Thoughts on Chipmusic

What’s funny is that, with Grim Tide, I approached it similarly to how I approach LSDJ–cueing and muting islands of sequences, basically–though I had to create some machinery to make it work how I wanted it to. With either ORCΛ or a tracker, I tend toward wanting to perform, rather than simply compose, even though both are better suited to composition (though in a generative sense with ORCΛ; livecoding approaches notwithstanding, though that’s somewhat beyond me, at the moment).

Chiptune music fan here, even if I never was really involved in the community. I am in direct contact with several active members of the community, but I’ve always followed the scene from a distance.

To me chiptune is mostly a scene. it’s definitely not a genre and I don’t think you can really boil it down to technical characteristics. Also, people don’t even agree on the name! :slight_smile:
So it’s sometimes hard to discuss about.

I find myself being really drawn to two types of chiptune: really funky feel-good party-time tunes and slow, droney, ambient kind of things. The latter being imho much more difficult to get right with most tools used in chiptune.
A good example for the second type, from the top of my head:
http://calmdownkidder.com/records/releases/cdk048

@RMBLRX: One of my first thoughts when seeing ORCA was to do something like what you did. I wanted to use it with a minimal modular setup based on Edges… but I found out that generative music isn’t really doing much for me when I’m the one making it, but I still find the concept very fascinating.
Really like the second one of your experiments here! Please keep going!

EDIT: a more recent, chiptune-ish act I really enjoyed:

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I’ve also worked with deflemask, on pc, it’s on ios as well. Strictly for the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) emulation. I really love the synth engine on that machine. It is so easy to make something sound good with that chip emulation.

I never got further than messing around with the synthesis though, because I’m just not a tracker person. I’m not tracker-literate enough to get the creative flow going for song writing / composing.

My favorite type of chiptune to listen to is some of the secret of mana soundtrack type of scores, or slow gothic soundtrack pieces.

I also agree it seems to be a nice crowd, the chiptune folks.

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One thing I hadn’t really encountered much from the very beginning of my awareness of chiptune was music of a darker, more transgressive nature. It’s my feeling that among the whole world of electronic music, it’s in styles such as industrial and power electronics that the tech itself really shines through in raw fashion. Here’s a little something I encountered only very late in my explorations that illustrates exactly this as it pertains to chipmusic:

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Timeheater/The_Fuck_Life_EP/

It was fairly early in my own development that I almost intuitively pursued exactly this quality, simply from having practically stumbled upon it in my LSDJ noodling and became damn-near interminably hooked. I later developed an expanded sense of this in (re)discovering my love for the music of John Carpenter and those inspired by it (carpentercore). There was just something so matter-of-fact about the use synths in that music. And sure enough, the first time I try my hand at composing for the Sega Genesis, the term carpentercore would prove a good approximation of what developed:

Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s just such a visceral, aggressive quality to the chips themselves that’s all too often taken for granted.

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I was wondering if anyone’s ever messed around with alternative means of mixing chipmusic beyond mere cosmetic treatments of a chip’s own stereo mix? I’ve developed, over the years, a strong appreciation of raw VGM (.vgm, specifically, but also more generally the unadulterated sound of vintage console and computer sound chips–.spc, .sid, or what have you), but the more I considered the implications of converting VGM directly into PCM tracks via emulation, the more I became interested in distinguishing the two at a deeper level than in the mere embellishment of a chip’s stereo mix.

While when dealing with hardware, there’s a great deal of room for creative mixing and processing in simply treating one or more consoles or even their respective stereo channels separately as individual synth voices, composing for the consoles themselves can be a bit more constraining due to the rather strict stereo (or even mono, in many cases) profile of the chip’s mix. This constraint is intriguing to work with in composition but lends little in the way of creating compelling aural space beyond its simple idiosyncratic charm. I sought the best of the both worlds: to compose within these constraints and then break that composition out into a more dynamic spectral and stereo image.

Luckily, as I’ve discovered again and again, almost anything one can think of has been or will be published on the Internet in relatively short order. I considered first how I occasioned to encounter videos like the following which display an oscilloscope for each of the individual channels of a chip or chip-set (the Mega Drive’s own in this case):

And since there’s fundamentally no difference between being able to display a waveform or play it back in audible form, I had to imagine that what I was seeking for was already well-trod ground in at least this respect. I would find the tool of my preference only a short while later in the RYMCast, which simply allows one to drop in a .vgm file and export each channel to PCM (.wav or .flac). I believe this works by either sequential or parallel emulation of the chip multiple times over with each channel in solo for each instance (or all other channels muted or their commands purged), though if their is some deeper magic, I’d sure like to know about it (i.e., virtually modding the soundchips or something akin to this). Only just recently, however, have I put it into practice with the latest iteration of the track mentioned in my previous post:

While the video of that track in the aforementioned post contains a raw sampling of the original VGM (as produced through Deflemask’s own emulation), with this new iteration I attempted to embellish what I felt the original VGM insinuates, mainly through gain staging (obviously), parametric EQ, and Mid/Side processing (as the VGM was essentially mono), though I did use a bit of wave rectification in the side channel to widen out a couple of the voices and distinguish them in from their middle while processed in parallel (a pretty experimental means of stereoization, for my part). Essentially, I attempted to preserve to original character of the track while otherwise taking creative liberty in deepening and widening its sound-stage.

I’m fairly pleased with this approach to chipmusic and think I’m likely to apply it to any and every VGM track I happen to compose, and while this single does not include the original .vgm in its download, its forthcoming album definitely will.

Does anyone else do anything like this?

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Wasn’t aware of this thing, the ‘Demoscene’. People making music on earlier computers. As an executable file, program running custom graphics as well as music.

Stumbled on this docu on it as well:

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Thanks for the link to the documentation!

The demoscene ist still very much alive today. Amiga 500 was my first computer (later then Amiga 1200) and I soon discovered demos and loved them. Haven’t followed the scene for a long time, but this year I attended the Revision demo party which happens to take place very close to where I grew up and where my parents and many friends still live. It was a blast! Watching demos and live coding showdowns on the big screen with lots of like minded folks from around the world is a lot of fun! This year I was only a “tourist” but I plan to participate in some of the music compos next year.

That said, just today I got a Gameboy from a friend and I plan on using LSDJ with it. Just got to get hold of one of those flash cartridges, which seem to be hard to come by.

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I don’t know where you got yours, but these places usually seem to have a pretty steady supply:

https://catskullelectronics.com/

I’m really digging that folks release music on Mega Drive cartridges, and while it’s always going to be a small subset of people who have the hardware to run them, we’re entering a golden age of classic console reproduction with FPGA and the vast improvements of emulation (to include the abundance of cheap but capable single-board computers) in recent years. I, for one, would love to see more visuals amended to the music released in this way.

I think it’s only a matter of time before every vintage computer and console become well-represented in the market and more people start delving into the demo scene in a big way. I also wonder to what extent the proliferation of RISC-V and FPGA development boards signals something of a potential rebirth of that scene onto modern hardware.

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I would like to see this happen, but I’m not so sure. There are folks like us who have been in to that sound forever, or feel something when we hear it, but there are many who just write music off as soon as they think it sounds like video games.

I also wonder what the FPGA would do for tools like Atari ST’s and other computer systems that generated sounds within the chips. There are some amazing attempts are replicating the Genesis sound capabilities in software form, to mixed effect.

The general wave forms can also be replicated for most of these very quickly. I think the most impressive work happens when people find ways to push these chips to failure, yet create rhythmic or tonal responses that just FEEL AWESOME. I wonder if that will be capable of being replicated within the FPGA world. As well, most systems after 8-bit began to move towards sample based sound chips. The SNES soundfonts which can be found online and loaded in to kontakt are cool ways to play with those sounds. This album was made using those soundfonts with modern day effects and DAW’s:

The one advantage of something like what you have, which shift the world of chiptunes via things like midi translation tools like you’ve shown is beginning to bring random probabilities in to the mix. Things like linking ORCA to these systems could really open some cool doors.

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Awesome, thanks! I’m very new to music making on the Gameboy so I’m still gathering information on what’s the best way to get LSDJ running on the Gameboy. I googled a bit and it seemed that the ElCheapo cartridge is very popular and easy to handle but it’s sold out everywhere I looked. Do you have any recommendations regarding LSDJ and cartridges?

Well I’ve been at it for a good while, so my own equipment in that regard is comprised of veritable relics: old EMS cartridges and a flasher with a big old serial bus port on the back of it; bleepbloop cartridges and a USB writer for those, which I believe to have been discontinued due to some janky dealings around misappropriation of code or something; and this was more than decade back.

The last cartridge I purchased was a preflashed one with mGB from Catskull. I’ve got no complaints, but I would generally recommend something with a USB port built in, unless you’re keen on obtaining a device for reading and writing cartridges. The reason for that is that it’s generally nice to be able to back up your SAVs or update the ROM.

i don’t go into specifics of hardware but ive been raised a game geek starting with atari onto happy ps4 nowadays. i adore chiptunes but i just have aesthetic affinity for it. anything well composed…is just that.

my favorite chip tune artist is virt jake kaufman

and disasterpeace makes thee gudz toot toot

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Man! Virt rules! I’ve missed some of his more chip based compositions, but he’a just so talented I’ll give almost anything of his a listen. Disasterpeace also does great work. I’m gonna think of good stuff worth sharing here. Got tons of random stuff clogging up my hard drives.

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please bring the reeel gudz! i

it’s good inspiration support for trying to learn max4live. or letting shit bounce around my head.

but yeah, virt is a straight genius and the nicest of humans (in my limited interaction). that fx series is soooo of the hook. he pulls from so many sources and channels on bach level.

I love Chipmusic!

Nanoloop 1.3 cart with an old DMG it’s been my first adventure into electronic music production after years of guitar only.

I got some releases from that times, and I have done a couple of gigs too with only a gameboy and a bitcrusher :sweat_smile:

Later I used a Sammich SID (love the SID sound!) and a AY3 synth.

Here’s some album that I love:

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One of my nanoloop tunes appeared on this compilation of the italian chiptune/micromusic scene:

Really proud of it! :sunglasses::laughing:

Not strictly chiptune but I love nanoloop for iOS too!

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That’s why Benn Venn’s ElCheapo cartridge appealed to me: it just takes an SD card with the ROM on it, no need for extra hardware or software. It seems Benn Venn has preorder options for new versions of his cartridge in his shop, so I think I will just keep an eye on that and preorder one when it’s available again.

I have one of these:

Pros: has USB, is elatively cheap and usually easy to find, supports multiple ROMs
Cons: relies on ancient Windows software for file transfer.

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Thanks, I’ll check it out!

I’m really digging this nice little overlap of chipmusic and modular synthesis. This is the whole reason I got into modular in the first place (though I decided upon and acquired the SID Guts rather late, due to the original 8bit voice I had in mind being forever on backorder):

I’m currently using the included SwinSID chip (board), but I’m keen to upgrade to the recently developed FPGASID. Also, soon enough some 16bit era FM should enter the mix.

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