Blake's PhD Website
Wait - what's 1-bit music?
1-bit music, generally considered a sub-division of chiptune, is the music of a single square wave. The only sonic operations possible in a 1-bit environment are amplitude and time, where amplitude is quantised to two, binary states: high or low, on or off. As such it is impossible to achieve traditionally simple musical operations such as polyphony and dynamic control. Despite restricted, the unique techniques and auditory tricks of contemporary 1-bit practice exploit the limits of human perception. Through layers of modulation, abstraction and clever writing, these compositional methods generate music far more complex than the medium would, at first impressions, indicate.
Right... So what are you doing?
The project aims to explore the numerous quirks of 1-bit music, identify the composers and hardware that shaped the genre, demonstrate techniques with code and electronics, and try and develop my own unique compositional language within the genre.
So is it those computer game tunes?
Well, not really, no. I'm mainly working with Atmel's AVR series of microcontrollers to create the music. Although whilst not originally conceived through ludic platforms (one can hear simple examples of 1-bit sonics in microwave interfaces and smoke alarms!) 1-bit music, as it is understood today, has been developed and propagated through video games. Where systems such as the ZX Spectrum and early desktop computers (using the internal piezoelectric 'speakers') had severely limited audio capabilities, video game developers and composers found creative solutions to do the seemingly impossible; polyphony, timbral variation and alterable volume all using a single, monophonic square wave. Although 1-bit sound routines are impractical, consuming a large portion of CPU operations, by necessity video games and cheap computational platforms facilitated the development of a peculiar and distinctive musical tradition that may otherwise have been entirely overlooked.
Yes, it's computer game noises.