Archive for the ‘genres’ Category

Cycle Music

December 31, 2008

What kind of music do you make when the coder has used almost all the computing power, the designer had his/her go, and there is not even enough CPU-power left to play sounds? You make zero cycle music!

Crossbow is a C64-programmer notorious for doing what other top-coders say is impossible. This time he made 80 ‘kefrens-bars’ wobble on the screen and then Deekay (very talented pixel artist) made a logo and told Crossbow to open the border for design-purposes. (The C64-screen has borders around the main screen, and displaying graphics there requires some tricks, but has been made since 1985)

So now the music is left with 5 cycles – basically five machine code instructions. This is an almost ridiculous challenge, and to my knowledge noone has attempted it before. (am I wrong?) That leaves a composer with exploring the hardware, since there is no room for software. The solution was to start a sound in each of the SID’s 3 channels just before the effect starts, then stop the sounds and let it play on without using the CPU. That would be as pure as chip music could get, but with the few cycles left there is also a bit of software involved. They are used to semi-randomly fetch values from the sine tables (of the demo effect) to change the tone of a triangle wave. Apart from the triangle tonality, there is a bass-tone that ringmodulates with a second channel, to create that slow oscillation that is so particular for the SID-chip. The result is one of the purest instances of chip music, the new age of chip meditation with a minimum amount of data. Software sucks, behold the randomoid chip drones!

The demo – Negative Karma – was first released on 27 December without music, which was added the following day. The programming behind the music was made by Crossbow, so we can call him the composer. (I will not discuss ‘algorithmic authorship’ here) It seems fair to say that the music could have been much more complex with more time spent on constructing less arbitrary algorithms. It could also be interesting to play more with the sounds – especially ringmodulation. Nevertheless, this is an exciting start for generative music with almost no software. As far as I know, there are very few examples of generative compositions in the demoscene. The Tiny Sid Compos involved some, such as Block Acid Dub by Frantic which is 256 bytes (including song player). Does anyone know of more generative 8-bit works? (that are more complex than Delta, To Be On Top, Hawkeye, Lazy Jones)


More classical chipmusic

July 16, 2008

Linus Åkesson has done it again, in May.

It struck me that, at least in theory, organ pipes should generate quite primitive sound waves. If so, how come a church organ doesn’t sound like a chip tune, which is also built up from simple waveforms? Well, actually it will, if you remove the church. And if you connect a Commodore 64 home computer to a loudspeaker in a large hall, it will sound like an organ.”

Reverberations is an 8-bit approach to J. S. Bach. Obviously based on 8-bit hardware and code, this does however sound very little like chipmusic. Just as chipflip wrote before, with Åkesson’s skills in both classical music and C64-assembler, he can point the finger to the quantization we know from 99% of other chipmusic (and most digitally sequenced music?). “The goal is not to play the right notes in the right order; that’s the starting point” to use his own words. With the reverbs added, this really sounds like there is both an organ and an organist present. Halleluja!

Usually, chipmusic seems mostly concerned with pop, games, dancing, happiness, clubs and so on. By placing a C64 in a church (virtually) and having it play Bach with the feel, touch, and limitations of an organ players’ hands, it seems to me that Åkesson has made a pretty hardcore recontextualisation of chipmusic. When I listen to Reverberations I think about christianity, note sheets, motoric skills, and the 18th century. On one hand, that’s pretty crazy results from a C64 and reverb. On the other hand, it’s not really that surprising that a modern machine can simulate (emulate?) these simple waveforms. But anyway – this is a rather perfect example of 8-bit music that is not in the form of chipmusic. Reverberations has almost nothing to do with with the culture, composing style, software, and context of chipmusic. Only the technology is shared. Medium does not necessarily cause form, as I said before.

When I found this, I felt like releasing a song I did a while ago: religious chip rock. It was also made with a C64 and reverb, but I have some angel-like (hehehe) singing aswell. It is also not that quantized, since I am playing drums and guitar live on the C64-keyboard with a vodka-induced mind. I just uploaded it to labelable and internet2008 only for You.

Chiptune Tits

July 3, 2008

According to the graph I generated over at blogpulse, seems I should stop saying chipmusic and start talking about chiptune if I wanna hang with the majority. Or should that be chiptuneS..? Micromusic is not popular in the blogosphere anyway. The peak in May was caused by the Crystal Castles buzz, which I never wrote about here (well, it’s mentioned in the plagiarism-page). Anyway. I will try to stick to saying chiptune about a particular, which is a part of the genre chipmusic. But my perspective is doomed, I tell ya! Doomed to the death of deaths!

np: micromusic episode 01 by Starpause (dj set, chipcutupmicronoisepopelectroyeah)

Reggae Dub(step)

March 29, 2008

American DJ Squincy Jones recently put out his Nintendub session which is not for the die hard chip-ears – see it more as a “crunkstep” set with the occassional occurence of NES-stuff. It would be nice to hear more chipmusic with a taste of dub, 2-step, grime, and these things. Quarta330 might be the most famous in this area, recently releasing a 12″ on the prominent label Hyperdub. Quarta has not been spreading MP3s around like most chipmusic people, but now you can download a live-set he performed a few months ago in Tokyo here. Another Japanese act with Gameboys and effects is Cow’p, also making some fresh dub, dancehall and jungle things. Check out this and this and download more from his site.

Although the music of the netlabel Jahtari is nice digital dub, I didn’t find much with Ataris or chipmusic, except for Dubmood‘s release. But 8-bit dub has been made well by the demoscene group Up Rough for quite a while. Most of it is sample based Amiga MOD-music, performed with brilliance by for example Skope and Mortimer Twang. But the two most recent releases are C64 songs: Move Move Dub 000 and Move Move Dub 001 by Mortimer Twang. Slowly moving out of the world of Amiga demoscene, Up Rough for example has a radio that you can tune into now. Most of it is Amiga or C64 stuff, and far from just dub. Another member of Up Rough is that bastard Goto80, who has made dub-smelling music aswell, for example: Ajvar Relish and Emanation Machine (Hard Dub).

“Classical” Chip Music

January 29, 2008

I remember a few years ago when I found a song performed by 7 C64:s. It was a cover by some “old classical composition” (in lack of better terminology). Unfortunately I didn’t really dig more deeply into this, until yesterday. It was programmed by Linus Åkesson in assembler to get rid of the boring, quantized timing found in most computer-developed music” as he puts it himself. I had never really made a connection between “classical” music and chipmusic before and this was a fresh eye-opener. Browsing through his website, it turns out that Linus Åkesson is a very interesting data boy. For example:

1) He created his own chip. Together with his demoscene crew Akesson made the actual chip that plays the sounds and music: The Hardware Chiptune Project (2007). In a few days they made a microcontroller (8 Mhz CPU, 8kb ROM, 2kb RAM), programmed the sound generator and the tracker-software to finally make the music. The result is something far less minimalistic than Tristan Perich’s 1-bit music (2006).

2) Åkesson made a melody search engine for the C64 music collection HVSC: SID Theme Search Engine. The HVSC contains most C64-songs ever released, and the fileformat is essentially open source – containing all instruments and notation. That is why Åkesson could generate a database with the notes from each channel of almost every C64-song – a process which took several days eventhough using an emulator.

But to get back to the “classical” music in SID-style. There are several compositions: Allt Under Himmelens Fäste originally by the legendary demoscener Mahoney, Romance originally by Chopin but now in SID+piano version and, Fratres originally by Arvo Pärt. There are even more but my favourite remains the 7xSID-song Förklädd Gud. The thing that gets to me is that it’s rare to hear chipmusic so carefully crafted. The sounds are 8-bit but the assembler dynamics of 7 SID chips (although emulated) makes it sound more like Wendy Carlos than Rob Hubbard. This is an interesting song to keep in your pocket when people blame chip music for being simplistic. So check out Åkesson’s website – there are lots of interesting projects and lots of information and downloads aswell.