Here are seven points about why chipmusic is not retro. These ideas apply mostly for chipmusic as medium.
1. Unrecorded audio. Even if music can be nicely generative like Icarus (who I remixed once, btw) or performed live, it’s usually distributed as recordings. That has rubbed off on chipmusic, but there are hundreds of thousands of chiptunes that are performative: Each execution is unique. Chiptunes are to music what theatre is to movies; a different ontology. Especially with dodgy chips like the SID. And this is futuristic, simply because there’s no other large scale music like this.
2. Media materialistic music. There are several problems with a technical definition of chipmusic (= anything from a soundchip is chipmusic). But perhaps it will be more common; perhaps the aesthetic crisis in pop culture (retromania) will be followed by a renewed interest in tools and instruments. From language to object, if you will. You know, bye-bye to genius authors and sonic genres – hello to software virtuosity, digital materialism and folklore, artifacts, and live performance.
3. Audiovisualism. Music and visuals are interlinked. PAL/NTSC connects them technically (the available tempos are normally extracted from the framerate) and the low resolution connects them aesthetically. It seems obvious to me that music and visuals will grow stronger connections in the future, and chipmusic seems to have pioneered that.
4. Remixability. Chipmusic was concerned with remixing music already in 1951, 1961 and 1970. But during the 80’s and 90’s the sampling, ripping and reverse-engineering of music spawned a unique music remix culture in the demoscene. It could thrive outside of law and economics, since the scene had their own network infrastructure (BBSs, swapping, etc). And the mod-format for music was (and still is) superior to MP3/etc for a LEGO-style remix culture like Manovich writes about here. No copyright, no creative commons, no laws, no money — just good data and angry teenagers making up their own rules. Definitely futuristic.
5. Originality. It is made from scratch, manually. It’s not pomo remixism. Read more about that here.
6. Archive fever. The chipmusic archives that exist are meticulous works by enthusiasts. They are not threatened by copyright claims, and can usually offer almost everything. The music is also very searchable, since it’s not stored as recordings. For example, you can make powerful search engines to search for specific notes and instructions, like the SID theme finder. Definitely better than the centralized ultra-corporate options of today.
7. Unused potentials. There’s still so much to be done! Where’s all the interactive music players, generative visuals, auto DJ:ing, database explorers, etc? Syphus’ ChipDiscoDJ is only the beginning! If anyone is interested in getting involved with coding for such projects, let me know.