Over at Kotaku.com, Kirk Hamilton focuses on the three-note melody that plays when the new Microsoft Xbox One is turned on. The startup sounds of both Microsoft and Apple computer devices have gotten attention in the past, thanks to work done for the companies by Brian Eno and Robert Fripp. Hamilton contrats this with a two-note sequence that accompanied the Xbox One's predecessor, with which it shares two of the three notes. And there's excellent additional context thanks to the commenters.
One of the first things I noticed when I turned on my Xbox One was that it played me a little song. It's just three notes, which I've always thought of as the bare minimum number of notes required to make a melody.
Two notes could be the start of a melody, but a mere interval is rarely all that memorable. (Jingles like T-Mobile's can be the exception, but they kind of cheat by repeating notes.) Some of the great jingles of all time are just three notes: Nabisco, NBC and the like. It's similar to the reason most songs (with the exception of, say, Bill Withers' "Use Me") need at least three chords. The first note sets the stage, the second note introduces change and the third note brings about resolution.
When I boot up the Xbox One, I hear these three notes:
That's an E, a G and a D, or Me-So-Re if you're into the whole solfège thing:
It's a nice little pair of intervals, which you might recognize from the opening motifs of such famous tunes as the Bricusse/Neewley joint "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory:
…as well as The Carpenters' "Close to You":
It's actually even in the same key as The Carpenters were, the key of C.
When Stephen heard it, he thought it sounded like "Song of Storms" from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
The two melodies aren't quite the same, though they're very close. The Zelda melody is D - F - D. The third note is the same, but the first two notes are a step down on the C major scale from the Xbox One notes. (Though "Song of Storms" is in D minor, not C major.)
The Xbox 360 slim plays only two notes on startup and shutdown, and as it turns out, they're the second two notes the Xbox One plays: G and D.
That means the Xbox One's startup sound is the same as the Xbox 360 Slim, with an extra "E" on the bottom. Hmm. How to interpret this compositional choice? I like to think the added note represents the Xbox One's new TV functionality. The "E" stands for "Extra TV Functionality."
When you shut down the Xbox One, it plays a slightly different, descending cadence: C - G - C.
A fitting resolution.
Actually, now that I think about it… the Xbox One and the Xbox 360 could sing a nice duet together. Let's see…
So, there you have it. If you boot up your Xbox One for the first time and find yourself whistling The Carpenters for the rest of the day, now you'll know why.