Imagine if you played all the keys on a piano at once. What would it sound like? Now imagine that you’d like to transcribe that music. What would it look like? So many notes that you could hardly see the paper underneath.
Which is why the people making such “impossible music” are calling themselves the Black MIDI Crew: if you wrote the music down, it’d look like a big black blob. Or at least, that’s the joke. Amazingly, though, it doesn’t sound like a big mess. Check out “Pi, The Song With 3.1415 Million Notes” below the break to see what we mean.
In the end, the impossible arpeggios and splatter-chords end up sounding surprisingly like chiptunes. Ironically, chiptunes used these fast-moving arpeggios as a perceptual workaround for the limited number of voices that they could play at a single time — playing the notes of a chord one after another fast enough that your brain almost gets tricked into thinking that they’re simultaneous.
We say “ironic” because in Black MIDI, they’re playing as many notes at a time as possible and the insane arpeggios seem instead to be a way to put some musical structure into the chaos. Indeed, the Black MIDI pieces play so many notes at once that we can’t really perceive them as such, and they end up sounding like a single synthetic timbre, and it ends up sounding even more like a chiptune than a piano. It’s a neat effect.
And in case you think that the effects have something to do with the synthesized “pianos” in use, have a look at this project from way back that used a solenoid-driven real piano as a vocoder. (I demand a mash-up!)
Play enough notes at once on a piano and it becomes hard to hear a “note” — you lose the concept of a fundamental frequency, and you just hear sound.
Thanks much to [jwcrawley] for the tip. Via Rhizome.org