Adventures in Chiptunes (Part 7) – Final Thoughts

Wonderboy3Recap: For over a year, I’ve been investigating chiptune music.  I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned about myself, my music, my creative process and more.  I hope some of this is relevant to you.  Thanks for reading.

Here’s another excerpt of one of my chip tunes. It’s Dan Fortin’s tune But Still and Yet.



I realized while writing these posts that some of my readers are probably already familiar with things like envelope generators, waveforms and the benefits of using sequencing software.  My examples demonstrating a volume envelope are very juvenile, and meant for a beginner.

That’s because I’m a beginner.  Many of these ideas were completely foreign to me a year ago.

I don’t regret my education, but my adventures in chiptunes have raised serious questions about what we’re teaching, how it’s being taught, and what practical value those things have.

Most of the music we listen to is recorded music (as opposed to the music we hear attending a live performance).  An extremely high percentage of these recordings (if not all of them) contain ideas and principles of which I’ve had to learn on my own, outside of my formal music education.  Not once in my six years at the University of Toronto did I hear about the importance, relevance, benefits and practicality of music production, engineering, music editing, sound design, synthesis, sequencing software, automation, and chiptunes.

Of course, an education needs to focus on something, and it may not be fair to expect that it cover all of these things in detail.  But it’s still an important issue.

For example, suppose you’re leading a lesson in writing music in 3-parts.  At what point do we study chiptunes rather than Bach chorales?

If you want to teach about musical form, structure and development, at what point do we encourage students to study Squarepusher’s music rather than Beethoven sonatas?

If you want to teach about melody, phrasing and musicality, at what point do we use automation and sequencing software to explore these ideas?

There may be certain situations where using a Beethoven piano sonata is best for illustrating a certain point about musical development.  But there may be cases where Squarepusher and/or video game music are best to connect with a student’s curiosity and enthusiasm.

A great quote from Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise:

“…the impulse to pit classical music against pop culture no longer makes intellectual or emotional sense. Young composers have grown up with pop music ringing in their ears, and they make use of it or ignore it as the occasion demands. They are seeking the middle ground between the life of the mind and the noise of the street”

I would add that it’s not just pop music ringing in their ears, but more diverse music in general.  So then, to what extent should music education reflect this?  How important is having a more diverse curriculum that extends beyond the jazz/classical paradigm?

Actually, my only real answer for the time being is to keep doing what I do.  To make the music I want to make, to share the music I want to share, and to teach about the music that inspires me.

I’m happy that this now includes chiptunes.

Thanks for reading.

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