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Digital degradation

January 7, 2013

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An update on my recent post where I was going on about how Holly Herndon’s Movement might be an intelligent response to the non-living and “non-degradable”problem of digital music: here’s a piece showing a way in which digital files might be made to degrade — an album made by copying and recopying an mp3 of Beethoven’s Große Fuge by Har$, who asks:

what would happen if I fed the output of an mp3 encoder back into itself, and then continued to do so? Make an mp3 of the mp3, then an mp3 of the mp3 of the mp3, an mp3 of the mp3 of the mp3 of the mp3, and so on…?

Here’s the resulting album on a bandcamp page, and here’s a detailed description of the process from the SoundBlog site. “The result,” writes the composer, “is a dense flow of digital artifacts. But if you listen carefully, within this bubbling electronic stream, you can still make out the outlines of the fugue. It is floating in the depths, like a ghost.”

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