History of this Site
Discovering Babylon 5
I was a major Star Trek fan when Babylon 5 first aired in 1994. I remember being intrigued by the trailers for this new series, especially the fresh-looking CGI (at the time). However, after a few episodes it just didn’t hold my interest.
Fast-forward to 1998. I was in college now and discovered that TNT was bringing Babylon 5 back to television. I decided to give it another try and this time I was hooked. Among the many things I fell in love with on this series, the music really stood out for me. I was already a big fan of early electronic music, especially Tangerine Dream, so I was very familiar with Christopher Franke already. Babylon 5’s music sounded fresh, modern, and very different from anything else on television. Christopher Franke’s electronic scores really hit the right chords with me and gave the show a very unique feel.
Creating my first fan site
Throughout my childhood and into the 1990s I played around with computer code and tinkered around with early web technologies. In 1998 I decided to make a Babylon 5 fan page devoted to its music. Sonic Images was releasing the first Babylon 5 episodic soundtrack albums which were excellent but they didn’t “listen well” since they were collections of sequential cues. Taking inspiration from Chris Franke’s musical “suites” on the soundtrack albums Babylon 5: Volume One and Two, I decided to take each episodic soundtrack and remix all those cues into smaller suites that were much more enjoyable to listen to.
Producing the mixes
It’s funny when I think back almost 2 decades ago and remember what I had to go through to produce these mixes and make them available for download. Today, I could practically do it all on my iPhone! However, in 1998 all I had was a basic home computer (HP Pavilion 8160) with no professional audio software and a mediocre CPU.
I used a free WAV editing application (the name of which escapes me) to create each mix. It was a very simple waveform editor, so there was no multi-track, layered UI to help me. Once I mixed data together, that was it! I would paste together waveforms and then “undo” if I didn’t get it just right. It sounds like a laborious process, but I didn’t think so at the time.
MP3s were just starting to go mainstream in 1998 thanks to the first portable players hitting the market. To encode my WAV files to MP3, I used another free application (which I also forget the name of). My computer at the time wasn’t much of a powerhouse, so in order to encode MP3s I had to make sure that the encoder was the only application running, giving it as much of the CPU as possible. Even then, my MP3s were haunted by pops and clicks, forcing me to re-encode until I ended up with the best quality I could manage. It’s funny how trivial it is today to encode an MP3. I can convert a FLAC file into a compressed, lossless AAC file in a matter of seconds!
Dial-up internet & slow broadband
The last problem was dealing with the glacial Internet speeds of the time. I needed to make these mixes easily downloadable. I tried to keep them around 5 minutes long so that the files weren’t too huge. I’d often break longer mixes into multiple files. Later on, as the Internet and my computer got better, this problem got a lot better. By the early 2000s I had re-edited all of the multi-part mixes into single tracks.
But was it legal?
When this site was originally created, it was just before Napster was released. During the turn of the millennium, the world would see the beginning of an online battle between music lovers and the music copyright holders. As I’m writing this in 2017, that battle still rages on!
During the time I originally ran this site, from 1998 to about 2004, I never once had legal trouble with the music I made available. Over the years, while perusing some Babylon 5 fan forums, I’ve come across various reports that my site was approved by Chris Franke or that I had some kind of distribution agreement. That was never the case. During all the years I operated the site, I only had one email contact with the then vice president of Sonic Images Records. I no longer have the email, but I remember he asked me why I felt that my website was not violating copyright. I replied thoughtfully and honestly about my intent that the site’s “suite” style tracks were not a direct rip of their albums and that I would take the site down if they wanted me to. However, I never received a second email. I took that silence as a sign that he appreciated my reply and didn’t feel it necessary to pursue anything more.
By 2004 the Internet was starting to change and so was I. My interest in maintaining (and paying for) the website had faded and Babylon 5 itself had disappeared from TV. I let the hosting and domain name expire and the website disappeared from the web.
A few years later, I was made aware of FirstOnes.com and a project they were doing to archive old Babylon 5 sites so that they would always be around for people to enjoy. Since I still had the website files, I arranged with them to resurrect The Music of Babylon 5 on their server. The site was back online by 2007 where it remained for a few years. I didn’t really keep in contact with the people at FirstOnes.com and eventually their fan site archives disappeared.
In late summer of 2016 I was digging up old web projects at the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and getting all nostalgic for the Web of the past. I dug up the older versions of this site (musicofb5.tripod.com, listen.to/babylon5, musicofb5.com, and musicofbabylon5.com) and was remembering fondly my Babylon 5 fandom. Nowadays, keeping a site like this one online is relatively cheap, so why not resurrect it once again!
However, even though the site’s MP3 files have never left my music library, I discovered that the files that make up the actual website had been lost at some point during the last several years. Thankfully, this website had been archived by the Wayback Machine. 99% of the images were missing, but the general skeleton of the website was there. Starting with a blank WordPress theme, I was able to easily rebuild the site in about 4 hours.
It was tempting to totally redesign the site to bring it up to today’s standards, but I decided against it. Despite the fact that I simply don’t have the time to do that, I decided that I wanted the site to still feel the way it did last time it was online. That meant keeping this narrow non-responsive layout, the Verdana font, the dated design, and that WinAmp badge! I think it’s a beautiful snapshot of that old, simpler Web that so many of us miss nowadays.
While I was at it, I also decided to fill in the final missing soundtrack to the collection: the soundtrack for Babylon 5: The Lost Tales!
My name is Adam Walter. I’m a web designer and developer by trade, and of course a huge science fiction fan. Feel free to say “hi” to me on Twitter! You can also learn more about me on my personal website.