NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The familiar noises of symphony bands and choirs that fill the air of the Mason Gross School of Arts at Rutgers were accompanied by a strange new sound on September 23.
Musician and composer Chipocrite, a.k.a. Paul Weinstein visited Rutgers to give a presentation on DIY electronic music to students taking the Byrnes seminar “Hacking Sound,” a class in which students learn to build and hack their own electronic instruments.
What makes Chipocrite stand out from other musicians is his choice of instruments: a modified original Nintendo Gameboy.
The artist also uses a few more conventional instruments as well, but he has become known for the unique sound of the revolutionary portable game system.
The Gameboy he uses has a special software program installed on it which allows him to program different notes and pitches by pressing the buttons.
Weinstein demonstrated to students how he uses the music-creating software he installed on his Gameboy, which looks more like a computer error screen than a game or a program.
The topics in the presentation ranged from explaining the technical aspects of making music, such as understanding sound waves, to the business end of music such as licensing and copyright laws.
The presentation also included a live performance of Chipocrite’s song, “Little Computer People,” played entirely on a Nintendo Gameboy.
The song did not sound like what the average person might imagine electronic music sounds like. Rather, the song had a very lo-fi sound that a few of the listeners said reminded them of old video games from their childhood.
Using the music-creating software on the Gameboy was much more complicated than just pressing a few buttons to make noises. If one could not hear the music coming from the speakers, they might think the musician was writing code for a computer program on the screen.
At the end of the presentation there was no lack of questions, with many students eager to start making their own “Chipmusic,” music created or inspired by on-board sound capabilities of old video game consoles and computers.
One lucky student even had the opportunity to try to create a musical piece in front of the class using the Nintendo Gameboy.
Weinstein encouraged anyone who was interested in this type of music to attend the upcoming 8static festival in Philadelphia, which is where he got his start. He is now a performer and event organizer with the festival.
The artist not only shared the ins and outs of creating lo-fi electronic music, but he also imparted some valuable life lessons during his talk.
“If you put your best foot forward, people will take you seriously, even if you are a grown man playing with a Gameboy.”