With only a week inbetween, two large 8-bit events took place in Scandinavia last month: the music festival Blip in Aalborg (Denmark) and the demoscene event Little Computer People in Malmö (Sweden). Only a few hours inbetween, the geographical distance proved to be much smaller than the cultural distance…
Many were surprised by the choice of location for Blip. Aalborg is a small town and not the most accessible place in the world. The venue, Platform 4, was also located non-central, in a great industrial area about to be torn down. The venue had a nice vibe to it with the largest backstage area ever, and hundreds of television sets collected from a hotel going flat(screen).
LCP was placed in a somewhat similar setting, but in a gallery-area of a crime-heavy part of the larger city Malmö. The venue was actually an art gallery, which I thought placed the demoscene perfectly inbetween crime and art. (the demoscene has its roots in e.g cracking)
A music festival and a demoparty naturally attracts different crowds, but it was striking how few people were present at both events (me, Nullsleep, Random, Chantal Goret, and Linde). The demoscene and the chipmusic world are quite different in demography, aesthetics, norms, platforms, etcetera. In short, LCP is dominated by C64 and a sort of engineer craftmanship (“hacker aesthetics” as defined in a forthcoming doctoral thesis by Daniel Botz) whereas Blip is more concerned with Gameboys and dance(able) music. I witnessed something similar this week in Finland with the bloated demoparty Assembly and the bleepy club Lisäelämä.
Personally, I like exceptions in any setting. At LCP there was for example 8bitpeoples’ space-glitchy NES-demo Shaping Reality and Mortimer Twang’s skweee-song – both not fitting into the traditional demoscene aesthetics. I contributed with an Amiga song using texts, images and executables as audio to form a slow noisy groove that ended up second last in the competition. At Blip Bodenständing 2000 stood out the most to me, performing their bizarre mix of open-atari-tracker-nerd-hacker-acapella-pop-rave (since 1999!).
The difference between LCP and Blip is perhaps most clearly manifested in the visual content. The VJs at Blip (C-men, Raquel Meyers, Paris + Rosa Menkman, No-Carrier) all tended towards a frenetic and glitchy style, rapidly switching between different content and synchronizing it to the beat. At LCP, such things were rather absent, as usual. Synchronization is surpisingly absent in demoscene productions considering the possibilities to connect sounds and visuals since both generated in real-time.
There is a growing synergy as VJs, traditionally live-sequencing recorded video clips, head deeper into the machine to make visuals generated at runtime. This is a step towards the demoscene and its dogmas of from-scratch coding for real-time execution. When No-Carrier made his NES-graphics presentation, he gave a coherent introduction that explained how you could use the features (aka limitations) of the NES. He also revelaed that before his NES-programming (glitchNES, galleryNES) he had no prior coding experience. Nevertheless, he uses the notoriously complicated assembly programming language to gain maximum control of the hardware – just like the 8-bit demosceners. And in fact, he coded the 8bitpeoples-demo released at LCP.
(Nullsleep + No Carrier @ Blip Festival 2009, filmed by Saskrotch)
It seems that Blip and LCP shows two different schools of 8-bit computing. The Blip-way is to amplify artifacts and platform-specific features, often involving glitches. The LCP-way is also highly platform-specific since a hardcore demo only runs on a specific set-up (ie Amiga500 but not Amiga600). It is technically platform-specific, but usually not aesthetically. A good demo does not have glitches and other artifacts of the platform. It seems important for a demoscene-author to show that s/he is in control.
There are tendencies in the demoscene towards the embrace of the quirks of hard/software, somewhat similar to what Viznut calls post-technical. It is a good term from a demo-coder perspective – leaving code-skill-flexing behind for more expressive productions. But from a broader aesthetical perspective I think it makes more sense to call it techno-centric, because the inate character of technology is not supressed.
As for chipmusic, the aesthetical dogmas is what defines it as a music genre (the form). But behind that appearance is a myriad of experimental methods and music that stretches far beyond the general traditionalism of the demoscene. There is an openness to pluralism. To me, there is a similar situation in the demoscene where the subculture is bound together not so much by style but by methodologies. But how will they interact with eachother in the future? Will more demoscene-musicians do performances in chipmusic contexts? Will chipmusic-VJs work more with coding and release demos?
Hot greetz to some of the musicians that attended Blip but didn’t perform: m-.-n, Divag, Linde, Phlogiston, Drax, and Chantal Goret!