Japanese railway melodies played on pocket calculators

Chiptune musician @atarimae_400 learned that the jingles played at some Japanese railway stations sound similar to the tones generated by a certain model of pocket calculator. So @atarimae_400 performed some of the melodies on his own adding machines.

As Kraftwerk sang, "I'm the operator with my pocket calculator." Read the rest

Chiptunes plagiarized

Erik McClure spotted some 90s-vintage chiptunes swiped in an album being sold in all the usual places. Given new names and false attribution, it's evidently a plagiarized effort to make money from others' works. It's also likely, if not certain, that none of the songs were released to the public domain or under licensing terms that allow such redistribution.

The point is that someone has stolen 11 classic demoscene tracker songs and is selling them on every major online music store. The album is called “H4x0r R007z” and it consists entirely of blatantly stolen tracker songs lazily renamed using 1337 text, which usually means finding the original song is pretty easy. Because it was published via DistroKid, you can find it on Spotify, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, Deezer, iHeartRadio and it's been registered into the automatically populated copyrighted songs databases! That means the artist “H4x0r” could legally issue copyright takedowns for every other legitimate upload of the actual songs, or abuse Google's automatic fingerprinting system to force monetization on all of the videos and take all the income.

The peculiarity of chiptunes has made a fool of a number of celebrity musicians and producers who appropriate them without realizing they will get caught — Timbaland perhaps the most notorious among them. But this is happening in the quiet margins, with no-name sellers trying to remain unseen, a game of careful scaling and obscurity. Read the rest

Listen to a 1980s teenager's Commodore 64 covers of Huey Lewis songs

It was hip to be square, even in 1986. Especially in 1986. Jma Mitch writes:

As a teenager in 1985 and 1986, I used my trusty Commodore 64 and the "Music Construction Set" program to create computer versions of a slew of songs by the greatest musical artist of all time: Huey Lewis and The News. Only Huey songs, that was the only artist I did. I recently (Feb 2020) was able to access my 35 year old C64 disks, many of which survived, including the ones with the songs I'm uploading to this channel. Some of the songs sound better than others, but these are the original unedited files.

More here: "Commodore 64 plays Huey Lewis (1985-1986)" (YouTube via Waxy)

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Super Mario Bros accompanied by a live big band!

The 8-Bit Big Band is a jazz/pops orchestra that performs video game music. In this video, they're accompanying "Be More Chill" actor George Salazar as he plays through first two worlds of Super Mario Bros. "All sound FX performed live on drum pads!" Read the rest

Making chiptunes with a calculator

HoustonTracker2 is free software that turns your still-overpriced Texas Instruments graphing calculator into a synth. Demo above. Now, you will not only be the nerdiest kid in algebra class, but the coolest as well.

HoustonTracker 2 is a music editor/sequencer for Texas Instruments graphing calculators. It outputs 1-bit sound through the calculator link port. HT2 features 4 voice polyphony, tons of effects, and a simple, tracker-style interface.

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Despacito performed on two musical calculators

Your entry point to It's a Small World's YouTube channel of curiously haunting covers of pop songs performed on bleepty calculators.

That model of musical calculator (are there others?) doesn't seem to be available anywhere; all I found was a dead product page on Ali Express.

Chiptunes not your thing? Here it is on cello, by 2cellos.

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Class Apples is the only album made completely on the Apple II

Class Apples by 8 Bit Weapon

The Apple II had only rudimentary audio capabilities, so Class Apples, apparently the only album ever made on one, is doubly-incredible: a contemporary technical feat underlying a classical chiptune feast.

Welcome dear friends to the world's first all Apple II music based album ever! This collection of timeless classics is not related to a game or as a demo shipped with software, that's another reason why this album unique. Yes, all sounds, even the drums are generated directly from motherboard of the Apple II personal computer!

Thanks to a breakthrough in Apple II audio technology from legendary coder Mr. Michael J Majon we are able to push 8 bit instrument samples though the Apple II's 1 bit audio output! Another amazing technology boost was Charles Mangin's incredible midi hardware allowing us to control the Apple II like a midi module!

The Apple II was created in the late 1970's and popularized throughout the 1980's! Each track has been painstakingly engineered and recorded for your listening pleasure. Some eq, filtering, and other effects have been added to enhance your listening pleasure.

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Fantastic fingertip synth performance of Commodore 64 game music

Tubesockor pokes away at three Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators to play the music from the 1987 Commodore 64 classic game Delta. The original game music is by Rob Hubbard, inspired by Philip Glass's "Koyaanisqatsi" and Pink Floyd's "On the Run." Clips from the game below! (Thanks, UPSO!)

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Awesome 8-bit chiptune bloopcore remix of John Cage's 4′33″

You're welcome. Read the rest

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

Retrocovers

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

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