Monday, June 14, 2010

That old-time music

I never had a first-generation gaming system, but apparently I'm nostalgic about them. In fact, I seem to be on a retro tech kick. I don't know the reason, but I do know that's the reason I was compelled to create the "1980's Nintendo-Style Tree" (credit for the name goes to Geoff) of two posts ago.

It also explains my latest musical obsession. Remember when I waxed ecstatic about how Welle:Erdball composes some of their music on a Commodore 64? Well, it turns out that that delightful 8-bit music has a genre all of its own!

I discovered this quite accidentally while exploring a new website, They feature some strangely categorized genres (like, who knew rock and roll was a subcategory of rock?) and some genres I've never heard of (viking metal? screw? gabber?), one of which was "chiptune."

I decided to try it out, and instantly fell in love! Bleeps and bloops and scratchy bass galore! Wikipedia told me a lot more about the genre, most importantly the technological basis for that peculiarly fun, jittery sound that's in so much old-school video game music--it's their attempt at simulating chords. I quote, "In early video game music, arpeggios were often the only way to play a chord since sound hardware usually had a very limited number of oscillators, or voices. Instead of tying them all up to play one chord, one channel could be used to play an arpeggio, leaving the rest for drums, bass, or sound effects."

I find this inordinately exciting. If you are even half as thrilled as I am about micromusic (another name for the genre I just learned today), I encourage you to download a few of these thrilling bits of pseudo-history. How about some chiptune remixes of popular songs! Want to resurrect the 90's trance scene with some Nintendo power? Try Yerzmyey's remix of Robert Miles's "Children"! Or mix up the decades a little more, and bring some 80's into Madonna's 2005 hit that samples an old disco track: TDM and Factor 6 reproduce "Hung Up" on the ZX Spectrum (no, I don't know what one of those is, either). Or feeling a little more adventurous and want to try something totally new? Try "I Want More Diamonds!" by The Galactic Stranger. I don't remember anything about it, but I made a note to myself that I should add it to my collection.

And, if you're really motivated, you should run, don't walk, to and do some exploring of your own. Download some tracks, or listen to their audio stream! Learn about the dudes who make the songs and their spiffy equipment! And, as an added bonus, watch Super Mario spinning out in your address bar!

After you're done, be sure to tell me what you found. I just spent the last week organizing my music collection, and now that that's done, I need to mess it up a little with more new stuff!