Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

Hear What You’re Missing

March 12th, 2015

Last week Vox posted an interesting article called “Listen to what gets lost when an MP3 is made”. It features the work of a Ph.D. student named Ryan McGuire who is behind a project to let people hear the sounds that are discarded when a song is made into an MP3.

The MP3 format can reduce the file size of a song as much as 10-fold, but in the process something has to be filtered out. Which sounds get filtered out of a song to make the file smaller was determined in 1993 by a group of European sound engineers who using songs like Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” and Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” In 1994, MP3s became a public format and, after the advent and widespread use of the internet, they are now the primary format that most people listen to music in.

But what happened to those filtered out sounds?

Ryan MaGuire, a a Ph.D. student in Composition and Computer Technologies at the University of Virginia Center for Computer Music, created a project called “moDernisT” to find out. McGuire’s project pulls out those missing sounds and lets them live on their own.

According to the article “Tom’s Diner” by Susanne Vega was the first song to become an MP3. And here are the leftovers from that song after having been compressed.

It’s quite a bit more than I thought it would be. I figured that stuff beyond a certain frequency would have been lopped off but it really sounds like the compression process takes out a bit of everything.

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  3. Casualties of the Loudness Wars
  4. Fish Concert Webcast
  5. An Audiophile's Nighmare

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