Listen: A chiptunes album by the Ninja Gaiden composer

Keiji Yamagishi, aka the composer of the music for the original Ninja Gaiden, just released a chiptunes album that sounds like an alternate dimension soundtrack to the best NES game that never existed. Listen to Retro-Active Pt. 1 for free here, or download your own copy for $8.

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Kickstarting a chiptunes album on a Game Boy Advance cartridge

Doctor Popular writes, "My new album, Destroy All Presets, was created using the Nanoloop cartidge on a GameBoy Advance. I decided to do it that way partially because I love working with limitations and partially because I love the sounds you can get off of these old devices. To help promote it's release, I'm producing a small run of Nanoloop cartridges that come preloaded with my instrumental tracks on them." Read the rest

Mad World rap

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!) Read the rest

8-bit Radiohead

Quinton Sung created full-album chiptune covers of Radiohead's OK Computer and Kid A. [via Pitchfork, Killscreen, Waxy] Read the rest

The End of Chiptune History

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. Read the rest

Why fair use doesn't work unless you've got a huge war-chest for paying lawyers

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.

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.

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8-bit guerrilla

8-bit guerrilla is a new chiptune and bitpop database. Read the rest


Via Submitterator, pasq242 points to Retrocovered, Brendan Becker's chiptuney NES cover album of classic songs by The Cars, Men Without Hats, U2 and others. Download. Read the rest

Games Inspired By Music: A game development competition with Safari Books Online

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. The compositions evoke a time when electronic musicians had to make the most of the limited resources offered by primitive computing technology. Keeping that fire alive, the latest compositions are like the soundtracks to vintage videogames that never existed.

As teased last week, we're joining with Safari Books Online, the massive online library of technical know-how, to honor the mighty chip in the form of a Game Dev Challenge. Your task is to make real the imaginary games embodied by chiptunes. For inspiration or technical insight, Safari Books Online is offering Boing Boing readers 30 days free access to five videogame-related books from the library.

The game can be in the format and language of your choice, but we'll be particularly impressed by those whose style and economy matches the music. Compatibility with mobile browsers is a big plus, too! Flash, javascript/HTML5, Silverlight and Java will allow us to embed your game in our site, but native iPhone and Android apps are good options as well. Read the rest

With chiptunes, silicon rocks

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." Read the rest