THE GHOST IN THE MP3: MAKING MUSIC OF DIGITAL LEFTOVERS
The downloadable entertainment age makes art available to us at a rate and with a kind of ease that once seemed impossible to imagine. But thanks in part to the work of Ryan Maguire (GSAS ‘18), a Ph.D. student in Composition and Computer Technologies, people all over the world are paying attention to not only the sounds we hear on our MP3’s, but also the ones that were sacrificed in the process of making them. The MP3 format was created in the early 1990’s as a way to reduce the size of music files in order to allow them to fit on phones and other similar devices. “There is an analysis that takes place,” Maguire said, “that is built on a perceptual model of how people supposedly hear things. So the process essentially erases the information that it assumes we won’t hear, with the idea that we won’t be able to tell the difference.” With his latest project, The Ghost in the MP3, Maguire takes these digital leftovers and turns them into their own eerie and haunting form of music. His sonic salvaging efforts can be heard on MoDernisT, a work that takes the “lost” sounds from Suzanne Vega’s song “Tom’s Diner” (a song famously used as a control for the original MP3 encoding algorithm), and synthesizes them to create a sort of electronic music ghost story about all that the modern entertainment age leaves behind in the name of accessibility. The project has drawn attention from media outlets and bloggers around the world, including the BBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, Deutschlandradio Kultur, Vice Media, and WIRED.
Follow The Ghost in the MP3 on Facebook for updates.