Music made from the audio stripped out of an MP3

Check out "Ghost in the MP3," a eerie song made from the audio that was removed from "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega when it was turned into an MP3.


"Ghost in the MP3" was created by Ryan Maguire as a meditation on MP3s and our audioscape. MP3s shrink songs down by removing frequencies that our ears supposedly won't notice. That's why audio purists hate MP3s: They claim they really can notice the missing stuff.

I'm not an audio freak, so it doesn't bug me, but hey -- as Macguire has shown, the purists have a point. When you listen to "The Ghost in the MP3", you hear a haunting shadow-version of the song, including ethereal high ends and other stuff that was destroyed in the act of compression.

Macguire used "Tom's Diner" for the project because it's not just any MP3 -- it's one of the songs that the engineers of the MP3 codec used when developing the algorithm. In an interview with his university's PR department, he talked about the project:

Q. What effects could your research have on the state of modern digital recording? That is, does your work have a practical application for future listening experiences?

A. I am essentially encouraging people to question why we accept MP3s as the de facto file format. If my research inspires people to listen closely to music with curiosity and interest, then that would be a tremendous accomplishment. By giving people an experience that they can connect with, we can move collectively toward higher-quality audio formats becoming standardized.

In the meantime, this work could provide audio engineers with a tool for better understanding how MP3 compression will ultimately affect their mixes. What’s more, there is an entirely unexplored sound world here that this research is uncovering, just waiting for artists to draw inspiration from.