8-BIT MUSIC ON TWITCH: How the Chiptune Scene is Overcoming the Pandemic

Hermes, K. 2021. 8-BIT MUSIC ON TWITCH: How the Chiptune Scene is Overcoming the Pandemic . Dancecult Conference 2021. Online 15 - 17 Sep 2021

Title8-BIT MUSIC ON TWITCH: How the Chiptune Scene is Overcoming the Pandemic
AuthorsHermes, K.
Abstract

In Brian Eno’s concept of Scenius, artists are not “lone geniuses”, but instead form part of a scene, i.e. a network of creators and consumers that inspire each other and exchange tools, techniques and ideas through a common language (Kleon, 2021). In this paper, Scenius is applied to the chiptune music scene, which is characterized by a strong DIY ethic and mutual curiosity. Chiptune is a style of lo-fi electronic music that emerged in the early 70s and 80s. In this era, special chips were built that could transform electrical impulses from a computer into analogue sound waves. Musicians and programmers developed code for these chips, transforming arcade machines, early games consoles and personal computers into musical instruments. The resulting unique 8-bit sound continues to inspire musicians in the present day (McAlpine, 2018). Modern chiptune artists use a mixture of tracker software, hardware hacking (Farrell, 2020) and software emulations, often fusing chip sounds with modern pop and EDM.

The global lockdown following the Coronavirus pandemic meant that chiptune live events were largely moved into an online streaming setting in 2020. The author reflects on her own experiences as a performer at streamed events including the Women in Games conference, Gamechangers, a fundraiser event organised by UKIE (the trade association for the UK games industry) and Infinite Lives, a series of chiptune live-shows curated by French organisers A Bit of Chiptune and All You Can Eat. While the streaming gigs lacked the feeling of collective effervescence experienced at in-person concerts (Fikentscher, 2013), the audience sizes in these virtual settings had increased, as did the income earned. The author concludes that for the close-knit, yet geographically scattered chiptune community, virtual concerts help bridge physical distance and provide a new platform for mutual support and collaboration (Scenius). Due to the close relationship with gaming culture, where live streaming has been popular even before the pandemic, the transition to a virtual streaming format felt natural.

Year2021
ConferenceDancecult Conference 2021

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