Insert Credit Art Jam 2.0 | May 2022 | Zones

[size=100]WELCOME BACK TO THE INSERT CREDIT ART JAM 2.0!!![/size]
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A monthly event in where the ever-growing Insert Credit community can come together and create art based on a rotating topic! First created and hosted by @"SuperEffective"#337, now taken over by me. Everyone is welcome to participate and create whatever they consider art. Every possible medium and art discipline is welcomed here. Go wild! Show us your hidden or not so hidden talents!

It's already the third of may but let's just say I took two days off because of Labor Day and not that I forgot...
Already added a reminder on my google calendar to be consistent from now on.

Here's the original premise @"SuperEffective"#337 wrote:

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This is not necessarily a contest, but more like a weekly monthly art challenge/show-and-tell. The plan is to introduce a new prompt every Sunday the first day of each month to make a piece of art to. To participate, you can simply post anything from a drawing, sculpture, crochet, animation, writing, a sick beat, heck, why not even a cake! You can post whenever you’re finished, and I’m sure none will mind if you’re a bit late as this thread is all in good fun. Heck, if you’re loving the prompt, post more than one! Send any suggestions you think would be fun to do in the next week, if you have any fun ideas!

Last month's art jam turned out great, thanks to everyone that participated! I chose this month's topic from the suggestions that y'all sent in the google form. Thanks!!

With all of that out of the way. this month's prompt(s) is:

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[size=100][color=Hotpink] _Zones_[/color][/size] -

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I thought this was a cool prompt! Make of it what you will!

You can read a more detailed introduction of the Art Jams 2.0 and see the amazing stuff y'all came up based on the previous prompts on the thread(s) linked below:

_**[March 2022 | Support and Cooperation](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/1421-insert-credit-art-jam-20-april-2022-delicious)**_ -

_**[April 2022 | Delicious](https://forums.insertcredit.com/d/1367-insert-credit-art-jam-20-march-2022-support-and-cooperation)**_ -

Zones! As a former owner of multiple .zone domain names, I feel obligated to contribute this month! I will keep zones in the forefront of my mind, and hopefully an essay or story will manifest itself soon enough.

This is a super fun activity and if you are on the fence, just go do something.

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@“穴”#p68699 Zones

this is a good one for me

I'm still struggling on the last prompt

just gonna shout out zonelets for the name & if any of you are like me & wanted to start a blog to write some of these prompts but also like me have little-to-no web design/HTML know-how — these super simple templates & videos made starting a blog a breeze. best of all it’s free of all the ads & branding that’s most blog hosting shortcuts & services have.

🖤 looking forward to seeing everyone’s dope ass art this month 🖤

Embrace the chaos of junk zone.

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/657XpoZ.jpeg]

[upl-image-preview url=//i.imgur.com/h1fd0F4.png]


@“safety_lite”#p70165 wonderful

When I saw the prompt ‘Zones’ my first instinct was to make some Sonic music. Unfortunately it grew arms and legs until it wasn't really Sonic music anymore and instead it now sounds like my usual distorted pop nonsense with a bunch of Mega Drive sounds.

https://women.bandcamp.com/track/doesnt

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@"billy "#p70395 When I saw the prompt ‘Zones’ my first instinct was to make some Sonic music.

Similar instinct. I also went in a different direction (it's not done yet).

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@"billy "#p70395 …my usual distorted pop nonsense with a bunch of Mega Drive sounds.

Yeah, but it's such good nonsense! I really like how the noise comes in hard in measure 3 rather than 8 or 16. I'm also a sucker for mixed meter in songs so this hits one of my musical weak spots.

Another Banger from Hens Bens.

@“antillese”#p70398 thank you!

@"billy "#p70395 this is great. big Sloan vibes.

@“safety_lite”#p70165 Nice! I dig the idea of creatures that help to access specific low-key object nostalgia. The way you drew their heads makes me imagine the spiky bits at the back glom on to the objects and then they project memories through inaudible song.

@"billy "#p70395 I like how the crunch on everything makes it sound like I’m directly in the thruster of a rocket going to outer space.

@"billy "#p70395 oh yeah this owns!

# The Artist’s Statement of Which Heart Rate Zone You Are In

You are playing an NES game with a friend or family member. The game is encouraging you to [keep and maintain a target heart rate zone](https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates). You might be doing this on the Power Pad. This is the last all-out intensity push on the last level of the game. Don’t give up and get your heart rate in the zone!

That’s right! DJ Tent Mode’s* Zoneful new track drops right now. Drop everything, give yourself 20 pushups because you’re doing it for yourself not for me! Get in the Zone!

[You can download an MP3 of “Get In the Zone” here](https://1drv.ms/u/s!ArDX_50WQOZHrWkTVhaesfxOzpvm?e=2ggKA7).
[You can download an NSF of “Get In the Zone” here](https://1drv.ms/u/s!ArDX_50WQOZHrWhq3IzdcN-t5GbY?e=ENU9wN). The NSF is a ROM that will execute on NES hardware, in an NES emulator, or in an NES music player. I like to use [GaMBi on my phone](https://apps.apple.com/us/app/gambi-chiptune-player/id840190547).

*No, I still haven’t picked a better name to brand my music projects.

# Another NES Technical Primer

The NES supports 5 simultaneous sound channels, 2 Squares, 1 Triangle, a Noise, and a PCM. PCM is “Pulse Code Modulation”. It’s a way of digitally describing an arbitrary waveform. “.WAV” files are PCM. Being specific, the NES can do both PCM and 1-bit DPCM. PCM is more computationally expensive and often required the NES to stop doing much of anything except play back the waveform. Differential PCM is a short-hand way of encoding PCM data which is lossier in compression, but much easier to unpack and play back. Being completely honest, I’m not sure if DeffleMask is using DPCM or PCM to encode its samples, but that’s probably not important.

There were two common applications of the PCM “Back In The Day”. One was for digital speech, like the title screen of Blades of Steel or Double Dribble. The other was for adding texture to music often supplementing the noise channel. Konami is famous for this and you can hear poppy drums in games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Adventures of Bayou Billy. Super Mario Bros. 3’s steel drums and bongos are PCM. Many of your favorite NES soundtracks utilize the PCM channel in some way. Many of them - like the MegaMan series - ignore its existence entirely.

In terms of how DefleMask deals with it, you more or less have arbitrary total sample space, but you have only have 1 bank loaded at a time. You have to send a specific tracker command to switch banks if you want to change sample banks.

Each sample bank can contain 12 samples and are assigned to a different key on the piano. A chromatic scale has 12 distinct tones so each bank corresponds to one scale - which octave you play in doesn’t matter. So if you play a C in my sample channel, you get a “Get in the zone”, C# is “Zone”, D is “One”, etc.

[upl-image-preview url=https://i.imgur.com/aYjqNUR.png]

The “Get in the Zone” NSF ROM is about 104 KB. When compared to MegaMan 2’s 257 KB size is still a pretty exorbitant at 40% of the space for a late 80s NES game, but not technically impossible.

# This Month’s Prompt

Like others, I immediately thought “Sonic the Hedgehog music” and decided against it. DeffleMask does support the Genesis, but it’s a very different system with substantially different strengths and weaknesses and I’m not practiced with it yet. I also considered doing a Master System Sonic zone which is much more similar to the NES’ sound architecture, but I don’t have the familiarity with that system or the 8-bit Sonic games, so I went in a different direction. I do a ton of road biking and knowing what my heart zone is at is something I can talk about so the song became an exercise anthem.

# This Month’s Process

This month, I tried to integrate PCM samples into my NES songs. It’s a powerful tool, and it’s also difficult to use in 2022. Now that digital space constraints are non-existent by 1980s standards, sampled sound quickly sounds anachronistic. [Additionally, this “Behind the Code” series posits that there was a bug in some developers’ audio toolchain](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJnz6dEWwIw) for NES that flipped DPCM samples on a per-byte basis so they all sounded way worse than they could of if they were properly implemented. But since they are famous samples, its what we associate with the capabilities of the NES even though it’s probably inaccurate.

I originally got some free use drum kit sound effects and imported them into my DefleMask track and realized that they sounded way too clean. I was going to mirror my noise drums and it stopped sounding like an NES song. It sounded like someone playing a drum kit on top of an NES song. It just wasn’t the aesthetic I was going for.

So I scrapped that idea and headed towards creating my own samples. I was going to have these mixed in with the PCM drum line but this is the only PCM portion that is left in the song. I recorded them with my PlayStation headphones (please don’t tell Doug Bowser or whoever runs Sony) into Audacity and had a similar problem - they sounded too good in DefleMask. So I cranked the sampling rate down from 44KHz to 16Kh, and crushed it down to 8-bit PCM on export. If you’re not a digital signal nerd, sample rate is how frequently the audio information is recorded, and how many bits is how many different values you get to use to describe the volume.

After re-doing the samples I had forgotten to reassign my sample patterns and I got surprised when the drums were replaced by my own voice. [Please click here to listen to what happens when sample tracks go awry](https://1drv.ms/u/s!ArDX_50WQOZHrWdsoVMBQcW9NvVT?e=G37Dsh).

Much like how the Triangle channel does not have volume control, the PCM channel does not have volume control either. The samples are imported at whatever volume they are recorded at and you need to now normalize the entire song against two static volumes. This month’s piece doesn’t have as much dynamic range as others I’ve worked on as a consequence. It’s just a pair of trumpets blasting in your ears at volume B (out of 0-F). I think it ended up working OK for the kind of marching band anthem the song is.

Another mixing trick I read about years and years ago and think about a lot is from an interview I read citing Butch Vig. Vig was producer on Nevermind, Gish, and other huge 90s alt-rock albums as well as band member and producer of Garbage. He said if you mix the vocals down a bit with respect to the instrumentation, this causes the listener to instinctively turn up the volume to hear the lyrics. This ultimately makes the song sound louder and thus fuller because you get more dynamic range in the piece. I struggled with whether or not to re-sample the “heart” and “beat” samples to bring them up in volume and ultimately left them under the instrumentation because I think they worked better as vocal texture. It certainly caused me to turn up my volume when making the track.

Musically, I’m pretty happy with how the piece is structured and the harmonies. The sustained 2nd interval (the one that makes your ears prick up in the opening anthem) was challenging to resolve musically for me. I was writing the 2nd part and kept on getting chords that didn’t sound quite right. I ended up with that and its a pretty heavy suspension, but I really like how attention grabbing it is.

It’s also the first song I’ve done that executes a key change. The final verse of the piece is the part of the track that I’m the happiest with. The callbacks that are made in both rhythm and pitch to the opening anthem and the previous verses tie the whole thing together well.

The coda didn’t come together until the very end and this is the first track I’ve written that isn’t intended to loop. The final “Get In The Zone” solo sample is a fun punchy mic drop.

# Final Thoughts

I don’t know if I can say that I completed my goal of having NES-style PCM drums, but I learned a lot about samples themselves and the process. Also, huge props to any vocalist that can “commit to the bit”. It’s not something that I practice and I’m not sure if the flutter in my enunciation of “zone” sounds very confident. This is probably something a vocal coach or an audio director would have had me re-record, but it’s certainly how I performed that piece!

[upl-image-preview url=https://i.imgur.com/NyYMCGA.png]

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No Computer Is An Island.

>by beets beeterson (b. 2020)

>pixels on .png (assembled in 2022)


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A by-product of a maze generating algorithm. The basis of this image was created on a 220 by 200 node grid by pausing the algorithm part way. An expanded view of the grid is displayed underneath the main image. The algorithm chooses which node to visit using random chance, meaning there is an insurmountable number of variations of this maze and without a recorded seed it would be near impossible to recreate.


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beeterson has stated that he thinks the computer was “…attempting to tell [him] of the island [he is] destined to visit in the coming year”. While he has never revealed the island of the computer‘s choosing it is speculated to be representing Japan’s Hokkaido or the British Isles.

@“antillese”#p71414 so cool dude. i would say i like this one a little more than your last one because it seems more melodic to me, like the melody does what my ear is expecting, which is almost always what i want.

drums...when i listen back to shopping for candy, they sound different, of course, but definitely of a piece, you know, NES percussion. so what would you say the pros and cons were of sampling it vs. what you did before?

guess i gotta check out deflemask at some point because i've had a lot of trouble trying to emulate genesis and gameboy sounds with modern instruments

:blush: I'm very glad you like the piece!

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@“tapevulture”#p71770 drums…when i listen back to shopping for candy, they sound different, of course, but definitely of a piece, you know, NES percussion. so what would you say the pros and cons were of sampling it vs. what you did before?

Being clear - "Get in the Zone" doesn't use samples other than for the voice samples.

Historically, pros were "sounds pretty great!". Cons were "I don't have that much ROM space!" and also it effectively halts the NES's ability to draw frames while playing PCM data. DPCM didn't suffer from that issue, but didn't sound as good.

I think I'll probably try using sampled NES percussion again, but I need to find things that are more period accurate or use them in a slightly different way. "Konami Drums" are very bassy, and very stacatto - incredibly short. And I think they are able to generate much lower frequency than what the noise channel can do. So I think I'll be looking for a very clipped foot pedal drum kit sample for a song this year. I'm not going to force it though. Like I said - tons of music on the NES just didn't use the channel at all.

@"billy "#p70395 billy i've probably asked before but what would you say the quick and dirty technique is for getting it to sound this distorted? are you recording it this hot? or just cranking levels in a DAW?

@"antillese"#p71778 uh...oops. i misread, sorry!!

i'm often trying to get vintage-sounding drums and what i usually do is take a modern drum sample, very aggressively gate it and then throw a bitcrusher on after that to distort it. it's elusive though, i feel like it's really hard to completely expunge the modernness of the sample

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bk1W1kwqrPg

looks like i was the only one dumb enough to interpret the prompt in a very literal way, oops.....

i really enjoyed sonic mania's music on the whole but due to being a big baby i often wished it more directly referenced the genesis sonics, both in terms of instrument selection, but also sounding less fluid/more mecanically sequenced. i had this one laying around from about a year ago when i was working in garageband and listening to a lot of scrap brain zone. i've since moved to ableton, and initially i tried remaking it in ableton but found that the stock presets in my cheapo ableton version aren't very good at this kind of thing, so i kept the garageband sounds and just mixed it in ableton

@“tapevulture”#p71847

This is really cool. A very driving arrangement that makes callbacks to the original.