Paris Graphics – Videogame Music in Context

From the Upcoming Collapsed Desires DVD comes this TCTD exclusive transcript of bonus commentary from chip vj PARIS GRAPHICS. The interview, taken from bonus digital content currently being prepared for Kickstarter backers, talks about his background as a motion visualist and how he came to be involved n the chip scene.

More info about the DVD, which will be limited to 100 copies, can be found HERE.

“I’d like to give a little background on what got me into doing visuals, what I’ve been doing within the chip community, and what’s next.

It all sort of starts with electronic music: I used to be part of a duo called Voltage Control that made electronic music with analog equipment—synthesizers, function generators, Navy surplus equipment… anything we could get our hands on. With synthesis there are two aspects. One is taking elementary waveforms to create sounds. It might be something that emulates a sound you’re familiar with, like a plucked string, a trumpet or a drum. Or it might be creating a brand new sound that is all yours.

The other thing you can do is take these elementary wave forms and create patterns of rhythm, melodic patterns and things of that nature, which to me have a great correspondence with visuals and creating visual patterns. From there, we started making visuals with oscilloscopes. Then it went on to taking the equipment and plugging it into TVs, making patterns that varied with the wavelength, frequency, amplitude and so on.

This isn’t something that we had invented. It had been done in the 1970’s, but we were new to it. We were just learning about it and exploring it. It was quite a bit of fun. Then I moved to New York and all of a sudden I’m 3,000 miles away from all this equipment and I wanted to start doing things. I started playing around with a laptop and seeing what I could do. Some other years went by and I went to my first chip show. I remember thinking, wow, this is really cool! These guys had portable little synthesizers in their hands, the Game Boy. The Game Boy has a sound chip in it that does elementary waveforms and here they are making these great sounds. I started going on a regular basis to all the shows.
Somewhere along the way I mentioned to Bit Shifter some of the older work I had been doing with visuals, what I was working on now, including taking the audio signal from the performer and doing some frequency analysis on it to create shapes, colors, patterns and whatnot. Without even seeing the work he invited me to VJ at his set at his show in New York City in 2005. It was the first International Chiptune Resistance show and it had a pretty large lineup of musicians and VJs both from the New York City area as well as from other places. In a way it was sort of a predecessor to the Blip Festivals.

Anyways, it was really awesome of him to take a chance on me like that. I remember feeling really intimidated because all the other VJs were pretty well established, and here I am, this noob with, you know, this pattern-maker kind of thing and a one-dollar mixer that was very glitchy, but we had a great time. It was a great show.

From there I started playing more often, more regularly at Pulsewave events, a New York City monthly chip event. I played Blip ’06, Blip ’07, Blip ’08, Blip ’09, Europe, other shows within the New York area, South by Southwest in Texas, getting to know people and doing more and more things. Blip ’06 was the first time I remember seeing so many chip musicians together. It really occurred to me then that if all these people are making all this great music on a portable device, then surely there has got to be a way that I can make visuals on a portable device.

I had been looking at this thing called the GP2X, which is a portable game console that runs Linux OS and has a video out. I was so excited about it. After dreaming about it for months and months, my good friend Anne got me one, and I jumped in there and started programming for it. Now, what I didn’t know was that programming for a GP2X is a lot easier than, say, programming for an NES or for a Game Boy Advance. It was a good thing that I didn’t know that because it encouraged me to do a lot of things that I otherwise might have been afraid of doing. For instance, it has no FPU, but that was good to learn how to work around.

The point being, I then used it for Blip ’07 and I loved it. All of a sudden, I’m playing this thing, kind of like playing a game or playing an instrument. You have a joystick, you have buttons, and you’re tapping them in time and varying the frequencies of things. It was a lot more fun to me than working with a mouse on a laptop. I used a little bit of Game Boy Advance at Blip ’07, but not too much. (I didn’t really know what I was doing yet.)

I want to speak a little bit about collaborations. Early on I realized that I really enjoyed collaborating with other people. At Blip ’06 I worked with Notendo and C-Men, at ’07 with No Carrier and Otro, and Europe with Rosa Menkman. On many occasions in New York I worked with JYK. But the collab that continues to be a very regular thing is the one I have with Outpt: Mary Ann Benedetto. Originally I had asked her to help me at Blip ’08, where she primarily used the Game Boy Advance and I had two GP2X units. We found that we worked so well together that we kept going.

At first she was modifying my code, then writing some of her own code. Then eventually she wrote her own app for the laptop, which she controls with the Xbox controller. I think we’ve done over a hundred shows together now, including two tours with Anamanaguchi. We played PAX West and PAX East with them and having a lot of fun along the way.

What’s next? This year Outpt and I are focusing on two projects. The first is an AV set. It’s fun being a VJ, but we also want to do some music ourselves. We’re doing both analog and digital, we have some MIDI control of the video going on, a whole lot of things. I’m very excited about it because it kind of brings full circle my love of both audio and visuals.

Our second project, which I’m also excited about is a game. We had started some work on it and it kind of went on the backburner as we experimented with various platforms and game engines and whatnot. I can’t really say much more because it’s still sort of a research and development area, but it’s very much a sort of exploratory game. It will allow the user the opportunity to get their hands on playing visuals in the same manner that we do, so I’m looking forward to all this.”

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