A Micro History of Demoscene Music

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bughug#1 by Goto80

Most demoscene music is characteristic in that it's made by hand, distributed as semi-open source, and executed in real-time. Composers adapt to the technical limitations as well as the cultural conditions, where resources were often reserved for the visual content. For these purposes, demosceners refined the tracker-software, which is essentially a text-based step-sequencer with quick access to all sound parameters.

TEF GIGAMIX 2 House Acid amiga 1991 PART DEUX

The Amiga 500 (1987) was the first home computer that you could make chart hits with. The megamix was a popular form in the scene [see clip above] but used too much memory for demos. The so-called 'ST-01 style' used smaller samples bundled with the Soundtracker software.[1] In 1989, 4-mat cut out snippets of these samples and looped them, to make beeps. The term chipmusic was coined for this music, which flirted with C64-aesthetics and had a file size of about 15 kb, which made intro-coders happy.[2]

Meanwhile, several e.g. C64-musicians were striving away from 'chipmusic' towards e.g. industrial/rave, in line with the demoscene desire for transgression.[3] Some tried to mimic older styles such as jazz and funk [4] and what was known in the demoscene as 'doskpop' - something inbetween Jarre and Laserdance, very popular in the early 1990s demoscene.[5]

On the PC, demos became more similar to music videos or media art and some demoscene musicians were signed to labels (e.g. Brothomstates on Warp). Demos started to use MP3-audio, while other composers (again) preferred more restrictive settings like soundchips and tiny soft-synthesis.[6]

The musicdisk is an emblematic artifact of demoscene music. It's an executable file that contains music, graphics and texts generated in real-time. The songs are not linear recordings from A to B, but ...

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Still born (2010) - Rosa Menkman

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Music by Extraboy.

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Required Reading

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Gijs Gieskes, Eye

I would like to consider a notion that I have felt was intuitively true but have never explored in depth: that the 8-bit or "low-res" aesthetic of much contemporary electronic art can be thought of as a form of digital materialism. By employing the phrase "digital materialism," I draw upon a specific term that has circulated within the sphere of avant-garde filmmaking from the 1970s onward. In this context, materialism describes a sensibility, most explicitly theorized in the writings of London-based filmmaker Peter Gidal, in which the physical materials of film technology are made visible within the work itself, and thereby become decisive components of a reflexively cinematic but predominantly non-narrative experience. Materialism reverses the usual Hollywood practice of hiding the mode of production so as not to disrupt the suspension of disbelief necessary to enter into a staged, fictional world.

-- EXCERPT FROM "THE MATTER OF ELECTRONICS" BY ED HALTER

[Originally published in the catalog for the exhibition PLAYLIST at LABoral in Gijón, Spain curated by Domenico Quaranta, available in pdf form here. Subsequently republished to Vague Terrain above.]

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Top 5 - 10

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Noise_Toy_Completed.jpg
Loud Objects Noise Toy

Nick Hasty is Rhizome's Director of Technology



Here's my top 5 list of DIY audio art kits to keep you busy in 2010.

► Arduinome

Open source, Arduino-based version of the monome controller interface that utilizes usb midi and open sound control. Great for controlling instruments, installations, and performances.

► Casper Electronics Drone Lab

Peter Edwards' Drone Lab is a 4 voice analog drone synth, rhythm generator and FX processor. A great kit from one of the kings of circuit bending.

► Loud Objects Kit

Simple but powerful kit from the Loud Objects performance group. You can easily integrate your own code to write new low-bit jams.

► Triwave Picogenerator and other assorted kits by 4ms

4ms has been making a wide variety of wonderful and novel instruments for nearly 15 years. These guys are pros and extremely nice to boot.

► the x0xb0x

Open-source version of the Roland TB-303. What more could you ask for?

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powerpoint (2001) - Friendchip

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Eleven Evocations (For Paper Rad)

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The following essay was first published in the catalog for the exhibition curated by Raphael Gygax "Deterioration, They Said" which is on view at the migros museum für gegenwartskunst in Zurich, Switzerland until November 8, 2009.

1. The popular dissemination of magical worlds has ultimately shifted from folk tales to children’s television. Paper Rad takes back this process from commercial channels, creating their own ever-shifting cosmos populated by robots, spaceships, monsters, talking animals, giants and wizards.

Like H. P. Lovecraft or J.R.R. Tolkein, Paper Rad created their own mythos, a set of characters that jointly share a fantasy world. Like Warner Brothers or Disney, Paper Rad circulate their creations across media—websites, comics, animated videos, sculptures, screen prints—thereby establishing themselves as the creators of both an imaginary alternative universe and an audio-visual brand.

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til you're blue in the face (2008) - Laura Brothers

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lookpoppy.gif

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Civilization 2.0

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When introducing digital art to an unfamiliar audience, every piece becomes a manifesto of its own - it simultaneously informs, provokes and educates the viewer. When East London gallery SEVENTEEN put up "Intentional Computing", Paul B. Davis’ first ever solo show in 2007, this was precisely the challenge it faced. In Britain’s oddly conservative art scene, the show acted as a demonstration of the infinite possibilities and theorization of digital creativity. A brief retrospective of one of London’s most adventurous galleries brings out the problems such artists face as well as the complexities technology- savvy audiences are learning to incorporate into their viewing experience.

“Much of the work we began to show at SEVENTEEN was at first alien to people in London,” says Paul Pieroni, co-curator of SEVENTEEN, who had been a fan of Davis’ work with the collective, BEIGE, for years: “I liked the fact that it takes technology not on face value, but in terms of its place within a more diffuse contemporary culture.” "Intentional Computing" featured some of Davis’ NES hacks, as well as glitchy, pixelated videos, reminiscent of the artist’s early encounters with technology. It also raised debates about issues of commodity and reclamation. By quoting recurring parts of his technological environment past and present, including the computer games (Nintendo et al) of his youth, Davis was rejuvenating a practice innovated by major pop artists such as Eduardo Paolozzi’s work in the early 50s as well as his later mosaics, or Richard Hamilton’s famous collages.

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Electric Boogie Woogie (2009) - Rafael Rozendaal

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PAC MONDRIAN (2002) - Prize Budget for Boys

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