The Ghost in the MP3 – ICMC|SMC

ABSTRACT

The MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Layer III standard, more commonly referred to as MP3, has become a nearly ubiquitous digital audio file format. First published in 1993, this codec implements a lossy compression algorithm based on a perceptual model of human hearing. Listening tests, primarily designed by and for western-european men, and using the music they liked, were used to refine the encoder. These tests determined which sounds were perceptually important and which could be erased or altered, ostensibly without being noticed. What are these lost sounds? Are they sounds which human ears can not hear in their original contexts due to our perceptual limitations, or are they simply encoding detritus? It is commonly accepted that MP3’s create audible artifacts such as pre-echo, but what does the music which this codec deletes sound like? In the work presented here, techniques are considered and developed to recover these lost sounds, the ghosts in the MP3, and reformulate these sounds as art.

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