Archive for the ‘c64’ Category

About My Demoscene Talk at Øredev

November 18, 2013

Last week I made a presentation about the demoscene at the developer conference Øredev. Before the talk I did an improvised C64 ambient dinner performance – where I just start the software and do everything from scratch, and show the screen to the audience. (see image)

by emiebot @ flickr

Photo by Emiebot

The theme of the conference was art, so my talk was more or less “demoscene vs art”. I argued that the scene and the art world are fundamentally different. The themes of 1960′s computer art might be similar to the scene: moving graphics, sound, code, making “new” thing with technology, networked communications, etcetera. But today the scene and the art world basically doesn’t overlap at all.

The scene competes with skills by making works that you go WOW!LOL!WTF! the first time you see it. The execution is more important than the concept, which connects to scene to craft rather than art. I’ve emphasized this since 2008, because it’s one of the most defining traits of the scene imo.

I talked about the years around 2000 when 8-bit works started to appear in the art world. Usually that was in the shape of glitch (Jodi), chipmusic (micromusic.net, Nanoloop), ASCII art (Vuk Cosic),  circuit bending (Notendo), videogames (Cory Arcangel). Sceners were not involved in this, and some of them (including me) were annoyed with the lame execution. “Hey, it’s not eliteeeee!”.

Photo by Codepo8

Photo by Codepo8

So… then I went on to talk about why I started to move towards the art world myself. We played HT Gold, which didn’t really work in the scene because it’s full of trash. I showed demos that doesn’t work in the art world (ie, most of them). And I showed Dansa In which I think is the first time I’ve worked with something that worked both as “art” and “demo”.
Nevertheless, I discussed the possibilities of scene-style coding playing a bigger role in the art world in the future. Doing things for www, smartphones and microcontrollers could surely use some of the über-rationalistic yet trial-and-error-craziness that sceners are so good at. Efficient use of the hardware, of course, will become more important if digital art goes monumental but wants to not waste more resources than necessary.
Finally, I mentioned three cultural traits of the scene that could/should have a bigger influence:
Distribution is always free in the scene, and they developed a sort of DIY infrastructure for that. There was an international network established already in the 1980s, using both telecommunications and postal mail. Distribution was hard work by dedicated traders, swappers and sysops who copied software around the world. I was always fascinated by this, and we’re once again seeing the need for this with the recent waves of censorship, surveillance and control.
Copyright remains an infected issue in the scene, despite (or because of) the normalization of free distribution, and its close ties with the cracking scene. Amiga MOD-music is my favourite example, where composers sampled sounds from records and basically claimed ownership of them. “Don’t rip my samples!” was a common statement. In the scene, it is always better to do it yourself, rather than building on someone else’s work. It doesn’t want to be a remix culture.
If someone was “stealing” they would be shamed in public (diskmags, parties, bulletin boards) so they lost their reputation. We could, perhaps, compare this to how Timbaland was attacked by “an angry nerd army” when he sampled Tempest’s chiptune. To me, this seems like a much more modern way than to have a court decide which methods are okay, and which are not. But yeah, it will probably take some decades before we go back to that behaviour.
Formats. Distributing most things as real-time programs instead of recordings, leads to a treasure for future historians. The massive online archives means that the demoscene is one of the most well-preserved subcultures so far. Imagine what we can do with all that data in the future! It’s like cultural analytics done on “open source” artefacts – or even better. Also, this puts some demands on the platforms. They need to support wild methods and low-level trickeries, not punish them. Strictly enforced license agreements embedded in the hardware (“if you try something funny, your gadget will blow up and call the police”) or underlying mega-protected systems are not really the future, from this point of view.
Finally: I know the few sceners that were in the audience were disappointed that I didn’t show many traditional demos. That wasn’t really the point with the presentation, which I probably should have made more clear. The idea was to discuss the scene from the perspective of art and highlight its advantages and disadvantages. Also – I showed many of my own works because I was asked to, and because I have worked many years in that grey semi-desertic area inbetween art and demoscene.

C64-sounds Hiding in Soundtracks: Interview With GMM

September 27, 2012

I was watching a documentary on TV about a Norwegian artist called Pushwagner (born 1940). Suddenly I heard arpeggios. And ring modulation. And wavetable drums. Hm, what’s this C64 stuff doing in a documentary like this, I thought. That raised some questions, so I got in touch Gisle Martens Meyer who made the music for Pushwagner, and he was kind enough to answer my questions.

It turns out that he once smashed an Amiga 500 on stage, composed MODs and also made some more recent chip-releases under the name Ninja 9000. But I was curious about how he works with chip sounds for soundtracks. Apparently he always uses SID-sounds, more or less, but some clients are more conservative than others…

Listen to the Pushwagner songs on Soundcloud (fyi, Goblin Roadtrip is the most chippy one)

CHIPFLIP > Could you tell us a little about the process behind it? Was it your idea to include these sounds? Did you have any specific ideas behind it?

GMM > Actually the process of providing music to the film is less old-skool writing-to-locked-image and more supplying-directors-with-material-to-work-with. The directors had access to all my stuff during a rather long production period, for maybe four years I think. So they always worked on the film with bits of my music (from all of my projects), but I didn’t write specifically for them during this preproduction. I just kept releasing stuff, or giving them unreleased stuff.

Then, during editing, the last six months, I’m properly involved, mostly in discussing track or cue selections, and if they need musical edits to fit their cuts I arrange it as we agree. In some cases I rewrite or adapt tracks so they work better with the scene. So it’s not scoring in a traditional sense. The directors work with mostly finished music all the time. I work like this with multiple directors, it’s like a sliding scale from sync license to adaptive score… So to answer the question; no – I did not “add” the arps and SID stuff there during scoring, the directors did by choosing those tracks, and we actually discussed their sound and how/if they would fit.

The directors (like me) grew up with C64 and Amigas and we all love those sounds, but also know they could appear alien, depending on context. So it wasn’t me, it was all of us making a deliberate choice.

CHIPFLIP > Did you or the directors have any relation to the demoscene?

GMM > I can’t remember if the directors were active sceners or quietly contributing / creating without making it public… So I can’t speak for them. I was a young and clueless musician and didn’t really participate much in groups or front of scene, I was lurking far away. I made some music disks on my own, mostly under pseudonym Gnosis and through a Czech group called Torture Of Music. I think some of it is available in scene archives.

CHIPFLIP > Do you, or anyone else, think that the common associations of these sounds (videogames and 8-bit) was problematic for the atmosphere of the documentary?

GMM > No, and I never heard anyone else either, rather the opposite I think, it really works. The kind of people who would react negatively to SID-sounds wouldn’t watch this kind of documentary. If they exist, how can anyone not like those sounds…

I think people “into” these kinds of things recognize particulars, like it sounds like a C64. Other people just recognize or label it as “the kind of videogame sound”. Other people again (like kids) just like the bubbly fun or the playfullness of it.

And in general I think if you use SID-sounds – as any other sound – as a balanced musical element in a larger context, it works fine and it can hold it’s own. It’s just there and it sounds right.

CHIPFLIP > Some would say that by now, chipsounds stand on their own feet, separated from the 8bit/videogame thing. What do you think?

GMM > I agree and agreed a long time ago. I hear it lots of places in all kinds of contexts. It always makes me happy, there should be more :)

CHIPFLIP > What kind of feedback have you received?

GMM > Positive. Kids seem to love the bubbly C64 tracks. Adults seem to like the span of genres, sounds and atmospheres in the music. The soundtrack was featured in some online services like Spotify and Wimp when it was released. I don’t read reviews, but I understand the movie in general was well received. The score was nominated for best film music at the Norwegian film awards Amanda this summer, and is also nominated for Nordic Film Composer Awards.

CHIPFLIP > Did you use SID-sounds for other soundtracks aswell?

GMM > Yes, always, and got them into several, but mostly as an element and not complete solution. And sometimes very subtle, like a cameo…. I also did some conceptual work on a film score using deliberate Amiga Protracker sounds and programming, but that one has been in funding phase for ages. But curiously I note that in my TV work there is rarely room for or approval of SID-sounds. TV is perhaps more conservative.

CHIPFLIP > When your SID sounds are not approved in TV-productions, how is that usually expressed? What do they say that they don’t like?

GMM > It’s never an angry director or producer wanting to remove it, it’s usually intuitive understanding by me not to waste time trying to sneak it in, because there is so little time for everything in TV. I usually work with people I am very well in sync with, so I mostly just “know” it wouldn’t work, because of the total sound or aesthetics of the series or project. I am sure there are situations where it would work wonders, I just haven’t been exposed to them yet.
Like I did a sci-fi puppet series for kids, and the sound was “orchestral symphonic”, and trying to make it “hollywood”. I didn’t even think of chipsounds, it didn’t fit. But I can use “chip” techniques, like a subtle one-time +12 octave arp at the start of sounds to make it stand out quicker for a theme signal, things like that.

I think TV is often shorter “everything”, shorter time for production, shorter span for telling something, shorter room for experimentation. TV’s just hectic, in all ways. That’s maybe why less chip there, or if it’s there, it’s really obvious there. Don’t know. Interesting to think about, good questions!

►???

May 30, 2012

Go ahead! Yeah! ► PRESS PLAY ON ??? (download: 1 2)

A few years ago there wasn’t much chip bass around, but since then it has become pretty common. The Canadian mystery man known as ??? is one of the top players, fusing reggae and hip hop into a melodic and fönky sauce, oscillating between dub and skweee. With one of the most ungoogliest names around, his music used to be pretty complicated to find (since he deleted it all the time), but then he released Wall You Need is Love on Pause in 2011.

His next release is right here, at Chipflip. No titles, no bullshit – pure irreductionsm! It consists of two mixes of 30 minutes each, accessible through an interface made by the Venezuelan artist ui. The first mix is a set of Gameboy dub, in ???’s characteristic carefree style. The second one is more hip hoppy, and also shows off some of his wobbly C64-songs. The hip hop mix also contains an Amiga remix that I made. Can you find it? Btw, ??? also makes less chippy stuff as Babaji Beat. Fade Runner

C64-storage: uIEC

January 18, 2012

Storage is a problematic thing with the C-64 and most other 8-bitters. Floppies are great, but drives are heavy. That’s why I got the 1541U last year and my whole body was satisfied with it. But at 130 euros, it’s a bit pricey. The uIEC is roughly half price and lets you browse the memory card just like with a floppy disk. It was developed by Jim Brain, one of the titans of the Commodore world. Although it doesn’t work with all software, it’s still a great substitute for a disk drive.

The uIEC comes with no documentation whatsoever, which is kind of nice, but there’s actually not so much info online either. For the hardcore nerds that’s not a problem of course. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably insert it upside down. Like I did. But bloggers like Ilesj are helpful, and I wanted to do something similar. Please comment if you find any mistakes or have suggestions.

tl;dr. /// GOOD: cheap, doesn’t require d64-files, good-looking. /// BAD: tricky interface, no casing, no manual. /// TRICKS: buy with daughter card, update the firmware, use with Final Cartridge. /// I THINK it’s a good gadget for gigs – just put all your stuff on a memory card and avoid all that D64-confusion on stage.

The speed. The uIEC is just as slow as a normal disk drive, unless you use its built-in JiffyDOS fastloader. You can use it either by installing a piece of hardware in your C-64, or use e.g the SJLOAD-software. When you have it on the memory card, simply add a !* before the filename (LOAD”!*PROGRAM”,10,1). It loads very fast. However, SJLOAD doesn’t support shortcuts to enter directories, copy files, etc. To enter a D64-file for example, you have to write OPEN1,8,15,”CD//:ACIDBURGER.D64″:CLOSE1. So we need more interface.

The interface. I’m a bit lost with this, admittedly. Would be great with a simple support for short commands, but not sure if it exists. With programs like FB64 you can move around the memory card and load files from directories and D64-files. Also, the SJLOAD stays active if you loaded FB64 with it. Also, there’s software like CBM-Command to transfer files between D64/floppy/cards, etc. If you like that Norton Commander thing.

The loaders. The uIEC generally doesn’t work with software that tries to run code on the drive. So games and demos with many files and custom fastloaders probably won’t work. I noticed that SJLOAD caused some problems – like not being able to load files in the music software I use. So hopefully something better than SJLOAD will appear (or did it already?). There are a few fastloaders supported, such as Final Cartridge (couldn’t find mine to test with though). Also, plenty of the tools I use didn’t work until I updated the firmware.

The firmware. I had to update the firmware to be able to run software from folders or D64:s. No big deal though, just put the files on the memory card and it manages on its own.

Btw, good to know:

- The uIEC is device 10 by default. To show the directory you write LOAD”$”,10 instead of the normal LOAD”$”,8.

- If you buy the uIEC with daughterboard, you don’t have to fix your own power supply. Then it uses the cassette port for power.

- uIEC is based on the SD2IEC that grew out of the 1541-III. Other options are e.g. IEC-ATA and MMC2IEC.

- You can build an uIEC into a nice external box if you want to. Check out this one by Rik Magers for example:

► Goto80 + Raquel Meyers: 2SLEEP1

September 14, 2011

2SLEEP1 is a playlist of audiovisual performances in text mode, designed to make you fall asleep. The idea is to show the music being composed in real-time (Exedub) along with typewriter-style animations (e.g. Sjöman).

Both the music interface and the graphics are built up from text symbols. This means that the (graphical) objects can work together with the (musical) instructions, on a visual level. Vank is a first rough test of this and Matsamöt makes a similar thing, without the improvisation. Finally, Echidna is a silent movie with semi-live music.

Made by Raquel Meyers and Goto80 (me), mostly using c-64 and Amiga. The videos are early explorations of new methods, so it’s rather brutal at times. Greetz to Poison (rip) and Toplap!

Hidden Data Satan In Audio

September 13, 2011

Via the excellent Prosthetic Knowledge, we learn that 1983 was the first year for real-time “music videos” on a home computer. Chris Sievey’s 7″ single Camouflage had 3 pieces of software on the backside. You recorded this to cassette and ran it with a ZX81. One of them was a text art piece that showed lyrics and graphics in sync with the music, played on vinyl. Quite a nice piece of work, especially considering that he made it all himself in BASIC. Pete Shelley, who made a similar thing later that year with XL1, had assembler geeks to help him out (read their story).

In the comments to Soundhog’s original post, other attempts are mentioned: New Order, Kraftwark and Dire Straits. Here you can also read about Shakin’ Stevens, Inner City Unit, Thompson Twins’ ZX Spectrum text adventure, The Stranglers and below you can see Urusei Yatsura’s Spectrum-message from their album. An important precursor was Isao Tomita’s Altair 8800-experiment in 1978 with Bermuda Triangle. (Maximum respect to anyone who’ll get that running!)

Image taken from kempa.com

There were other odd ways to distribute data at the time. Around 1980 Mel Coucher (who did plenty of acid-ish things) made a series of AM- and FM-broadcasts with software. Several radio stations broadcasted software like that later on. Around the same time there were experiments with telesoftware - data broadcasted through the teletext band and fed into your computer via a teletext interface. Information Society put a 300 bps modem signal on their album, which formed a message that you can read at kempa.com.

Meanwhile the bourgeoning demoscene was mostly about crackintro aesthetics. There were probably musicvideo-like productions around elsewhere though. Commodore’s Seasons Greetings (C64 1983) is a charming text mode BASIC demo, synched to music. A few years later Jeff Minter made things like Psychedelia, and there were probably things around at Compunet aswell.

On the other hand, some musicians also got more involved with data. On the Amiga you could hear Coldcut. Nation 12 and Bomb the Bass collaborated with Bitmap Brothers for some impressive hits like Xenon and Gods. KLF’s producers made some sort of promo-track for Lemmings 2 aswell. And long before that there was Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells as a C64 “demo”.

Time to get out of the MP3-box!

 

Is ANSI ASCII or is ASCII ANSI?

August 23, 2011

Text art is having a revival of sorts. If you didn’t notice it yet, you’ll see it in the next release on Chipflip with some goodness from Raquel Meyers. I recently saw some nice work made with Melly’s ASCIIPaint and also good animations made in a program called ascii-paint (which was built from ASCII-Paint).

ASCIIPaint-work by Markham, 2010 (cropped, to avoid artefacts)

But I couldn’t help thinking – despite all the ASCII-names – isn’t this actually ANSI? I remember getting dissed by both Amiga and PC text artists for misunderstanding the terminology. A good friend of mine said that Amiga text art with colours was “ASCII with colours, and definitely not ANSI!!!”.

Yeah. Hm. Since ASCII is the lowest common denominator for all (?) computer character sets since the 1960s, I suppose that most other standards (Unicode, PETSCII, ATASCII, ANSI, etc) can be called ASCII art aswell. But that’s an engineer perspective. From a more cultural point of view, you could argue that each of these charsets has its own function, history, aesthetics and users. So they are more different than similar.

The C64′s PETSCII gave BBS’s (and disk directories, BASIC-games, etc) a special feel, especially since the slow modem speeds made them automatically “animated“. Telnetting to for example Antidote today is an experience that is hard to match. As you read the messages posted in the PETSCII-section, you can see how the text (art) slowly builds up, char by char. Check out Poison’s Notemaker demo to see how it can look. Can you feel the baud rate, aww yeah?!

PETSCII-stuff by Raquel Meyers, 2010, for chipflip.org/02 (coming soon)

Afaik, PETSCII was never released on its own. But on the Amiga scene dedicated ASCII-groups was formed, and the so-called ASCII-colly started to appear as separate artefacts around 1992 [1]. It was mostly connected with warez/hacking but also the demoscene. These cultural settings and the tight monospaced fonts and line spacing led to an eLiTE mixture of graffiti and poetry. When they used colours, they sometimes called it (Amiga) ANSI.

Razor 1911 logo by Skope of Up Rough & Divine Stylers, 2010

On the PC, you couldn’t make ASCII the same way. The most popular characters ( /  -  _  \ ) had space inbetween them, so it wasn’t possible to make continuous lines in the same way. PC ASCII-artists had to find other ways, and they mostly relied on the extra characters found in the 8-bit MS DOS font. It was a new style that the Amiga-people called ANSI, and the PC-people called (Block) ASCII. A couple of years later some PC-users returned to the 7-bit ASCII-usage and called it … newskool! This style became popular on the web, of course, but is nowadays often complemented with Unicode characters.

ANSI then, seems to be applicable to most text art that has colours. But if it’s Amiga text art (which isn’t really supposed to use any DOS/IBM-shit) you should watch out. And of course, if it’s PETSCII, you shouldn’t call it ANSI. You might get seriously injured.

But anyway – it seems that according to the PC’s “art scene” ideas the various ASCII-Paint softwares above should in fact be called ANSI-Paint. But I guess this is a battle that will be lost. For most people it’s not very relevant to distinguish between ANSI and ASCII. Just like with “8-bit” or “chipmusic” or “electro” it gets pretty complicated if you refuse to accept the dominant use.

Besides, is there anyone who wants to discuss the difference between ANSI and ASCII anyway? \o/

Btw#1: if you need more text art, you can also check out these posts
Btw #2: if you know of good resources on text art, get in touch.

[1] Year taken from Freax (p.121). Rotox, Desert and other West Germans are described as the first Amiga ASCII-artists in the late 1980s (which I have not been able to confirm). Early ASCII-groups were H2O and Mogul (de) and U-Man (se). More info wanted!

► 01 Kommando Knorr

August 8, 2011

Here’s the first in a series of Chipflip-releases: Kommando Knorr. Finally they edited their C64-jams down to the song-format and agreed to release some of it. It’s electro-oriented (in the old sense) but still quite melodic and it doesn’t sound much like chipmusic, imho. First released as stickers on lcp. Enjoy!

Derbyshire Ram and Megaswapping in Space

April 20, 2011

Derbyshire Ram was an English cracker and swapper who passed away a few years ago at the age of 68. I just heard that his collection of C64-software (one of the largest in the world) is now available as torrent. Part 1 is here. Afaik the rest is not yet available.

I like the idea of personal collections. Collectively maintained archives like CSDb are often larger and more indicative of what the scene thinks of itself at the moment (like what counts as a scene-release and what doesn’t). But collections like Derbyshire’s have a personal character to them, and they are more a sign of the times aswell. They should be copyrighted aswell.

But perhaps more importantly – they are physical objects. Worn floppy disks tagged by swappers, specially designed disk covers for releases, and the smell! Almost certainly a fetish unknown to most people. I’ve been using floppies for 15 years, but now I too have caved into the wonders of 1541U.

Anyway, I hope that in the future we’ll see more collections like this. An equally important collection was made by Jerry – the notorious leader of Triad, who also passed away recently at the age of 67. Both these gentlemen got into the C64 cracking scene when they were 40+ (which is unusual, for those who don’t know). They were doing the distribution work (with modems and postal mail) that maintained the crack/demoscenes as network cultures.

Mad respectz. Hope you guys continue to megaswap in space.

UPDATE: there’s an archive of personal C64-collections here.
UPDATE2: Archiving is the new Folk Art

Hello Welle: Erdball

November 24, 2010

Welle: Erdball is a German band who’s been using the C64 since the mid-1990s. They are one of the more known bands in the synth/goth-circles, I’ve been told. They’ve appeared in the demoscene and released C64-software along with their CDs. It’s all very sort of German synth-pop style, which is fair enough. I guess Welle: Erdball is one of few examples of a crossover between the chipscene, demoscene and synthscene. BMI is the only other example I can think of right now. (Still, I’d say that the Amiga chipmusic of the 1990s shared alot with the synthpop of the time)

I browsed through (a torrent of) their discography to see if any of their releases should be placed in the timeline. As far as I could find, none of their releases included more than the occasional C64-song. I chose to include Super 8 (2001) in the timeline since it has two C64-songs and because it felt like this band should be in there somehow. Here’s a list of C64-songs (100%, sort-of, or seemingly) that I found.

23 (2000)
8-bit Märchenland (2003)
Alles Luege (2006)
Commodore C=64 (2002)
Contergan (2002)
Das Alpha Tier (2006)
Funkbereit (2002)
Kneif Mich! (2006)
Meine Klangwelt (2004)
Mensch Aus Glas (2003)
Monoton & Minimal (1998/2002)
Super 8 (2001)
Tanz Eiskalt (2001)
Tanzpalast (1996)
Und Es Geht Ab (2008)
Wer Hat Uns Umgebracht (1995)

Having browsed through their catalogue, I realised that their C64-music is usually a version of another song. “Monoton & Minimal (C=64 version)”, “Commodore 64 (C=64 version)”, etc. So a simple search gives the same result as my effort did.

 


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