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You got Atari in my geetar!
December 31, 2011 9:50 PM   Subscribe

Behold the gAtari 2600. An Australian musician performing under the pseudonym cTrix specializes in creating chiptunes using a combination of games consoles from 1977 - 1992, including a Commodore 64, Amiga 500, a clear-cased Gameboy, and an Atari 2600. The latter is possibly the most striking setup, incorporating the Atari (running custom-written sequencing software) into an oversized guitar body, with a fretboard packed with Boss stompboxes and a great pun as a name — gAtari.
posted by KevinSkomsvold (40 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
This touches me in my nerdy place.
posted by smcameron at 10:14 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh dear god that is absolute crap.

Sometmes MeFi posts start with sophisticated musicians making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, with source crap like Nyan Cat that inspires discussions with relevant links to some of the most sophisticated compositions ever written.

But there is no chance of that happening here. This isn't music, it's audio sewage.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:51 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I can declare that not music in two posts.
posted by jscott at 11:07 PM on December 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


This sounded promising.

Until he started playing, and then it sounded like somebody hitting a synth with a hammer.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:28 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know Charlie, I have no doubt you own artistic endeavours are impressive because you seem pretty knowledgeable in these conversations. But I've also gotten the impression that you are quick to dismiss things because of your insistence that art requires a direct conversation with art of the past. I think there might be a lot of conversations going on that you're not privy to.
posted by Hoopo at 1:19 AM on January 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


It doesn't look like there's much actual "playing" of that instrument going on. It seems like it was mostly a pre-sequenced track being played and him manipulating it with the holdability and flange pedals. I kind of expected the huge tuning pegs at the top of the instrument to have some kind of function, but they seem to be more ornamental than anything else.

Oh dear god that is absolute crap.

Post something on Metafilter music. Better yet, stop posting entirely.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 2:11 AM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


It doesn't look like there's much actual "playing" of that instrument going on. It seems like it was mostly a pre-sequenced track being played and him manipulating it with the holdability and flange pedals.

That's not so unusual in electronic music live performance though, where 'playing' seems to amount to little more than triggering sequences of clips and effects in Ableton Live.

It was actually much better than I expected. Most chiptune stuff leaves me cold, but I quite enjoyed this.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:56 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


with source crap like Nyan Cat...

am I the only one that thinks the Nyan Cat melody is a more interesting and inventive composition than most recent pop music?
posted by moorooka at 3:24 AM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


This isn't music

No, actually, it is music. Music. It is definitely music. 100% music. Beyond-any-shadow-of-a-doubt music. No argument proposing otherwise can hold any shred of authority or plausibility. You are absolutely and undeniably wrong when you say this is not music. And that is not opinion. It is a cast iron fact. This is music.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:00 AM on January 1, 2012 [18 favorites]


Hey, I was there!
Definitely not the best act at the 2 day festival, but also not the worst. There were others with better and worse homemade instruments too.
I thought I had a pretty good time, but apparently, thanks to Charlie up there, I now know that I did not.
Thanks, Charlie Don't Surf! YOU are the best of the web!
posted by GoingToShopping at 5:03 AM on January 1, 2012


I'm glad someone's found a better use for Boss pedals than plugging a guitar into them.
posted by Maaik at 6:34 AM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh hell... I was going to bash one of those together on my coffee break tomorrow and now he's gone and beaten me to it! ... Oh well, guess it's back to my "Star Wars - Ewoks Gone Crazy /1812 Overture (Gatling gun version) / What a Friend We Have in Jesus mash-up for Puma shoebox and Galloping Gourmet spurtles" project. Sure hope no one else thinks of it in the meantime.
posted by Mike D at 6:51 AM on January 1, 2012


H8trs be damned - - the crowd's reaction when he steps out on stage at that concert in Japan is worth the price of admission alone!
posted by fairmettle at 7:38 AM on January 1, 2012


It's definitely not "audio sewage", but more of an 8-bit treatment plant.
posted by orme at 7:53 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Definitely music. Pretty interesting to me. The A500 had some great sound capability (and everything capability when it comes to it) at that time. Would like to see what he did with that.
posted by juiceCake at 7:56 AM on January 1, 2012


Music that relies on an explanation as to why it's interesting is a bore. Just make music. Don't tell me about your Atari/Gameboy tinkering when you can make the same sounds in a computer, without all the pretense.

And, Atari Teenage Riot did it better.
posted by thylacine at 8:44 AM on January 1, 2012


Isn't directly programming an 8-bit synth and then outputting it through a 12-bit digital delay/feedback kind of pointless?
posted by cromagnon at 9:48 AM on January 1, 2012


These rock and rollers, with their crazy bebop! This isn't music!
posted by box at 10:20 AM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know Charlie, I have no doubt you own artistic endeavours are impressive because you seem pretty knowledgeable in these conversations. But I've also gotten the impression that you are quick to dismiss things because of your insistence that art requires a direct conversation with art of the past. I think there might be a lot of conversations going on that you're not privy to.

In my lifetime, I've seen some truly astonishing world-class musical performances, even non-traditional works that tortured the instruments in unexpected ways. For example, I once watched the Stradivari Quartet perform a piece by Charles Ives that was so brutal on the priceless instruments that the owners confiscated them. At the end of one movement, the musicians torque the big tuning pegs up and down randomly while playing, the beginning of the next movement is the quartet tuning up. You just don't do this to Stradivari, especially a rare viola and cello.

Yes, this sort of music is in a direct conversation with the art of the past. It may reject past conventions while radically expanding them. His contemporaries even considered it the work of a madman.

But this atari mashup is just garbage. It isn't even bruitism, it's just reveling in its own amusicality. It superficially resembles music, but it's just noise. I once heard a composer say all music is just tone plus noise, and each generation has its preference for the type of noise. But this is all noise and no music, created by someone who revels in madness.

I thought I had a pretty good time, but apparently, thanks to Charlie up there, I now know that I did not.

You can get otaku to believe they enjoy almost anything, as long as it's deliberately worthless.

No, actually, it is music. Music. It is definitely music. 100% music. Beyond-any-shadow-of-a-doubt music.

And the Emperor's new clothes are beautiful.

Anyway, I consider my point proven. This sort of noise hasn't inspired any sort of linkage to connecting works. It fails to inspire, it merely screams hoarsely, "look at me." It's not a conversation with the world of art, it is a deafening monologue screamed down a dead end. I actually am going deaf, so I will not squander the remaining capacity of my cochlea on this garbage. My only consolation is that anyone who creates or listens to this sort of noise will be deafened more quickly than me.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:31 AM on January 1, 2012


It doesn't look like there's much actual "playing" of that instrument going on.
He does manage to dance around with the gAtari, which is more than you can do with most synths and FX chains.

Now I just need to strap my TimeFactor to a fretboard and book travel to Japan.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:33 AM on January 1, 2012


And the Emperor's new clothes are beautiful.

I don't think you're understanding flapjax's point. What is being played here is employing notes, melody and rhythm. It is, categorically, music. Your huge distaste of it, while noted twice now, doesn't change this.

You can get otaku to believe they enjoy almost anything, as long as it's deliberately worthless.

Ahaha what? Otaku are even more dismissive and quick to judge than you are.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:25 AM on January 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


It superficially resembles music, but it's just noise.

I can hear more than "just noise". I can hear what he plays and it's very deliberate. I despise Nickelback for example, but they still make music.
posted by juiceCake at 11:47 AM on January 1, 2012


Music that relies on an explanation as to why it's interesting is a bore.

It doesn't rely on it though. You can hear musicians talk about their instruments and equipment for hours. Even conventional ones. You just don't have to ever bother listening to such chatter.
posted by juiceCake at 11:48 AM on January 1, 2012


But this is all noise and no music, created by someone who revels in madness.


That. Sounds. Awesome.

As for your argument, you do realise how embarrassing it is for the rest of us to hear you proclaim your Modernist dogma as revealed truth, don't you?
posted by howfar at 12:44 PM on January 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


It superficially resembles music, but it's just noise.

Astute observation. So, what's the problem? Youtube's full of Rihanna and Bieber if ya want.
posted by Twang at 12:46 PM on January 1, 2012


I spent several years composing music for TV & commercials, working in whatever genre the client requested. After a while, it was impossible to hear music without deconstructing it. I couldn't really enjoy listening the way I used to, everything sounded like instructions being carried out, as opposed to something emotionally rich. I missed music, but it wasn't working like it used to. To my surprise, Merzbow filled the void, it was just crazy and interesting and I liked that I couldn't explain it. I can't "remember" a Merzbow song after I've heard it, but I enjoy it, and it helped me return to enjoying structured music. I don't like to think of noise as a pejorative term, just a descriptive one.
posted by yorick at 1:16 PM on January 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've watched twelve highly trained horses play Schubert's "Wanderer Fantasy" on a custom-made gamelan while tweaking on mushrooms, I know what art is, THIS isn't art! This is MEANINGLESS NOISE!!!!!

Buhhhh
I was supposed to play at Blip Tokyo along with cTrix (the show where that clip was filmed), but got denied entry to Japan, after a 13-hour flight, due to a passport mixup issue. They put me right back on the next flight, and 14 hours later I was home. Great vacation, or best vacation? Sure would have liked to see him play. Dude has incredible technical skill, and is a real stand-up guy.

I remember watching on a mailing list, oh, maybe 15 years ago, as a music professor argued that turntable scratching wasn't a valid form of musical expression, mirroring charlie practically word for word. I vastly prefer the cranky, well-spoken elitists on Metafilter to any number of frothing lunatic YouTube commenters, though.

I suspect that I know more about this particular kind of music and its history and connections and inspiration than most people here, and I definitely see extremely clear conversations happening with the past and a direct lineage of style and influence, in ways you seem to miss or dismiss. But the role of context in aesthetics is a pretty big argument that I'm not sure we need to rehash every time someone's favorite band sucks.

Honestly, my biggest issue with charlie's post is the "wishing us deaf" part, that's pretty insensitive, and I'll assume you're just hung over. I am very careful to use hearing protection at shows, as would any sane person. I need my ears in order to pay rent! Please don't wish physical harm upon me for arranging square waves into blues solos.
posted by jake at 4:33 PM on January 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hey jake! You got square waves in my blues solo! I'm gonna put high lonesome wails in your techno!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:15 PM on January 1, 2012


Hungover? Yes.

Just like youth is wasted on the young, cochlear cilia seem to be wasted on those who don't appreciate them.

I don't know if you can truly appreciate my position. I wish all people who aspire to being a musician could experience it, if only for just one desperate moment. I've been playing music for over 40 years, and recently, quite suddenly and to my complete surprise, I achieved some level of ability that I always aspired to, but eluded me. I attribute it to seeing a virtuoso guitarist in a small concert, it was like a master class. I watched what he did, and instantly knew how to play all the things I never could figure out. He knew how to play exactly the way I always wished I could play. It figures, he was a famous guitar instructor as well as musician. I felt like an idiot, I could have learned this stuff decades ago, but then I realized, I probably needed to practice those few decades to be ready for this one moment of musical enlightenment.

And a few months later, I attended another band playing in the same venue. A person I knew was playing guitar. He blasted into a high pitched slide guitar solo at very high volume, just as I was walking past his amps. He did it deliberately, to startle me. He did. I was in instant pain, I had to flee. I went to an audiologist for an exam, I had lost about 30% of my hearing in that one instant. I wasn't exactly hearing too well before that, due to minor tinnitus, but it wasn't an obstacle. I had a baseline audiology exam, so with the new exam I knew exactly what I lost: everything. Now I can only play my guitar for about 10 minutes before I can't even hear what notes I'm playing. Those few moments I can hear what I'm playing, spread out days apart so as to minimize further hearing loss, have become more precious, and more heartbreaking than I can bear.

So to cut to the coda, just take it from my own bitter experience formed over a lifetime. Give up the ironic appreciation of crude noise, and just go for the real appreciation. There will come a time, despite your best practices of hearing protection, when you will no longer able to appreciate the subtleties of a virtuoso's musical performance, let alone your own performance, and you will wish you hadn't wasted the time when your cochlea was young and healthy, listening to square waves and noise generators. Your musical sensibility will become more sophisticated over the years, but your hearing will not.

But I could be wrong. Maybe it would be better for people to deafen themselves by listening to only bad music on crude instruments. Then you'll never know what you're missing.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:56 PM on January 1, 2012


It must be horrible to lose that capacity. I wish you all the best with your prognosis. The thing is, your story only explains why you think your judgement about the taste of others matters, not why we should accept it as correct. If someone is investing their enthusiasm and energy in something they enjoy, telling them that they aren't REALLY enjoying it, and are wasting their hearing...well, it's unlikely to convince, at the very least.
posted by howfar at 11:08 PM on January 1, 2012


Give up the ironic appreciation of crude noise, and just go for the real appreciation.

Sorry about your condition, but ... ironic? It's as if you find it unthinkable that there are people with tastes that are sincerely different than your own, or that it's possible to listen to this at healthy volumes and still enjoy it. I dunno, maybe I don't understand what's wrong with "to each their own".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:49 PM on January 1, 2012


charlie,
That's a heartbreaking story, and from one musician to another, I empathize with you completely and understand your viewpoint. I'd love to jam with you sometime, even if you're not at your best. (In addition to being a square wave nerd, I also play a pretty mean guitar and bass, and whenever I visit home, I jam with my fingerpickin' bluegrass-rockin' folk-singin' dad, which is about the happiest thing I can imagine). I'm 30 now, and have been studying traditional instruments for 27 years. Studied a shit-ton of theory and orchestration. The chiptune scene absolutely blows my mind for multiple reasons, but it's definitely not an ironic appreciation of "bad music", some of the most gifted people I've ever met have grown up with chip music and video games as a major influence.

I guess my point in all this is that the square of blue paint on canvas is only a square of blue paint on canvas until you dig a little deeper, and while you're perfectly entitled not to, it doesn't help anyone to suggest that their appreciation is ironic or cynical.

Of course you'll get guys like thylacine above, who aren't interested in the hows and whys, and just go with their instincts about whether they enjoy a piece of music. That's absolutely fine. But for a lot of us, the process is every bit as important as the product. I'm the kind of guy who sees a movie and can't wait to get home and see how the special effects were made. I enjoy that more than I enjoy the movie itself! I want to know what possessed that guy to paint a square of blue paint on his canvas, and how it ended up in the MoMa. To me, that's what inspires that rush of excitement that others would rather get at first glance. It's one of the reasons chip stuff (and synthesized music in general) is so enjoyable to its fans.

I absolutely love hearing brilliant musicians play their instruments brilliantly. Having respect for someone like cTrix (who is obviously a programmer and inventor and not a trained virtuoso) doesn't mean I can't ALSO appreciate an incredible violinist or a prepared piano piece, or Huey Lewis or Earth Wind and Fire or Edvard Grieg. Life is short, but not too short to find joy in a huge variety of things.

But as a rule, I refuse to dismiss something just because its first impression on me isn't pleasant -- if a whole bunch of people are into it, I'm compelled to find out WHY, and learn about its history. I don't just flat-out deny that any history or value exists. I might still end up concluding that I just plain don't like it, but by no means can I deny that it's valid, that it's important to someone.

Again, I am glad you shared your story, and I truly appreciate how fragile our ears are. I promise, though, I'm on your side. I bring a whole container of earplugs to every show I attend, whether or not I'm playing, and practically beg people to use them. I get tested every couple of years and can still hear juuust about up to 19k. Knock on wood-grained plastic trim.
posted by jake at 12:06 AM on January 2, 2012


I heard from Charlie that if a posting to a musician or piece of music doesn't cause a torrent of links out to other sites, it's not really music.

Also, extra bonus for "This is not a real dance, because I don't enjoy doing it on my crutches."
posted by jscott at 1:08 AM on January 2, 2012


I like chiptunes and I like this. The fact that Charlie Don't Surf uses "noise" as a pejorative tells me all I need to know about his opinions. It's too bad that his trolling (complete with non sequitur pleas for sympathy when his illogical frothing doesn't work) effectively derailed the thread. (Calling something "not music" when it obviously is is a canonical 4Chan technique, y'all. We've been trolled hard).

Anyhow, the gAtari 2600 is a rad instrument, and perhaps people are reacting negatively to the fact that this is less melodic and more noisy than the chiptunes they're used too. That's too bad, because noise has a place in chiptunes too, and timbral exploration is an interesting avenue of musical experimentation.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 8:36 AM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am actually using the term noise in the sense of Information Theory, per Claude Shannon. But feel free to project your own "illogical frothing" onto my evaluation of the technical qualities of waveforms.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:10 AM on January 2, 2012


my evaluation of the technical qualities of waveforms.

Information theory can't reasonably be applied to music theory in a simple mindedly technical way. Its application to the "technical qualities of waveforms" may sound impressively, but I can't see what you're saying beyond "these waveforms appear random to me". Noise is information in the wrong context. You fail to appreciate that you are not listening in the same context as those who enjoy this music.
posted by howfar at 10:38 AM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I think he's talking literally about white noise, as in the broadband TV-static sound that the Atari is producing for drums.

I dunno, I feel like I spend way too much time trying to reach out and be warm toward people who tear down the things I love. It'd be much quicker to just say "haters gonna hate, fuck 'em" and return to my isolated tribe of nerds, but with smart people, there's always that hope of reaching some common ground, and maybe some mutual respect. It does happen!

Ah well, I'll savor the happy memories of talking about hentai dating sim development with jscott. What a weekend that was. :D
posted by jake at 11:57 AM on January 2, 2012


I think he's talking literally about white noise

Maybe, but even that kind of noise is not always noise in any sufficiently nuanced version of information theory. White and pink noise added to emergency vehicle sirens is the most obvious example. Their inclusion increases the information content of the sound.

Either way, you're right. This does not look like a productive argument to pursue. Enjoy your hentai memories instead. :)
posted by howfar at 12:05 PM on January 2, 2012


I would like to hear more about the hentai dating sims please.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:24 PM on January 2, 2012


I also want to hear about the hentai dating sims. (Not otaku nor otakuist.)
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:43 AM on January 3, 2012


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