Geek Trivia

Which Musician Revitalized His Career By Composing The Windows 95 Start Up Sound?

John Digweed
Paul Oakenfold
Brian Eno
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Answer: Brian Eno

The brief and distinctive Windows 95 start up/shut down sound has a backstory significantly longer than its soothing short play time. In 1994, Microsoft approached renowned ambient music composer Brian Eno to help compose music for Windows 95. Eno was in a creative funk and attributes his work on the simple startup sequence to helping him break through. In a 1996 interview with the SF Gate, he explained:

The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I’d been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, “Here’s a specific problem — solve it.”

The thing from the agency said, “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah- blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,” this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said “and it must be 3 1/4 seconds long.”

I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel.

In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I’d finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.

Years after he created the melody, he admitted in a 2009¬†interview that he’d composed the iconic Windows tune on a Mac since he wasn’t terribly fond of Windows PCs and had never used one.

Image courtesy of the Long Now Foundation.