The Evocative and Inspiring Preschtale
As this is the first of my posts here on music, I think you should get my musical origin story. I’ve been listening to music all my life, but C-jeff’s album “Preschtale” ushered me into the world of chiptunes, and past that into the indie kinda stuff you find linked to on game sites.
When I first started looking at chiptunes, I was intrigued by the concept (modifying old hardware to make sounds, and putting those sounds into music? That’s awesome!), but unimpressed by the execution. Before I really got a taste for it, I could hardly tell each chiptune album apart; it all merged together feel like a hokey video game soundtrack that was useless on its own. Not getting past the first impression of chiptunes, I was perplexed as to how this was still a viable genre. If this is so cool and interesting, why does it all sound the same?
Then I picked up“Preschtale,” and I sat and listened to it the whole way through. I finally understood my mistake. I had been thinking of chiptunes as a genre, where they’re really just another instrument that can be used in any way. In the other albums I had been listening to, the chiptunes were the focus, as though the only redeeming quality to the music was this novelty of a sound. In Preschtale, the chiptunes are one character in a whole cast. That’s right – a cast of characters. This isn’t a soundtrack or a proof-of-concept, this is a rock opera (sans lyrics) with a plot, movements, and a protagonist.
Part 1 starts with the protagonist leaving on his or her lonesome journey, and each new movement adds new adventures, dangers, and even other characters. For example, at 3:20 in Part 2, a rock guitar shows up.
Listening to that song and the interaction of the chiptunes and the rock guitar was great – I visualized a huge, dying landscape, an angry people, and a duel. The last time my imagination had been so skillfully evoked, I was listening to Holst’s “The Planets” (a classical suite based on the planets and their astrological influences; for example, check out Jupiter being performed by in 1975 by the Philadelphia Orchestra).
My mind was blown. A chiptune album that came out in the last year could feel like a classical set that has been around for a hundred years; a modern chiptune composer could manipulate my imagination and emotions as well as a 40-year-old classical composer.
Since then, I’ve really begun to appreciate what I’ve been calling “game music”: music made on game hardware (chiptunes!), for games (OSTs and scores), about games (rock operas in the Megaman universe, for example), or with existing game music (see OCRemix). I love it, and dove in headfirst. C-Jeff and “Preschtale” showed me how expressive and unique this sort of music can be, and I’ve been engulfed ever since.