Matthew C. Applegate, AKA: Pixelh8, is a groundbreaking chip tune artist, music educator and member of the extended GeekDad family who has just unveiled a project that takes his work in an interesting new direction. On a recent school visit, Matthew noticed that while students were very excited to experiment with making music on the Nintendo DS he had brought into the class none were willing perform on his circuit bent keyboard.
When he asked the students why no one wished to explore the more traditional instrument, a young girl responded that she simply didn’t know how to play piano. Pixelh8 elaborated on this point in a recent blog post at Game People saying:
There was a cultural issue – embarrassment – about not being able to perform as a “proper” musician especially not in front of others. Paradoxically they were quite happy to make sounds and draw attention to themselves by playing on the Nintendo DS through a very loud PA system, because the Nintendo DS had no set cultural rules in terms of musical performance.
These students at the age of eight were making a cultural distinction that keyboards are for formal traditional music and only trained performers should play in front of others whereas the Nintendo DS was for fun with none of these set musical performance rules.
Building on this concept, he designed a brand new piece of software that stripped music making on the DS down to its most simplistic form. Using the stylus and touch screen like a mallet and single drum head, Pixelh8 chose to emulate the percussive style of samba to facilitate group performance and the visual aspects of music sims like Rock Band to help ease novice musicians into the experience.
His Super Chip Tune Samba Band made its debut at FACT, a multimedia arts facility in Liverpool, with ten children and their accompanying adults taking part in the performance. Despite being a rousing success overall, this event helped Pixelh8 discover two flaws in the system. The first, samba bands are supposed to be mobile. Thankfully, Marshall Amplifiers has come to the rescue by donating twenty-five MS4 Microamps to the project. The second issue, however, requires your intervention.
Currently Matthew only has a pair of DS handhelds at his disposal. This means that, in the event that participants don’t have the luxury of bringing their own systems, the Super Chip Tune Samba Band can’t happen. As such, Pixelh8 needs your neglected Nintendo DSes. Whether original systems, DS Lites or the newer DSi iteration in new or used condition, your contribution could make its mark both on education and geeky music. These units don’t need cases or power supplies. They can even look like hell as long as they work, or even mostly work.
Anyone willing to donate is encouraged to contact Pixelh8 via his site. Help him change the face of modern music one beat at a time.