bars. But, to any extent that I have some claim on them, I’m explicitly saying here that this riff is creative-commonsed. Feel free to take it and play around with it. In fact, more than that, I’d love to hear if anyone else manages to do something with this loop. Part of what I’d like to do on this blog is encourage other musicians to take this loop and make something with it. Either by sampling the pieces I put up here. Or playing it yourself, in your own style.

Maybe you can build the right home for this loop that I couldn’t.

If you do, then please send me the track and I’ll be sure to promote it (and maybe host it) here.

Meanwhile, I’m going to dig out some old tapes (and some not so old mp3s) and give you some examples in the next posts.

Update : It’s possible that the Sublime Loop is Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Ultimate Melody“.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Downloadable Gruta Version

Here’s the nice downloadable mp3 version of that Gruta performance.

FYI, here’s the full set of tunes I presented.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Downloadable Gruta Version

Sublime Loop – live at Gruta Creative Lab, May 30th, 2015

This is actually the first time I’ve ever tried out a Sublime Loop in front of an audience.

If I’m going to make an idiot of myself in public and on the interwebs, and … er … twist my ankle, there’s no music more deserving than the Sublime Loop.

Posted in live | Comments Off on Sublime Loop – live at Gruta Creative Lab, May 30th, 2015


Finally … this is the ORIGINAL!!!!

Made with the MUPROC (Music Processor) a simple 4 track sequencer (“DAW”) for the BBC Micro that just drove its internal soundchip (the TI SN76489) .

Probably sometime around 1986 / 1987.

(This video from a Linux machine using Wine to run a Windows emulator which runs the BeebEm emulator for the BBC Micro. BeebEm is running MUPROC. And simulating the sound hardware)

Other Links

Quora question : Who wrote the MUPROC?

Download the MUPROC disc-image (for the BeebEm)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Original BBC MUPROC

Fairground (Alternative Ending)

Another late 80s version of the tune. (BBC Micro, Music 5000, AMPLE programming language). More or less the same as the Fairground but with an alternative ending.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Fairground (Alternative Ending)

I HATE Sublime Loop!

I’ll never be free of it. Sometimes I just want to punch it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on I HATE Sublime Loop!

Lost in Wonder (Arpeggiated Mix)

Another find on an old tape. Nice return of the FM panpipe arpeggios.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Lost in Wonder (Arpeggiated Mix)

Dubbed in Wonder

Wow! Didn’t remember this one at all. It’s a reggaefied Sublime Loop from the mid 90s. Possibly the original recording of that MIDI file I rendered earlier (on SoundCloud, now see end of this post).


Actually, here’s the MIDI rendered as plain piano / GM synth.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Dubbed in Wonder

World Flowers

A dancier version of the loop from around 1993. I think I was trying to make this more of a piano-rave tune but somehow it spirals off into soaring melodic insanity. It was sequenced (and there’s a real drum machine involved) but another example of my fairly shambolic playing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I’ve been playing with a new, simple form of synthesis that I call WaveFlavours. It basically involves starting with a couple of wave-tables and gradually swapping sample points between them, inverting and reversing the tables and other slow modifications.

I wanted to make a long drone showing how a sound evolved over time, but then realised that a sublime loop would be fun.

This is about as raw as it gets. Eight minutes of the basic pattern with no extra melodic decoration. The only thing that changes is the slow evolution of the lead sound as the simple sin / ramp pairing that I start with, gets more distorted and more harmonics appear.

The bass sound is evolving too, but with faster evolution and the built-in phaser effect it’s more immediately dynamic, but less obviously changing over the longer time-scale.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rockier Sublime

I’m kind of embarrassed to put this one up. But I decided to be (fairly) completist about this project.

This is soon after I got my Kawai K1 and 4-track tape. It’s me playing and I’m excruciatingly out of time. I seem to be incapable of even a basic timekeeping by hand.

I guess because it’s … er … “live” it’s sort of rockier than the programmed tunes. Somehow I went for electric guitar and bass sounds and acoustic drums and toms.

A couple of nice touches. I like the intro, which made it into the repertoire and reappears in some other versions. I also like some of the cadences, and the high, pure plucked harp that plays bits of the Victoriana and a new counter-melody in the transposed section.

I’m intrigued as to whether a real band could play the loop. Is the riff in its pure form easy or hard on a guitar I wonder?

(BTW : I also like the fact that this version doesn’t have a Lost in Wonder. Shows that that isn’t, ultimately, an essential of what this loop is about.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment