It’s out – the most comprehensive text about chipmusic I have read!
Nils Dittbrenner: Soundchip-Musik – Computer- und Videospielmusik von 1977-1994. Buy it here, read some here. You will notice it is only available in German and even if I keep brushing and brushing, the dust of my German skills won’t come off. But I will try to give you a very brief and general idea of the book.
1) Technology. It has in-depth explanations of the soundchips from Stella / TIA (Atari VCS) through to the early General MIDI chips. This covers roughly half of the book.
2) Musicology. Discusses composers’ ideas and tricks with composing on the soundchips. The technical limitations are defined as: polyphony, timbre, storage, CPU and other external restrictions. Some tricks discussed are the combination of bass and drums on one single channel, using arpeggios instead of chords, pulse width LFOs and samples. Dittbrenner also approaches some dilemmas of chipmusic: incompatibility problems when converting game music, the music in games having less priority than graphics and code, and the tempo-problems coming out of NTSC/PAL-sync.
3) Sociology. Like the book title implies, the focus is on computer- and videogames but there are also discussions about the demoscene and chipmusic in pop culture, etc. As for genres, Dittbrenner seems to focus on Micromusic and Chiptunes. This passage is hard for me to understand, but it seems like the making of genres is more about social than musical factors.
Ok, that’s the introduction. This book is quite a piece of work, and it’s very frustrating to not understand it. So please buy the book and translate it for me :-)