Kind of Bloop: An 8-Bit Tribute to Miles Davis

Update: Kind of Bloop is done!

Ever since Kickstarter launched, I’ve been trying to come up with a great project for it that plays to its strengths… I like to describe it as a site that lets other people pre-order your dreams — an easy way to get the people you know to fund your ideas into reality.

With that in mind, I just launched a project I’ve been dreaming about for years. The idea is Kind of Bloop, an 8-bit tribute to Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, one of my favorite albums of all-time. I’ve always wondered what chiptune jazz covers would sound like. What would the jazz masters sound like on a Nintendo Entertainment System? Coltrane on a C-64? Mingus on Amiga?

I’ve researched the topic quite a bit, and was only able to find four jazz covers ever released — ast0r’s version of Coltrane’s Giant Steps and Charlie Parker’s Confirmation, Sergeeo’s own Giant Steps cover, and Bun’s version of Coltrane’s My Favorite Things. (If you know more, please let me know!)

So I asked ast0r and sergeeo, along with three incredible chiptune artists (Virt, Shnabubula, and Disasterpeace), to collaborate on a track-by-track remake of the album. I’m raising the money to legally release the album, pay the royalties1, print a very limited run of CDs for Kickstarter backers only, and pay the artists for their hard work on these very challenging songs.

Read more about the project, and back it if you want to make it real.2

Update: We hit our $2,000 goal in four hours, so this project’s definitely on! That doesn’t mean it’s over, though… Anyone can still give money for the download or limited-edition CD. But I’m not planning on selling the album after the August 1 deadline, so pledge now if you want a copy.

Footnotes

1. This is my first time licensing music, and I’m frustrated that there’s no free, legal way to release this album for free download when it’s done. By law, you’re legally required to pay royalties for every download, whether or not you charge for it. Wouldn’t a percentage of revenue make more sense?

2. Some people seem to misunderstand what Kickstarter’s for, expecting it to work like Kiva, where there’s a pool of investors waiting for neat projects to throw their money into. In reality, I’d expect very, very few projects to be backed by random people stumbling on it from the Kickstarter website. It hinges on your own social network, your ability to promote your project, and the demand for what you’re offering. So if your project fails, it’s most likely because there wasn’t enough interest from the people you know.

63 thoughts on “Kind of Bloop: An 8-Bit Tribute to Miles Davis

  1. Fab! That is very cool.

    As to the question of revenue percentage rather than per-unit pricing, that’d be very tricky to implement fairly.

    Sure, you want to do this because you want to share. But in doing so, are you getting value out of it? Maybe this builds your reputation in a way you wouldn’t be able to do if you had to write your own songs. If so, shouldn’t the songwriters get a piece?

    Suppose instead you were not so much intending to share as being greedy. Suppose you make this a freebie for new subscribers, or free in a box of cereal, or free to people who have donated to you in the the past. Would there be any revenue to share? You could certainly claim there wasn’t.

    Consider also the impact on the artist. Some uses of a song probably increase the value of it, or have no impact. But what if you put the song in a commercial, or use it in your free on-line film, or play it in your heavily trafficked store? If you reduce the chances that some paying person will cough up, then you’ve cost the artist something.

    Given zero-cost digital reproduction, things will have to change. CC licensing is a great early example. But I’m sure it will be a couple more decades before we have things worked out to the level where you can do a project like this with minimal excess BS. For now, I’m mildly amazed this is possible at all.

  2. You can’t legally relicense a cover song under the Creative Commons license (or any other license), because you don’t own the rights. I technically could host the album for free download, but I’d still have to pay a royalty for every download perpetually. (In this case, about $1 per album download.)

    I guess I should say there’s no free, legal way to release the album for free download without losing my shirt.

  3. Is there any other way way to send any cash to you? Amazon Payments doesn’t seem to allow payment from out of US, which means those of us outside of the US are out of luck.

  4. Amazon definitely accepts international credit cards, but there’s apparently a bug on their site with entering in your address… If you use a fake US ZIP code, it works fine. You can read about it here.

  5. Perhaps Magnatune would be a way to sell the CD, you can pretty much choose to pay how much you’d like for a CD, (anywhere from 5-20 USD) And when you download it you can get it in any format you like.

    that way people don’t have an excuse to pirate it (even though it will still happen lols) but people who share your vision with the project can choose to help you out a little more, it all adds up.

  6. I don’t think YMCK ever covered a Coltrane track… Their song “Does John Coltrane Dream of a Merry-Go-Round?” was inspired by him, but not a cover.

  7. Love the cover art but…it’s the finest jazz album ever made due to the improvisations, the interaction between the musicians,the feel and the tone – how can you get any of that with 8-bit? Sorry, probably taking this too seriously. Don’t mess with Miles πŸ˜‰

  8. You can’t, and they’re not trying to. It’s a totally different beast — an experimental tribute to a great album in a totally different genre of music.

  9. DAMN! I got wind of this on Aug 1 and I can’t pledge! I really wish I could get in on this beauty…

  10. Limiting the access to the album seems like a bit of a dick move to me. I realize you want to reward those who donated, but you’re also giving the shaft to those who genuinely would have helped out but just missed the boat.

  11. Amiga was originally a 32 bit processor with a 16 bit data bus and then it went to full a 32 bit setup, so Mingus will have to wait for the next project.

  12. The masters of jazz are rolling in their graves. Respectful covers are one thing, but this is dorks on parade at it’s finest. Just because you’ve gotten some support doesn’t mean that you aren’t embarrassing yourself.

  13. Just curious, have you actually listened to the album or are you just criticizing the idea? A bet: If you buy it and still think that, for example, Shnabubula’s “All Blues” or Virt’s “Freddie Freeloader” aren’t jazz, I’ll refund your money.

  14. Hap, I fully understand why you don’t see these as respectful covers, given their presentation in a sea of overloaded memes and appeals to gamer nostalgia. Ten-four, 100% acknowledged.

    I speak for myself and the other artists, though, when I say that our aim was to pay tribute to Miles out of pure love in a deeply personal and unique way, NOT to stoop to geek nostalgia.

    This might seem like crazy talk, considering that we are using cheap video game sounds, but it’s nice to meet you, I’m Jake, a cranky old chip head who takes this shit seriously. I’m irritated to no end when ironic hipstery kids cover stuff with a Game Boy purely for geek LULZ, with sloppy, unimaginative execution.

    Way I see it, chiptunes can either be a punishingly difficult artistic medium we happened to grow up with, or a tired retro fashion statement. Our goal was to stick to the former, pushing the limitations hard, building on our capacity for expression using the most basic sounds. There could be no better challenge, Andy thought, than one of the most expressive jazz albums of all time, one that has inspired us all.

    So, you see, I’m not the least bit embarrassed by our work. In fact, I think you might be short-changing “the masters of jazz”, who I believe would be grinning ear to ear right now. They were ALL ABOUT mastering unusual techniques and expressing within a framework. That’s the whole point of Kind of Blue. The parallels to our own medium were dead obvious, and I got the same rush of perverse glee that the original ensemble must have felt 50 years ago, locking myself in a cell and playing between the metal bars.

    I hope, if you still can’t enjoy the sound of the album itself, you might at least be less quick to dismiss it, given this perspective. It’s not a parade, it’s a love letter in our own weird handwriting.

  15. Thank you, to the artists, to Andy, and to all of the supporters, for helping to legitimize quality chipcovers. The complexity of each of the artists’ works should be noted by chiptuners everywhere. For sure, the effort required to produce such a piece is no easy undertaking and I hope that the respect you are paying to Miles is reciprocated by his fans that are capable of looking at the music rather than the medium it is communicated across.

    Since I don’t wear a hat, it is certainly off to you at this juncture. Best wishes to all.

  16. As a huge fan of video games and Kind of Blue, I think this is an amazing idea and a great interpretation of a classic. Thank you and good luck!!

  17. Hi Andy, I’m really loving this stuff. It’s very soulful and that pays respect to the original. Maybe some of the musicians can talk about their work here — I’d love to read about how the tracks were put down, production and gearwise.

  18. Plus, what you’ve achieved with this is so far removed from what they achieved with that album that that drawing parallels like this is kind of sickening.

  19. Jake, an you really separate the medium from its place in pop culture like that? I really like it, it’s obvious great time and detail have been put into each track, but at the same time it appeals way more to my sense of nostalgia for 80’s video games than my sensibilities as a musician who plays a fair amount of jazz.

    But for whatever artistic intentions you set out with, the end result is very entertaining, and I can tell the tribute is sincere. Out there, perhaps, but sincere.

  20. Just payed my fiver and downloaded my FLACs. I’m a long time fan of Samuel, Jake, and Rich.

    I think, were Miles still around, he’d 1.)Shit bricks when he heard these covers 2.)Be astounded at the choice of medium, (he WAS around just long enough to see the rise and fall of the NES, and the creation of the Game Boy, so I’d like to think he’d be impressed but not in awe of those “new fangled gadgets”,) and would 3.) Suggest the naysayers to lighten up. My guess is he would have perceived this compilation as an act of love, but, like Andy said, you can’t speak for the dead.

  21. Don’t let the haters get you down Andy…I’ve been a synth and sample-based musician for 10 years, 25 years after sampling was invented, and I still have to argue with my Dad that it’s music and not just “stealing”.

    I think this is not only an amazing piece of work, but respectful to boot. You got the rights, you took care in it’s production… it’s much more of an honour than another shitty “Smooth Jazz for Hotel Lobbies” complication that glut the Jazz marketplace today.

    You get a banana sticker. And I promise I wont pirate it.

  22. Wow…

    This is impressive to me. A unique interpretation.

    How was this accomplished, production and gear wise, if you do not mind sharing?

  23. Hello!,

    This is Rayburn Musical instruments. We would like to sell your cd in our store. Please contact us anytime. Sincerley,

    Rayburn Musical Instrument Company

  24. This is quite possibly the best thing I’ve heard in a while!

    Great job guys and add me as another person who’d buy a vinyl pressing of this!

    momaw27

  25. I’d love to, but only two of the songs were written solely in a tracker, and those are so complicated that they exceed the memory limits of the original hardware.

  26. Jesus, this is disgusting. Try to justify it all you want, but you have no business touching an album/artist like this. Really regret ever checking uncrate a couple days ago…

  27. Are the people knocking this project doing so because they don’t respect 8-bit as a genre or because they don’t respect cover versions in general? I can’t imagine it’s the latter, because surely anyone who cares about jazz would be familiar with the concept of jazz standards, so I suppose it’s just a bizarre bias, made all the more ironic considering we’re talking about a genre-defying artist like Miles Davis.

  28. Who wrote this fiendish “Rite of Spring”?

    What right had he to write the thing,

    Against our helpless ears to fling

    Its crash, clash, cling, clang, bing, bang, bing?

    And then to call it “Rite of Spring,”

    The season when on joyous wing

    The birds’ melodious carols sing

    And harmony’s in every thing!

    He who could write the “Rite of Spring,”

    If I be right by right should swing!

    You know you’ve done something worthwhile when it actually angers some people.

    I’m not saying this is an achievement quite on the same scale as Stravinsky’s famously hated work, but a great tribute to an amazing album nonetheless.

    And evidently chiptune is a language that not all of us are able to understand. I, however, shall see your SYN and raise you an ACK.

    Thank you for doing this.

  29. I’d far rather listen to this album than any other mediocre jazz group doing a “faithful” version of say, ‘so what’. The fluidity of the original, the spontinaeity, the feeling, the spirituality and of course the personnel was what made Kind Of Blue an unrepeatable performance.

    How is this project disrespectful? Miles wasn’t God – just a great, great artist. Purists want to hold jazz back and keep it under glass. They feel that somehow something has been taken away from them when someone does something with jazz they’re not in tune with.

    Remember, Miles Davis himself was criticised for “dishonouring” jazz by getting in with the rock crowd in the 70s and playing his trumpet with a wah wah pedal. In the 80s he was playing pop music. The guy even covered a Cyndi Lauper tune.

    But anyway, this is what jazz is about – taking things futher out and taking risks. The album is hilarious and great at the same time.

  30. I love jazz; I love chip tunes; and this is a beautiful marriage of the two. Thank you! Thank you for making this!

  31. I’m not sure that Miles would hate this quite as much as some people are saying he would; don’t forget that the very last CD he did (released a few months posthumously) featured rappers, among other things. He was always pushing the envelope.

    BTW, I love how the intro to “All Blues” was switched over to 11/8 time. As a jazz musician, I’ve already done this tune as hip-hop/funk, but now I’m intrigued with the idea of doing the whole thing in 11.

  32. I really like what I’m hearing on this. Right now I only have the samples to go by and it’s funny to hear the Flamenco Sketches and realize how close it sounds to the Castlevania III stage here (look at around 41 seconds in)… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMrwO1XynnI&feature=related

    Certainly wouldn’t be the first parallel I’ve found between game music and songs that came out beforehand! Great work!

  33. Andy is it possible to use “So What” as background music for tutorial videos for a new social network I am launching? Love the rendition and the whole 8bit factor would play off well with the tech I am launching.

    Let me know if/how it could be used legally.

    Great stuff and great, great post.

    Epic.

    David

  34. Pretty funny, but I’m really baffled who might actually want to listen to this? I personally would go bonkers if I listened to any more than the 30-second samples. Would people actually put this on and listen to it? I’m legitimately curious. Maybe people who were born after the mid-90s? Do they *really* like it, or do they only *pretend* to like it in order to seem cool? Fascinating. Thanks.

  35. Chiptunes are a pretty fantastic art form, and fit in with my eclectic taste in music (which includes more genres that I can count.)

    Stenobot (from whom I learned of Kind of Bloop) is among my favorite musicians of this fairly new decade. I can’t wait to see what sorts of music spring up before the next decade!

    Anyway, thank you Andy for this work of art, and don’t let the naysayers (or bleep bleep photographers) get you down!

  36. LoL!

    Not sure how this works, but think it would work well as a stylish soundtrack for various games on various platforms, mobile and desktop.

    And yes, Miles would probably have gone for it – I can almost see that rare enigmatic grin and hear that even more mysterious rasp of “weird, man, weird…”

  37. Andy,

    Thank you for dreaming up this project and pushing it forward to fruition with the artists that created the tracks. I’ve read about the cover art drama, listened to So What on YouTube and just went and bought the album on kindofbloop.com.

    Please continue these kind of intimate projects to share with the world! It’s excellent, and most importantly, it’s art. The world is being deprived of pieces of “greatness” when the lawyers manage to suppress creativity.

    Great job.

  38. GREAT, great, great idea and performance. I’m thinking in Miles, smiling in heaven…

    πŸ™‚

  39. interesting.. funny in small doses …

    i don’t understand the controversy surrounding such an insignificant record .. this will be forgotten about in a few years by almost everyone except those involved in it’s production

    and.. as a jazz musician, i honestly don’t see the point of comments like this: “The masters of jazz are rolling in their graves.” like: who really cares?

    great effort… it’s too bad you got sued over the record cover

  40. I tried to enter ↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← β†’ ← β†’ B A as the secret code on the website, but it wasn’t right. πŸ˜‰

Comments are closed.