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Justin Bieber, PaulStretch, and the Slow Motion Music Quiz

This morning’s meme seems to be Slow Motion Justin Beiber, the entertaining result of taking Bieber’s U Smile and stretching it like taffy with a nice piece of open source audio processing called Paul’s Extreme Audio Stretch (but its friends call it “PaulStretch”). The result is a weirdly ethereal ambient piece that lasts for over a half hour.

But what if you throw other stuff at PaulStretch? It turns out it does a pretty nice job of turning anything into a variation on gooey ambiance, though the results do vary in the details from song to song.

So here’s the question: can you recognize super-slow, super-smoothed versions of popular songs? I’ve picked two dozen highly recognizable songs at random out of my music library, fed small you’d-know-it-if-you-heard-it clips of each into PaulStretch, and presented the results below. Give ‘em a listen, take your best guesses in the comments if you like.

1-6

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[Oops! #4 was a dupe! -j]

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7-12

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13-18

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19-24

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For the acoustics/processing nerds: the software does some fairly aggressive audio processing to manage to create slowed-down music that doesn’t sound like choppy hell—as a result, it leaves a fairly strong acoustic imprint on everything it touches, and between the major tempo shift things get really smeared. I threw System of a Down’s Chop Suey at it and the rapid-fire vocals just turned into big echoey smears.

This is all tweakable, of course, and the Windows version at least is incredibly simple to get going. I highly encourage you to give it a shot if you’re at all interested in this output. Just download, extract, and start feeding it audio files and messing with the controls. I kept the settings at default for all of these: about 8x expansion in time, about 7k samples. Play with both, you may find that different settings work particularly well for different songs.

38 Comments

  1. Slack-a-gogo wrote:

    Way cool – there goes my lunch break! Figured out # 2 right away before the vocals “kicked in” thanks to that scream. Is the #4 the same cut?

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Permalink
  2. Josh Millard wrote:

    Yeah, I accidentally wrote it twice to different filenames and didn’t catch that before putting the post together. Silly me. And yeah, I’d put that one on the easy side of the scale, especially for folks who have listened to the original a lot.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  3. Slack-a-gogo wrote:

    Yes – #2 was easy. I got cocky and thought I’d knock out a bunch more, but now I can’t figure out any others. Is one of them Beastie Boys? I ruled them out, but going back I think it might be.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  4. Shutterbun wrote:

    Very nicely compiled. I’m still going through them, but #2 was quickly recognizable. Thanks for making these! (saw this while lurking on Metaflter)

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  5. Shutterbun wrote:

    Couple of guesses:
    5. something by Queen?
    8. Tom’s Diner
    9. Free Fallin’
    11. Intergalactic
    21. Going the Distance by Cake
    22. Revolution by the Beatles?
    24. Something by Sinead O’Connor?

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  6. uncleozzy wrote:

    #5 sounded like Queen to me too, but I couldn’t place it. Same with #18: I know the melody, but I can’t place it (maybe the melody on the left of #22, too). I’ve got:

    1. All You Need Is Love
    2. Another Brick in the Wall
    3.
    5.
    6.
    7.
    8. Tom’s Diner
    9. Free Fallin’
    10. Sweet Emotion
    11. Intergalactic
    12.
    13.
    14. Love Shack
    15. mmm mmm mmm mmm
    16. The Final Countdown
    17. Once in a Lifetime
    18.
    19.
    20. Sunday Bloody Sunday
    21. The Distance
    22.
    23. Yellow Submarine
    24. Zombie

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink
  7. Josh Millard wrote:

    Helpful feedback:

    There have been a number of correct guesses so far, and a number of incorrect ones.

    Heh.

    The misidentifications are most interesting to me; I’ll need to try doing side-by-sides on those at some point.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  8. uncleozzy wrote:

    What’s really interesting is how smeary the transients get. You wind up with a series of tones and general vowel sounds instead of vocals.

    And it’s also really difficult to identify melodies (or even progressions) when they’re soooooo slooooooowwwwww.

    This is an interesting way to listen to music, actually. A parlor trick, maybe, but also more than that.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink
  9. Josh Millard wrote:

    Yeah, the death of the transients is really the most notable effect the processing itself has.

    But I think more interesting as a psychoacoustic showcase is, as you say, the difficulty in pattern recognition that this sort of thing induces.

    It’d be interesting to take a few really-obvious clips and timeshift them at several different intervals and properly quiz people to see where the thresholds of recognizability are. 2x = solid, 4x = getting sketchy, 8x = really difficult, etc.

    Be interesting to do the same thing with speed increases as well, though I’d bet that folks’ ability to catch a fast version would be better than their ability to catch slow stuff; there’s probably serious short-term memory and attention stuff to consider there even aside from however our brains manage to perform pattern recognitions on melodies and harmonies and such.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink
  10. Byron C. wrote:

    #5 triggering the Queen responses is pretty great: Not only is it actually Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” (of all things), but it really does sound like it could be Queen!

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink
  11. Byron C. wrote:

    No idea on #3; #6, meanwhile, only reminds me of Everclear’s “I Will Buy You A New Life”. Yes, I may have spent too long in the 1990s.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Permalink
  12. uncleozzy wrote:

    Ah!! Well, I knew I recognized it.

    Also, I think you’re right on #6. The vowel sounds are right. “I will buy you a garden, where your flowers can bloom. I will buy you a new car, perfect shiny and new.” It’s actually pretty clear, and in the right key.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink
  13. Dave Finton wrote:

    Number 18 is “Particle Man” by They Might Be Giants

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
  14. Dave Finton wrote:

    Number 19 is “Space Oddity” by David Bowie (I’m starting to get good at this)

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Permalink
  15. uncleozzy wrote:

    Ah, Particle Man. That was, for me, absolutely a case of short-term memory just failing because the phrase was way too long. I couldn’t rely on tone because I just don’t know the song that well, and I absolutely couldn’t wrap my head around a melody at that tempo.

    (Also I am very obviously wrong on #10.)

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  16. Dave Finton wrote:

    Ah, I got stuck on the others that weren’t already identified. It seems the hardest ones are the songs that use a lot of dissonant chords as those brief transition notes that normally blend in with everything else because of their brief intervals. It’s tough following a melody that’s just *this* side of familiar with when all of the sudden I’m interrupted by the equivalent of a 5-second-long car horn that forces me to start over again.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink
  17. Josh Millard wrote:

    Good spotting so far in any case. Uncleozzy has 10, 16, and 23 wrong but the rest of his guesses were correct; Byron is right on 5 and 6; Dave’s got 18 and 19 right.

    Really interesting to see how this plays out. And, again, on some of the ones that haven’t gotten correct guesses yet I really can’t recall without referencing my notes what they were. This is a Hard Problem.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink
  18. ShutterBun wrote:

    Dave, I was thinking “Particle Man” on 18 as well. Nice to know I’m not entirely crazy!

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink
  19. mexican wrote:

    #3. blister in the sun
    #12. is this love
    #13. some cure song (don’t know the title)
    #18. particle man (hard! because i haven’t listened to this song in many years)
    #19. space oddity
    #22. where it’s at

    I was fully planning on cheating by speeding up all the songs but guessed all of them while waiting for the tracks to download. i don’t know enough about the cure to be able to find the name of the song but I know it almost well enough to cover (except the lyrics, of course). I think 6 and 7 are songs I don’t know well enough to guess from the parts.

    this was fun! One of these days I need to get some cure records.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
  20. mexican wrote:

    oooh! more songs to guess! and no cheating this time.

    #10. daft punk song (do they have titles)
    #16. not saying. why do you have access to this song?
    #23. is this an eminem song?

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Permalink
  21. Dave Finton wrote:

    Shutterbun: I recognized the accordion riff immediately even in slow motion, pretty much after the third note after it started playing. It’s one of my favorite TMBT songs. :)

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink
  22. ShutterBun wrote:

    @Mexican: Regarding #23; yes, yes it is. I just got it.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Permalink
  23. ShutterBun wrote:

    @Mexican: as soon as you said “some Cure song” I got it. (Just Like Heaven)

    It’s also interesting how some of these songs (once realized) cannot be UN-heard. “Buddy Holly” and “Just Like Heaven” are now plain as day every time I listen to the slowed down tracks.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Permalink
  24. ShutterBun wrote:

    #7′s gotta be System of a Down, but their mention in the blog post through me off.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 7:56 pm | Permalink
  25. Josh Millard wrote:

    Honest to god, I forgot that I had kept Chop Suey in the mix when I mentioned it in the writeup. But the opening string thing there was much more interesting than the vocal blur I mentioned.

    Anyway, good further work. #10 is correct but only half credit so far.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 7:58 pm | Permalink
  26. Generic Blog Commenter wrote:

    #10 – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink
  27. Josh Millard wrote:

    Bing!

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
  28. Dave Finton wrote:

    Number 24 is “Zombie” by the Cranberries. (I think)

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 12:43 am | Permalink
  29. Dave Finton wrote:

    On one note, I realized in my post above I inadvertently typed “TMBT”. No they are not Turtles. They Might Be Giants. My Bad.

    Anyways, I thought I’d type up a bit of a score card. No hints here except for the ones that Mr. Millard had personally confirmed explicitly in his posts here. If it’s not confirmed, its got the “***” around it.

    1. All You Need Is Love
    2. Another Brick in the Wall
    3. ***** No Answer Yet *****
    5. Buddy Holly
    6. I Will Buy You A New Life
    7. ***** No Answer Yet *****
    8. Tom’s Diner
    9. Free Fallin’
    10. ***** No Answer Yet *****
    11. Intergalactic
    12. ***** No Answer Yet *****
    13. ***** No Answer Yet *****
    14. Love Shack
    15. mmm mmm mmm mmm
    16. ***** No Answer Yet *****
    17. Once in a Lifetime
    18. Particle Man
    19. Space Oddity
    20. ***** No Answer Yet *****
    21. ***** No Answer Yet *****
    22. ***** No Answer Yet *****
    23. ***** No Answer Yet *****
    24. ***** No Answer Yet *****

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 1:33 am | Permalink
  30. mexican wrote:

    correct me if I’m wrong but I think the only ones that haven’t been explicitly guessed are #16. my humps (didn’t want to say it) and the title for the eminem song at #23. I don’t know the title for #23, but it is an eminem song.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 7:07 am | Permalink
  31. Josh Millard wrote:

    Good morning!

    Yep, mexican has it right. Here’s the full list, based on the various correct answers people have contributed throughout:

    1. All You Need Is Love
    2. Another Brick in the Wall
    3. Blister In The Sun
    4. [N/A]
    5. Buddy Holly
    6. I Will Buy You A New Life
    7. Chop Suey
    8. Tom’s Diner
    9. Free Fallin’
    10. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
    11. Intergalactic
    12. Is This Love
    13. Just Like Heaven
    14. Love Shack
    15. Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm
    16. My Humps
    17. Once in a Lifetime
    18. Particle Man
    19. Space Oddity
    20. Sunday Bloody Sunday
    21. The Distance
    22. Where It’s At
    23. An As-Yet Unnamed Eminem Song
    24. Zombie

    Excellent work, everybody. I’ll see if I can draw any useful basic conclusions from what got guessed right and wrong and in what order for any continuing fiddling I do with PaulStretch along these lines.

    As for why My Humps is on the list, it fit my loose criteria very well: it was well-known (if infamous in this case) in recent memory and has an element that would be instantly recognizable before processing. It’s actually on my short list of go-to test input for some kinds of music weirding tests, along with e.g. O Superman and Tom’s Diner

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 7:28 am | Permalink
  32. Byron C. wrote:

    I didn’t have a clue on #23 until Mexican and Shutterbun got at it, so they really deserve the credit here. That being said, I’m pretty sure it’s “Without Me”; though Eminem’s lyrics are even harder to make out than most (the Chop Suey Principle at work), the rather sinister tones of the beat come through pretty clearly.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  33. Josh Millard wrote:

    Just so!

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink
  34. ShutterBun wrote:

    (for the record, I knew it was “Without Me” at the time I posted, but felt like prolonging the intrigue long enough for Mexican to get it)

    Hats off to Josh for a thoroughly entertaining bit of blogging. (if I can ever get around to springing $5 to join MetalFilter, I’ll thank you properly)

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 1:03 am | Permalink
  35. fleacircus wrote:

    It’s all just Slowdive/Vangelis mashups and this is a put-on, right?

    Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 1:15 am | Permalink
  36. Eric wrote:

    Does PaulStretch work in reverse? Maybe I can finally figure out what’s happening in all those Sigur Rós songs! =D

    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink
  37. Josh Millard wrote:

    As a matter of fact, clever duck Paul Hunt went ahead and sped Sigur Rós up. Wonder no more!

    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Permalink
  38. Garrett wrote:

    #2, #14 and #21 were the easiest for me … maybe there’s something about speaking (or screaming) that’s easier to pick up.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

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