Some comments on 8-bit music

by phil on Wednesday Dec 2, 2009 2:58 AM

I just got back from a live show that my friend put on, where he performed 8-bit music. 8-bit is a style of electronic music that uses the bings, wah-wahs and other distinctive sounds from outdated video gaming platforms, like the NES or Game Boy.

A few thoughts about the medium ran through my head:

1. The linking of a sound to a visual cue. There's a certain sound in 8-bit music that I always associate with a blast graphic when Megaman shoots. Or the blast graphic that engulfs Megaman when he dies. It's usually accompanied by a series of "boing" sounds. When I listen to 8-bit music, I cannot help but see scenes from video games flash through my imagination. I don't really get such a well-defined visual when listening to other kinds of music.

2. Why does 8-bit music always seem sad to me? Why does it always sound like a tragic epic? I had a random thought while listening, that maybe it has something to do with attitudes of the Post-Occupation Japanese in the early 80s? (when NES came out). Or maybe it's a common Japanese (or Eastern) musical theme in general which conveys to me that life is both suffering and joy, yin and yang, tragic and epic at the same time. Or maybe that's the aesthetic theme of video games in general (Bowser is always reborn to challenge Mario when you start a new game—maybe they should make a game where once you kill the boss, you can't ever kill him again).

For your enjoyment, here is an amazing tribute music video to 8-bit:

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