Did you know that Bleep in English is Bliep in Dutch and Piep in German [update: Piip in Finnish]? I learnt this at BliepBliep in Rotterdam that I mentioned before. It is an exhibition about computer sounds, and it seems most suitable for kids, who seemed to enjoy playing some old videogames. They had C64, Atari VCS, Sega Mastersystem, NES, Vectrex, and the other usual (European) suspects, and they were tucked away in cabinets with custom made controls for them. I would have preferred the original controls, since this made you miss the most obvious connection with the machine – the control interface.
They had a number of educational games aswell. One cabinet had a number of computers and peripherals, and you were supposed to connect sounds to the corresponding object. On another screen you could sample sounds and play it back while altering the bit rate and sample rate, to show what kind of quality the older systems work with (or, to teach future composers about bitcrushing?).The thing I liked the most was a sort of patch bay to show how people (usually women) operated computers five decades ago. It reminded me of why I was in Rotterdam in the first place, namely to patch analogue synthesizers.
There was also one installation where you could compose your own computer music. You could sequence predefined loops to make some kind of trance music. Most computer music might be arranged in loops, but I think this retro-style exhibition would gain more from relating to how the loops are made. The chip style way of composing (bit by bit, from scratch) seems more relevant than how to make music with long samples (“sound block around moving fever“).
But it became more clear that they wanted to relate to contemporary music in another cabinet, where you could listen to computer music. There was trance, breakcore, ambient, jumpen (Dutch for jumpstyle) and so on, with one song for each genre. Chiptune was represented by Nullsleep (with the track Chippon), which is a good choice. The genre 8bit was represented by Crystal Castles with the track Courtship Dating, which might not be an equally satisfying choice for everyone. Elsewhere, you could also listen to parts of Monty on the Run by Rob Hubbard and Cybernoid 2 by Jeroen Tel.
All in all – I think this exhibition gives an insight into the history of computers and consoles, and provides some fun for the gamers. It was competently put together in general, but it would have been even better if they connected this exhibition with the 10 year anniversary of micromusic.net, or the 10 year anniversary of C-men, or maybe most importantly the people around Rotterdam that use 8-bit hardware for music and visuals. Sometimes these kinds of exhibitions might perpetuate an image of old computers as old and unuseable rather than interesting media in themselves.