Josh "Bit Shifter" Davis, on stage at Blip Festival 2011, in New York City.
8bitpeoples has formally announced Blip Festival New York 2012. It will take place May 25-27th at the Gramercy Theater in Manhattan. Details are pending, but it is to expected to be yet another gathering of the biggest names from the world of chiptunes, a form of music that transforms old school video game hardware, like the original NES and Game Boy, into live musical instruments.
The announcement also coincided with the very first evening of Blip Festival Australia 2012, yesterday. Since 8bitpeople began organizing Blip six years ago, there have been similar events in Tokyo and Denmark.
8bitpeoples is both a record label and collective for 8bit musicians. It was founded in 1999 by those involved in the burgeoning NYC scene, and has since grown to be a recognized force worldwide for the advancement of both the music and the surrounding culture.
Chiptunes encompasses a wide variety of musical styles and disciplines, but as noted, is best summed up as music created and performed via retro gaming consoles. The audio itself is created with special software that directly interfaces with the aforementioned hardware, which is sometimes modified for enhanced audio output, or simply made easier to operate live.
Chiptunes shows often has someone on stage, with a Game Boy in their hands, which is attached to a mixing board, or in some cases directly to speakers. Sometimes just a Game Boy or SNES or Commodore 64 is producing all the sounds. Sometimes additional, more traditional music is added to the mix. Also, the human voice.
This particular genre of electronica has been around for a while, and has been tapped into by well-known artists like Beck, Eminem, Kraftwerk, and Timbaland.
One of the main reasons for its popularity is how the audio is reminiscent of the sounds that many of us were bombarded with as children, at least those of us who grew up with a NES. Chiptunes has definitely played a key role in the old school gaming revival that has taken root in popular culture, even if the names of the innovators of the movement are still lost among the masses.
Still, chiptunes is becoming more and more recognizable every day. One recent example is a cover of the song "Video Games" by Lana Del Rey, which was highlighted by Kotaku the other day. It helps to address one primary complain about the original, which is how it has little to do with its namesake. The remake is by Leeni, an established female chiptunes artist from Seattle:
- A game that combines cats and Kandinsky
- 'Wreck-It Ralph' is like 'Toy Story', but for video games
- The history of video games, via Michael Winslow
Matthew Hawkins is an NYC-based game journalist who has also written for EGM, GameSetWatch, Gamasutra, Giant Robot, and numerous others. He also self-publishes his own game culture zine, is part of Attract Mode, and co-hosts The Fangamer Podcast. You can keep tabs on him via Twitter, or his personal home-base, FORT90.com.