Tristan Perich’s 1-Bit Symphony (2009–10) is an electronic composition in five movements on a single microchip housed in a CD jewel case. 1-Bit Symphony is not a recording in the traditional sense; it is a complete electronic circuit that literally performs its music once it is turned on. Programmed by the artist and assembled by hand, the circuit plays the music through a headphone jack set into the case itself.
Using the same format as Perich’s lauded (and sold out) 1-Bit Music, 1-Bit Symphony reduces the hardware involved in that earlier piece, while expanding its musical ideas. 1-Bit Symphony utilizes on-and-off electrical pulses, synthesized by assembly code and routed from microchip to speaker, to manifest data as sound. The device treats electricity as a sonic medium, making an intimate connection between the materiality of hardware and the abstract logic of software.
While 1-Bit Symphony is purely electronic in its execution, its contents reflect Perich’s longstanding interest in orchestral composition. Since 2006, Perich’s compositional work has combined one-bit audio—the lowest possible digital representation of audio—with acoustic classical instruments, providing insight into the conceptual and aesthetic relationships between physical and electronic sound. With 1-Bit Symphony, Perich brings this insight back into the digital realm, juxtaposing the grand form of a classical symphony with the minimal nature of one-bit circuitry.

Audio1-Bit Symphony (Movement 2, 2009). Composed and designed by Tristan Perich. Image: Tristan Perich holding his 1-Bit Symphony. Image by: D. Yee.