Found an interesting article this morning on the making of the THX sound that we all blast when we hook speakers to the TV. As you might suspect a heavily (heavily, heavily) processed cello. If was developed for Lucasfilm by modern Renaissance man Andy Moorer:
“The score consists of a C program of about 20,000 lines of code. The output of this program is not the sound itself, but is the sequence of parameters that drives the oscillators on the [Audio Signal Processor]. That 20,000 lines of code produce about 250,000 lines of statements of the form “set frequency of oscillator X to Y Hertz”.
Apparently the ‘Audio Sound Processor’ was a mainframe-sized computer for making funky noises. Also, the program included a lot of random numbers, so the sound could never reproduced after its original creation. Pretty cool.