Game Boy music is a type of chiptune produced using a game system of the Game Boy line. To produce music of the genre, one needs a Game Boy and a cartridge containing the appropriate software. There are several pieces of software available, but most Game Boy musicians use Nanoloop or Little Sound DJ Other software includes Carillon Editor, Music Box, Pocket Music, the Game Boy Camera, and others.
Nanoloop was programmed by Oliver Wittchow, a German art student. The user interface is very minimal and quite different from "normal" musical user interfaces. Little Sound DJ was programmed by Johan Kotlinski, who lives in Stockholm. Little Sound DJ is a type of four-track tracker.
In 1997, Oliver Wittchow and Sebastian Burdach started to work on programming music applications for the Game Boy. During three nights, Sebastian Burdach wrote a very simple sequencer in Game Boy BASIC, probably the very first sequencer for the Game Boy, which allows the user to loops in real time.
In 1998, the Game Boy Camera was released (in Japan under the name "Pocket Camera"). Besides the ability to take photos, the camera incorporates also some games. One of these will lead the player to the dj game, a sequencer known as "Trippy-H".
In 1998, Oliver Wittchow switched to programming the Game Boy in C. He performed for the first time with his newly written program "Nanoloop" at the "Liquid Sky Club", Cologne, at a Lo-fi contest, which he won. He recorded a 7" single, which was released 1999 on the xxc3 label.
In 1999, Alec Empire released under the project name "Nintendo Teenage Robots" an album titled "We Punk Einheit!". The music consisted solely of Game Boy sounds, made with the dj program of the Game Boy Camera. Later Alec Empire also used Nanoloop live on stage.
In 1999, "Nanoloop 0.8" was sold on flash cartridges, in Germany only.
In 2000, "Nanoloop 1.0" was sold on ROM cartridges, made in Hong Kong. This version is marketed internationally. It was quite buggy, and was replaced later this year with the more stable version 1.1.
In 2000, the German electronic music duo "Klangstabil", consisting of Maurizio Blanco and Boris May, released two albums, "Sprite Storage Format" (12" lp), and "Gioco Bambino" (cd), consisting mainly of Game Boy music made with the Game Boy Camera, with some external effects and filtering.
In 2000, Aleksi Eeben (a.k.a. "Heatbeat", from the Commodore Amiga demoscene) released his program "Carillon". Although it was not intended for live use, one could nonetheless program one's own music, and one could (and still can) download it for free.
In 2000, Johan Kotlinski created the program Little Sound DJ. Before that, according to Johan Kotlinski, "it was just a hack 'instrumentor.gb' that I sent to my demo group friends." At this early stage, lsdj was nowhere near finished. The first versions, which were put on cartridges and sold, came out 2001.
In 2001, Chris McCormick, from Chrism and Fenris, created the program Live Loops. It is a looper/sequencer for the Game Boy Advance.
In 2002, Jester Interactive created Pocket Music for the Game boy colour and Game boy advance which was published by Rage. They are Sample based sequencers and the Game boy advance version has a mild dub of Eminem's single "my name is."
In 2002, the now defunct label "Disco Bruit" released the various artists compilation "Nanoloop 1.0". Several in the electronic music scene established artists (like Dat politics, Merzbow, Felix Kubin, etc.) were given nanoloops. Supposedly also Aphex Twin was to contribute, but somehow it didn't happen.
In 2003, the CD "Boy Playground" was released on the Relax Beat label. Most of the tracks were created using the program Little Sound DJ and the record was gathering the best Game Boy musicians worldwide (Johan Kotlinski, Bit Shifter, Covox, Lo-Bat, Mark DeNardo, Tobiah, The Hardliner, Goto80, Nim, Handheld, Bud Melvin, Adlib Sinner Forks, Dilemma, Keichi Hirao, Puss, Teamtendo).
In 2003, Malcolm McLaren (of Sex Pistols fame) was collaborating with Relax Beat producers Jacques Fantino and Thierry Criscione who initiated him to Chip music during the studio sessions. After listening to the first Game Boy track, Malcolm McLaren’s comment was : “It sounds ugly… but this music is so beautiful !”. Malcolm McLaren was so excited to discover this new genre that he proposed to write a promotional article in Wired for the release of the CD “Boy Playground”. He actually wrote an article in Wired magazine, claiming Game Boy music (or 8-bit music, or chiptunes in general) to be the new punk rock. This article was very controversial, and McLaren's effort to create a hype around the new "8-bit punk" was not welcome by very many chipmusicians, and resulted in an open letter by chipmusician gwEm (Gareth Morris). McLaren did arrange a "Fashion Beast" party in Florence, Italy, in 2004. Chinese girl group "Wild Strawberries", and Game Boy musicians Covox and Lo-bat were playing. Lately it has become a bit silent around McLaren's "8-bit punk". In 2005 he designed clothing for kids, seemingly inspired by 8-bit aesthetics.
In 2006, the CD "Glitter & Bleep : Joystick Pop" was produced by the Relax Beat label. It features original songs by the greatest talents of the European 8-bit scene. Besides Game Boys also various other 8-bit consoles were used.
In 2007, the cd "8-Bit Operators: The Music of Kraftwerk" was released on the Astralwerks label. It features cover versions of Kraftwerk songs by several prominent chiptune artists. Besides Game Boys also various other 8-bit consoles were used.
The Game Boy music scene is quite small and spread around the world, with musicians creating music in a wide range of styles. Several major signed artists have also been known to use LSDJ and Nanoloop.
Late 2007 Pixelh8 released Pixelh8 Music Tech Game boy Synth turning a Game boy into a real time live performance unit. Whereby the user can design the sound and play notes by using the keys on the Game Boy.
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