Making Old Hardware Play New Tunes

Blip Festival 2007Interesting article on chiptunes and the Blip Festival in the New York Times today:

Jeremiah Johnson, 27, is a chiptune composer: His instrument is not the guitar or the piano or even the latest music software, but old-school video hardware like the Nintendo GameBoy. Working with screwdrivers and soldering irons, he painstakingly reprograms the rudimentary sound chips in the game machines to create songs that play right from the console. The sound is less Super Mario Brothers and more post-punk, New Wave electronica (albeit with that familiar, bleepy timbre).

And in an era of microgenres and techno-enthusiasts, it should come as no surprise that there is a worldwide audience for music played on a Commodore 64. Last year Mr. Johnson, who performs under the name Nullsleep, and his fellow chiptune artist Joshua Davis, a k a Bit Shifter, went on a month-and-a-half-long, 20-stop world tour. And starting tomorrow they will welcome hundreds of expected fans to kick off the second annual Blip Festival, billed as the planet’s largest gathering of chiptune aficionados.

“It’s their Woodstock,” said Mike Rosenthal, the managing director of the Tank, a nonprofit performing arts space in Lower Manhattan that is putting on the festival. The four-day multimedia event, which will take place at the Eyebeam Gallery in Chelsea, encompasses music, video and informational workshops. Artists from as far as Argentina and Austria will join a global network of fans, themselves coming from places like Finland, to hear live remixes and to learn how to become an Atari D.J.

Looks like it will be very cool. You can find out more at the Blip Festival site.

Leave a Reply