Artist Decktonic, aka Christian Montoya, hovers over his sound machines, as neon-fantastic as his music sounds. Photo courtesy the artist; (CC-BY-NC) Ben Mason.

Retro-futuristic and Free: All DS-10 Music from Decktonic [Download, Video, CC]

A generation of gaming has done something to our ears. It has primed listeners to appreciate the sound of digital instruments in raw form: dry and immediate, crisply-synchronized machine dance music. So, while I wouldn’t call the music of Decktonic “chip music” or “game music,” somehow it’s a modern take on each. It’s retro-futuristic, electro-techno unadorned with effects. And, hell, while Korg’s DS-10 running on Nintendo DS is far from a high-fidelity sound experience, there’s something irresistibly funky about its sound. Listening to the DS-10 dry in the hands of a creative musician can be a cure for the ear …

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Tokyo Blip: A Chip Music Interlude for Blip Festival

How do you prefer to compose? Pen and manuscript paper? Recording ideas from a piano? Firing up your favorite music software? How about … coding in 65c816 Assembly language? The trio behind this video prefers the latter, more intensive approach, to get close to the chip hardware by communicating directly with the Super NES. It’s one heck of a way to make an invitation to an event, but that’s just what they’ve done, in celebration of Blip Festival Tokyo 2012, in a kind of audiovisual spectacular. With code by Batsly Adams, music by Zabutom, and graphics by KeFF, the result …

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A Massive Bundle of Game Music, the Magical Machinarium Score, and the Quiet Indie Music Revolution

As musical old-timers repeatedly sing the sad song of the supposed demise of the full-length album, a funny thing has happened. Lovers of games have taken up a growing passion for game music, and in particular the indie score for indie games. Independent game publishing and independent music composition – from truly unsigned, unknown artists – go hand in hand. Indeed, the download and purchase charts on Bandcamp are often dominated by game scores. Fueled by word-of-mouth, these go viral in enthusiast communities largely ignored by either music or game reportage. Far from the big-budget blockbuster war game, these scores …

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Deeper with DS-10: Using a Nintendo DS Cartridge from Korg, Surprising Live Electronic Music

Music making, child’s play. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Attila Malarik. You might not expect a handheld game console, the gadget kids use to play Pokemon, to prove much worth as a musical instrument. But even in the age of readily-available computer plug-ins and iPhone apps, the DS holds its own. In the hands of two sets of artists, we find music that stands alone, independent of the gimmick of the device on which it was made. For these artists, the limitations of a fold-up touchscreen – entirely independent of doubling as a phone, or a computer, or a Facebook-browsing engine, or a …

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Touch, Plus Tactile: In Gaming as in Research, Physical Controls Augment Touchscreens

The gaming industry has made their bet, and it’s that touchscreens go better with tactile controls. Might digital musicians reach the same conclusion? A funny thing has happened on the way to the touch era. The vision of a device like the iPad is minimalist to the extreme: an uninterrupted, impossibly-slim metal slate, as impenetrable as some sort of found alien scifi object. The notion is that by reducing physical controls, the software itself comes to the fore. It’s beautiful conceptually … and then you find yourself tapping and stroking a piece of undifferentiated glass. For navigating interfaces – and …

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Nintendo NES Does MIDI and Live Music, Integrated into Your Studio

Retro chip music appeal and the occasional Super Mario Bros. game aside, you probably think of the Nintendo NES and Famicom system as something collecting dust at garage sales. You probably don’t think of this NES running as a self-contained music production workstation, syncing to MIDI and Android, or exploiting new software for producing elaborate musical sequences, drum and bass lines. Think again. What might to outsiders seem like the nostalgic draw of video music has become something else entirely – the NES is taking its place as a serious, studio synth. Via Keaton Shurilla (Theta_Frost) comes a number of …

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Rhythm Core Alpha: New Music Making App for Nintendo DS – DSiWare

With the recently-announced Korg M1 app and DS-10, the Nintendo DS handheld remains a surprisingly-good choice for handheld music making. A new app could take that further. Nintendo may have struck a blow to homebrew music developers by successfully blocking hardware that allowed it to run. But while it’s not nearly as open to development as Apple’s iOS, Nintendo’s DSiWare can work for an independent developer. The proof: Rhythm Core Alpha, created by T.B. Trzepacz. What’s unique about this application is that it emphasizes real-time production. Sound playback never stops during editing. The crowded interface packs some fairly powerful-looking features: …

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Handmade Music NY 8/29: Meet the Musical Inventors, Pong to Dodecahedrons

Handmade Music is a community get-together, Science Fair, noise-making happening, and party for people making things that make music. We return to NYC on Sunday, August 29 at 7p. Our new Manhattan home is Culturefix, a new electronics boutique, gallery, and tapas bar on the Lower East Side. This month, we welcome a classically-trained guitar duo using their instruments to play games, an original string-modeling instrument, a sonic dodecahedron sculpture (really), artists using game chips, and more. Last-minute creations are always welcome. If you’re in New York, we definitely hope to see you Sunday night. And wherever you are, it’s …

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ToneSynthDS: Promising New Nintendo DS Synth + Sequencer Homebrew

Commercial developers are now releasing music creation apps for mobile game systems, in the form of the KORG DS-10 for Nintendo DS and Rockstar’s Beaterator for PSP. But some of the best ideas still come from the homebrew community. What’s most impressive about ToneSynthDS is not so much what it does as its interface, fitting all its functionality into the DS’ two compact screens. Its minimal interface finds an elegant arrangement of everything you most urgently need, with a sequencer screen on one DS screen and basic virtual analog synth parameters on the other. A 4 x 4 matrix next …

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