Musician Daniel Acalá sampled my chiptune cover of Mad World
for the intro track to his new album
; quite an honor! You can pay-what-you-like for it at Bandcamp!
I have no idea what the lyrics mean! (Thanks everyone for sending it in!)
created full-album chiptune covers of Radiohead's OK Computer
and Kid A
. [via Pitchfork
] — Rob
Thomas Gilmore offers a brief history of chipmusic, whose practitioners "make complex music in a minimal way."
The more popular tools of the chipmusic (or chiptune, or 8bit) trade were made from the early '80s to the early '90s, when the most efficient way to add sound to a video game or computing experience was with a sound chip. These sound chips are limited, there are no two ways about that. Usually they're restricted to a small number of voices (sounds that can be played at once) and the palette of sounds themselves are set to a handful of presets that the chip is capable of creating. As a result of these limitations, the sounds created by these electronic devices are unmistakably distinctive.
What I love about it is the reminder that it isn't a new thing: music was always written for these devices, and many of them came with consumer-friendly composition software from the outset.
One thing about this history that's not quite right—and many of us in geeky indiedom make the same mistake—is in believing that this stuff is only just "starting to change what is happening on the surface of popular music."
On the contrary, this stuff has been mainstream for a good decade now, and the interesting thing is that all these pixels and bleeps are not just another passing fad. The undercurrents of dependence between nostalgia, avant-garde and mainstream culture obscure the way they've become weirdly, persistently invisible to one another. Derrida probably coined a word for this sort of thing 30 years ago, but I can't hear you looking it up because I'm listening to pseudo-orchestral dance arrangements of classic arcade chiptunes.
Last year, Waxy released Kind of Bloop
, a chiptunes tribute to Miles Davis's Kind of Blue
. He meticulously cleared all the samples on the album, and released it for $5 (backers of his Kickstarter project got it for free -- Waxy is founder of Kickstarter). One thing Waxy didn't clear was the pixellated re-creation of the iconic cover photo he commissioned. He believed and believes that it is fair use -- a transformative use with minimal taking that doesn't harm the market for the original, produced to comment on the original. Jay Maisel, the photographer who shot the original, disagreed, and sued Waxy for $150,000 per download, plus $25,000. Waxy ended up settling for $32,500, even though he believes he's in the right -- he couldn't afford to defend himself in court. He's written an excellent post on copyright, fair use, and the way that the system fails to protect the people who are supposed to get an exception to copyright:
In practice, none of this matters. If you're borrowing inspiration from any copyrighted material, even if it seems clear to you that your use is transformational, you're in danger. If your use is commercial and/or potentially objectionable, seek permission (though there's no guarantee it'll be granted) or be prepared to defend yourself in court.
Kind of Screwed
Anyone can file a lawsuit and the costs of defending yourself against a claim are high, regardless of how strong your case is. Combined with vague standards, the result is a chilling effect for every independent artist hoping to build upon or reference copyrighted works.
It breaks my heart that a project I did for fun, on the side, and out of pure love and dedication to the source material ended up costing me so much -- emotionally and financially. For me, the chilling effect is palpably real. I've felt irrationally skittish about publishing almost anything since this happened. But the right to discuss the case publicly was one concession I demanded, and I felt obligated to use it. I wish more people did the same -- maybe we wouldn't all feel so alone.
is a new chiptune and bitpop database.
points to Retrocovered, Brendan Becker's chiptuney NES cover album of classic songs by The Cars, Men Without Hats, U2 and others. Download
We love chiptunes, the quirky celebration of 8-bit-style music that’s become a a vibrant genre of its own with a thriving scene supporting it.
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Jeffrey Lim's Impulse Tracker, a freeware DOS app popular among chiptune makers in the late 1990s.
Photo: Dave "SMOKEHARD" Mattt
Sine waves, square waves, sawtooth and triangle; white noise for a drumkit, and a cathode ray tube for a stage. Being geeky, I was into computer-generated music
as a youngster, long before I caught up with pop music. In an age before cheap internet access, however, there weren't many folks to share it with. So it's with not a little jealously to see today's chiptune scene, fed as much by fresh, unhinged creativity as the nostalgia it often evokes in listeners.
One epicenter of all this is 8-Bit Collective
, where dozens of new tracks are uploaded daily, sourced from an army of thousands of registered users. Founded by Jose Torres and George Michael Brower, it describes itself as the first file-sharing community dedicated to chiptunes.
"Pure malleability," Brower said, describing the essential qualities of computer-generated music. "I'm put off by anyone who refers to chiptune as a 'genre' because of the diversity you'll find under that umbrella."
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