While My Guitar Gently Beeps | BBC Radio 4 Studies The Evolution Of Chiptune

While My Guitar Gently Beeps | BBC Radio 4 Studies The Evolution Of Chiptune

It’s not the first time BBC Radio has delved into 8-Bit and Chiptune. This time comedian, writer and musician Isy Suttie investigates.

In a half hour show titled While My Guitar Gently Bleeps, which is due to be broadcast on Tuesday June 7th, Isy Suttie will scrutinise Chiptune music taking a look at the origins of the genre, the video games that inspired it and how the artform has evolved since the 80s to current day.

Along the way Suttie will cover the influence of the sounds that have become intrinsic to a generation that grew up playing games like Super Mario Bros or Sonic The Hedgehog and the way these distinctive 8 and 16-Bit notes have permiated much of what we hear in modern entertainment from movie scores to popular music. As a musician herself Suttie will also attempt to compose a Chiptune anthem.

Hirokazu Tanaka

Legendary game composer Hirokazu Tanaka will feature on the show

While My Guitar Gently Bleeps won’t be the first show that BBC Radio has scheduled to study Chiptune. Back in November 2012 BBC Radio 1 produced a two part show titled Beats, Bleeps & Bass. This fascinating, incredibly well put together look at video game inspired music included an interview with Mega Ran amongst other artists still familiar and active in the Chiptune scene today.

While My Guitar Gently Bleeps airs on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 7th June at 11:30 and will be available on the BBC iPlayer shortly after broadcast.

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About While My Guitar Gently Bleeps | A plumber eating a mushroom, and a spiny mammal jumping on a golden ring – you’d be forgiven for thinking these actions would make pretty indistinct or ambiguous sounds. But comedian, writer and musician Isy Suttie discovers why – thanks to Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog – they’re some of the most evocative sounds of the 1980s and 90s. Along with these sounds, the plinky plonky music of early video games buried itself inside a generation of ears growing up among Commodores, Ataris, Segas and Nintendos. Loosely referred to as “chiptune”, many musicians and producers now use the jagged, electronic textures in their songs, going to great lengths to deliberately limit their audio palette for the sake of authenticity; some even rip apart old computers and consoles to build instruments faithful to the original sounds. Its ubiquity in film and TV scores is another testament to its efficiency in evoking that era.
Isy traces the evolution of chiptune from early electronic music, looking at how composers like Hirokazu Tanaka and Koji Kondo created the catchy and unmistakeable themes of Tetris and Super Mario Brothers. She meets current chiptune artists, including the band whose instruments are joysticks and game controllers, and uses their advice to write her own digital classic. But can she convince the organisers of a die-hard gaming event to use it as their theme tune, and survive silicon scrutiny?

Will Harrison

About the author | Will Harrison

Founder of The Unheard Nerd. A husband and father of two girls, Will is a fan of Nerdcore Hip-Hop, a comics fiend, a podcast host and champion of independent nerd culture. | Follow will on twitter: @TheUnheardNerd

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