What is chiptune and where can you get some?

Photographer: Press photo

Songs featuring sounds from video games have come a long way since 1982’s Pac-Man Fever. Inspired by classic ’80s video game soundtracks and sound effects, chiptune or 8-bit music has grown into a full-blown genre, complete with its own set of superstar performers, subgenres, remixes of popular songs, documentary films and huge international festivals. There has even been a Ted Talk on chiptune music.

If you grew up in the ’80s then you know the basis for chiptune music – those wavey, synthesized, two-dimensional blips and beeps that accompanied Mario, Link and that dude from Metroid as they shot at, and hopped over stuff.

Chiptune artists do what lots of artists engaged in emerging genres do – look to something old and find a way to make it new again. Rock did it with the blues. Hip-hop did it with disco. And chiptune does it with video game soundtracks and sound effects.

Chiptune has found its way into songs you’ve probably heard before. And maybe some you haven’t but should like this one, this one or this one.

And if you have an old Atari or Game Boy, a bit of tech savviness and some musical ability you can probably make your own chiptune music. That’s what the guys in The Bronzed Chorus – the NC-based electronic rock and chiptune duo –did.

“Hunter, my band mate and drummer had the Atari 2600 lying around our practice space,” says The Bronzed Chorus guitarist Adam Scott. “He showed me the synthcart which he had purchased from the inventor Paul Slocum [best known for the Metro PCS “Hello, Hello, Hello” jingle]. Basically a Atari cartridge that turned the 2600 into a synthesizer.  I was so intrigued by this and the fact that the cart had tempos that I could lock in with my guitar effects.”

The Atari 2600 inspired the duo to take their music in a new direction and influenced a host of songs for their 2011 album Gleaning and a new album that’s due out later this year.

The Bronzed Chorus, like most experimental groups, is a cross-pollination of lots of different genres from instrumental guitar rock, to ambient, electro, house music and chiptune. Check them out at The MakeSpace in Harrisburg tonight at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5.


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Posted in B/Sides, Music – Harrisburg

Mike Andrelczyk is a features editor for Fly Magazine. He is a graduate of Penn State University and currently lives with his wife Stacey in Strasburg. Interests include tennis, playing bad guitar, poetry (poems have appeared in Modern Haiku, The Inquisitive Eater and other journals) and oneirology – the study of dreams – mostly in the form of afternoon naps. His name appears in the title screen of Major League 2.

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