My music icon
Hi guys! I’m Fleur, and today we’re discussing musical icons. Pop music today isn’t that inspiring, is it? If, like me, you find it a bit repetitive and commercial, here’s something new for you to try: chiptune. No, it isn’t a band — it’s a musical style whose melodies are created using the 8-bit technology from old video games. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
The hero of chiptune fans is Koji Kondo. Kondo was the man who Nintendo hired as their first ever musical composer back in the 1980s. Kondo enjoyed computer arcade games. And he had a little experience of composing music for his band, which played mostly covers of famous rock songs (he played the piano). You may not recognize his name, or face, but believe me everyone knows Kondo’s work. His first full composition for Nintendo was the music for Super Mario Bros, which is one of the best-selling games of all time. That was in 1985 and, unbelievably, he followed it up with The Legend of Zelda in 1986. That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it?
Before Kondo, games music wasn’t very important. Now we know the right music can improve our enjoyment of the game. Writing good music for games can be challenging. For example, the music can’t fill more than a certain amount of computer memory. Also, because the player controls what’s happening, the music can’t tell one long story like a film or TV score. So games composers might write a ‘thinking’ tune, and a ‘running very fast’ tune, and a ‘battle’ tune, and so on.
Kondo says he doesn’t begin creating his music until he has a prototype game to play. Then he plays it for hours and hours. He says he wants the music to match what it feels like to play the game. Interestingly, the places where he has his best ideas aren’t at work. He says he often finds inspiration in the bath, or walking around his house, or even in his sleep!
Kondo’s compositions are only contained within games, but there are plenty of chiptune bands using the same technology to create pop tracks. Some people say chiptune doesn’t have enough human emotion, but I completely disagree. Just because there isn’t someone singing about love and heartbreak, it doesn’t mean there’s no emotion, does it? These tracks certainly make me smile. They have a catchy rhythm that makes me want to dance in my chair. My friends found chiptune weird at first, but I’ve played them tracks that have a chiptune backing track with more normal pop singing over the top, and they seem to prefer that. Chiptune may never be a commercial ‘hit’, but we wouldn’t want the whole world to sound the same, would we?