Introducing chiptunes: Frankenstein's Monstor of the music world

The day that music changed forever.

From the beating of stone-age drums, through to the great orchestras of the 18th and 19th centuries, and onwards to the 1950s, musical creation had one simple constraint. Namely, all the players had to be in the same room (or cave). Then magnetic tape came along and changed everything. With producers suddenly able to cobble together various musical parts from different sources, it was possible to build multitrack ensembles, layer upon layer. Music’s only limitation was now the imaginations of its creators – setting the scene for everything from sampling to chiptunes (…more on these below).

Everything borrowed, everything new.
The digital upheaval of the 1980s heralded the next wave of audio production. Thanks to file sharing, the vaults of musical history were left ajar and every riff, beat, flourish and vocal track was there for the taking. As new music hit the airwaves, we’d detect traces of borrowed sounds, familiar loops and melodies, and hip hop and electronic dance music became this revolution’s battleground. In 1996, DJ Shadow broke the mould with an album consisting entirely of sampled music. In 2004, producer Danger Mouse combined the Beatles White Album with rapper Jay-Z’s Black Album to create Grey. Where would this ever-expanding world of mish-mashing lead us?

Welcome to chiptunes: the nexus of hybridisation.
Chiptunes is where yesteryear’s videogame noises become tomorrow’s earworms. The name references the sound chips found in arcade games and early home-computers. Remember the soundtrack to Pac Man? Donkey Kong? Super Mario Brothers? Catchy but moderately annoying, right? But when dissected and reassembled by modern musical masterminds, chiptunes break out of the arcade into the artistic oeuvre. From J-pop with videogame tendencies to tracks created entirely on game consoles themselves, in this playlist we take a sidescroll among the blips, bleeps, loops and beats of chiptunes past and present.

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NHC blog is our place to explore ideas and themes of interest. For professional audiology advice, please contact your local clinic for a consultation.