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Nine Inch Niles – The Seattleward Spiral

Album Cover

So what started yesterday as a silly photoshop joke turned, today, into a silly computational music generation sort-of-joke.

The Seattleward Spiral is a from-scratch, mostly-automatic reinterpretation of Trent et al’s 1994 The Downward Spiral, using nothing but sliced up audio from the NBC sitcom Frasier. The result is something arguably far more “industrial” in some sense (and far, far less listenable in that same sense) than the original album.

The reconstitution was done using “afromb.py”, a python script that takes two files, the target track a that you’re trying to recreate, and the source track b that provides the audio content used for that recreation, and slices both up into very small pieces, assembling the bits of track b one at a time according to whichever piece best matches the current bit of track a.

The script is provided with Echo Nest Remix, itself a fascinating and extensible music manipulation library and API I’ve been playing with lately and will have more to post about soon. Fun, fun stuff. If you’re not afraid of a little light monkeying around with your command line it’s worth checking out.

In any case: The Seattleward Spiral was created by running afromb against each track from Downward Spiral three times, using three different bits of Frasier audio — the theme song, and the first five minutes or so form two random episodes I found on Youtube (“Two Mrs. Cranes” and “Niles Starts a Fire” or something like that). I dumped the three tracks for each into Garageband to create a very basic mix with just some static panning to create a bit more stereo action, chucked those out to mp3, and that was that. It’s a tremendously quick, dirty mix, with functionally no human intervention in the choice and arrangement of the sounds on the record.

You can grab the whole thing via this zip file, or listen to individual tracks below. I think that Closer To Roz, in particular, works well.

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Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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UPDATE:

See also the Closer To Roz (Niles Mix) video created this evening using the related vafromb.py script! Note that the audio content of the remix is different here than what’s in the track above, as the input video is different; I also went ahead and kept a touch of the original track in there to make the video a little more coherent to listen to.

14 Comments

  1. Botley wrote:

    what.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  2. pol wrote:

    i find ‘yuppie’ to be particularly fun.
    it’s got a real ‘dick cavett’ and ‘my three sons’ vibe.

    good job, sir!

    Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink
  3. brundlefly wrote:

    This is brilliant.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Permalink
  4. SD wrote:

    The fuck did I just listen to

    Saturday, June 19, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink
  5. Seamus wrote:

    the video is quite listenable. the images make my brain hurt.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink
  6. YAKS wrote:

    YAKS! What!

    That was pure nonesense. Way to go trying to intellectualize the process of some accomplishment you think you made here. Not that impressed to be brutally honest.

    Despite the poor delivery, I do like the concept it is very interesting, I must say. I give it an A for the idea.

    However, I give a stinkin’ FAIL for the lack of delivery… Its as if you had an “AHA” moment and tried so hard making it work but sadly it didn’t in this case… would’ve been way cooler had you pulled this off but sorry the delivery was piss poor!

    Nice try though for attempting this… maybe try to make the music make a bit more sense with the title names and maybe you need to watch a lot more Frazier to pick out certain words and splice them together you know???

    Would’ve been awesome to hear Frazier actually sing the lyrics to Closer to Roz by editing each word down to the phonetic sounds!!!! DOooo IT! I wanna see version 2. ;)) good job though nice try buddy.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  7. jack wrote:

    Have you tried larger samples, maybe auto-tuned? This doesn’t really remind me much of the original, or produce listenable tracks.

    Would be really interesting to be able to do text (or sound) analysis on larger chunks so that the output was more recognizable.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Permalink
  8. Josh Millard wrote:

    Its as if you had an “AHA” moment and tried so hard making it work but sadly it didn’t in this case…

    To be clear, it was more of an “AHA” moment and trying not very hard at all to make it work. There are a dozen things that could in theory be done to make this sort of thing work better, some of which I’m going to try going forward, but Seattleward itself was a quick one-off just to prove that it could (however roughly) be done.

    The afromb.py script is really neat but also really limited in its current form; a lot of work could be done to make it more powerful and flexible in how it goes about processing input and assembling output, and I hope to get around to doing some of that work to make it possible to operate on a more fine-grained basis for these sorts of projects.

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 11:48 pm | Permalink
  9. Awesome. not given it a listen yet (just a quick watch) – but fully understand what your trying to do, the difficult of making it ‘pleasent’, and the difficulty of the artist trying to find balance between what sounds good and what is pure to the idea.
    Nice work – been thinking of playing with ech nest, but never got round to it – so many options for auto generating music.

    This is almost the reverse of what I was doing with BB,R, but not knowing what the effect will be is half the fun. keep it up.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  10. Robert Silva wrote:

    EPIC FAIL! Thanks for wasting my time asshole!

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
  11. Fuck_USA wrote:

    whoever made that crap has too much free time on their hands. absolutely useless.

    Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 10:17 pm | Permalink
  12. Allan wrote:

    Apparently Robert Silva who posted the #10 comment had even more boring time on his hands than the guy who did this. I think you wasted your own time Mr. Silva!

    Friday, June 25, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink
  13. snmt wrote:

    clearly some of the commenters are not intimately familiar with this NIN album. i thought it was fun to see if my brain could keep track of where the actual song would be. there are funny little synch-ups, like if reznor’s voice gets higher the script uses roz’ voice. pretty much unlistenable, but very entertaining for what it is. thanks!

    Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 12:29 am | Permalink
  14. houngabounga wrote:

    Didn’t recognize a single song, feels mostly like gibberish. It’s a shame since the idea is good and the original tracks are too, I know it’s just an algorithm work but the samples should probably be played more than one at a time.

    Godspeed.

    Friday, February 25, 2011 at 4:31 am | Permalink

5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Frasier does Nine Inch Nails « Music Machinery on Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 6:32 am

    [...] Nine Inch Niles – The Seattleward Spiral [...]

  2. Nine Inch Niles | Roklintu on Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    [...] Jos skripti tekisi uuden version NINin the Downward Spiralista käyttäen vain Frasier-sampleja, se kuulostaisi tältä. [...]

  3. [...] I was excited when I heard someone had recreated Nine Inch Nails’ A Downward Spiral using only audio clips from Frasier.  But after listening to it, I thought to myself, “No, that’s as shitty as I thought it would sound.”  (joshmillard) [...]

  4. [...] love Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral as much as the next guy. So, I found the concept of Nine Inch Niles’ The Seattleward Spiral an interesting one… using a Python script, this guy basically recreated the album using clips [...]

  5. Josh Millard, Musician › Monotoning with Echo Nest Remix on Monday, August 9, 2010 at 11:00 am

    [...] A question occurred to me a while back while exploring the Echo Nest Remix toolset (see previous NIN tomfoolery): [...]

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