Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


School of Music


David Stringham


Music education has long identified “life-long and life-wide” musicianship within community contexts as a primary goal of formal music instruction in and outside of public schools. In music education research, scholars often seek out (and study) musical communities to inform formal curricula and pedagogy, with the goal of better preparing students to participate in musical communities outside of formal institutions.

In this study, I explore music learning practices at play in one corner of contemporary musicianship—chiptune. Chiptune is music that references videogame sounds and videogame music. Some chiptune artists make music for videogames, others release albums and play live shows. Some use digital tools, like VSTs and digital synthesizers to produce their music, while others use videogame consoles running after-market software on game cartridges.

The purpose of this study is to better understand music making and learning in chiptune communities by addressing four questions: what does musicianship in chiptune communities look like? What role does community play? What are the music learning practices of chiptune musicians? What, if anything, can be learned about contemporary musicianship by inquiring into chiptune culture? To address these questions, I make use of an auto/ethnographic method, drawing on online ethnography (Hine, 2015) and autoethnographic inquiry (Ellis & Bochner, 2011). Findings take the form of a dialogic, performative text which embodies the fractured nature of online communities. I adopt a rhizomatic (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987) heuristic which highlights how chiptune community is flat, center-less, and facilitates mapping as learning. I offer implications for music education research and practice, and suggestions for future research into relationships among communities and nonhuman actants.



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