Bits and Pieces: A History of Chiptunes

ISBN : 9780190496098

Kenneth B. McAlpine
328 Pages
178 x 254 mm
Pub date
Dec 2018
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Bits and Pieces tells the story of chiptune, a style of lo-fi electronic music that emerged from the first generation of video game consoles and home computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Through ingenuity and invention, musicians and programmers developed code that enabled the limited hardware of those early 8-bit machines to perform musical feats that they were never designed to achieve. In time, that combination of hardware and creative code came to define a unique 8-bit sound that imprinted itself on a generation of gamers. For a new generation of musicians, this music has currency through the chipscene, a vibrant musical subculture that repurposes obsolete gaming hardware. It's performative: raw and edgy, loaded with authenticity and driven by a strong DIY ethic. It's more punk than Pac-Man, and yet, it's part of that same story of ingenuity and invention; 8-bit hardware is no longer a retired gaming console, but a quirky and characterful musical instrument. Taking these consoles to the stage, musicians fuse 8-bit sounds with other musical styles - drum'n'bass, jungle, techno and house - to create a unique contemporary sound. Analyzing musical structures and technological methods used with chiptune, Bits and Pieces traces the simple beeps of the earliest arcade games, through the murky shadows of the digital underground, to global festivals and movie soundtracks.


Chapter 1: The Atari VCS, The Rise of the Machines
Chapter 2: The ZX Spectrum, The Sound of One Bit
Chapter 3: The Commodore 64, For the masses, not the classes
Chapter 4: The Nintendo NES, A Shop of Strange and Wonderful Things
Chapter 5: The Ultimate Soundtracker?
Chapter 6: Going Underground
Chapter 7: The Game Boy, a handheld revolution
Chapter 8: Netlabels and real-world festivals
Chapter 9: Fakebit, Fans and 8-bit Covers
Chapter 10: Chips with everything

About the author: 

Kenneth B. McAlpine is an award-winning composer, musician, and technologist who has scored for theatre, film, and video games, and who has performed internationally as a harpsichordist, pianist, and jazz organist. He was one of the team who developed the world's first degree programmes in computer games technology in Dundee in the late 1990s, a role that has fuelled his passion for sharing interesting stories about music and play. He lives in Fife on the East Coast of Scotland.

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