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From the Higgs Boson Particle to Leadbelly 194

Roland Piquepaille writes "Physicists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are using the same methods to search for the elusive Higgs Boson particle and to digitally restore audio recordings from the past. Berkeley Lab signed an agreement with the Library of Congress to digitize the many thousands of early blues or jazz recordings it has in its archives. And the results are spectacular. Compare for example, these two versions of "Good Bye Irene", before and after being optically reconstructed (WAV format, 18 and 19 seconds). This news release describes the method used by the physicists. This overview contains other details and extra references about this project." We also covered finding Higgs Boson recently as well.
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From the Higgs Boson Particle to Leadbelly

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  • Yes!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by clifgriffin ( 676199 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:36AM (#8903148) Homepage
    I can't wait to place this new digitally restored version next to my old Good Bye Irene CD, and right under my Good Bye Irene poster.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:37AM (#8903152)
    DRMed quarks will be just around the corner?
  • RIAA-MGM? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by numbski ( 515011 ) * <> on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:37AM (#8903157) Homepage Journal
    So out of the goodness of their little hearts the RIAA is sponsoring this restoration, or are they going through and copyrighting all of this material?
  • quality loss (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mister Coffee ( 771513 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:37AM (#8903158)
    Even if a lot of quality of the songs are improved a bit of authenticity of the songs is lost. The cracks and the spikes in a song can give it a certain charm.
    • Re:quality loss (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jchawk ( 127686 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:42AM (#8903182) Homepage Journal
      "The cracks and the spikes in a song can give it a certain charm"

      I would agree with this comment however the point of this project isn't to just improve music quality, but to enable the Library of Congress to save many 1000's of recordings that are so delicate that even putting a record needle on them could cause unrepairable damage to the record!
      • Re:quality loss (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Mister Coffee ( 771513 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:54AM (#8903272)
        Nowadays one can buy grammophone players with lasers instead of needles.
      • Re:quality loss (Score:2, Interesting)

        by argStyopa ( 232550 )
        Ironically moving them from a medium that (however fragile now) has lasted scores of years to some format that will probably be outdated in 3 years, and stored digitally on optical storage media which, if it's not eaten by that South American fungus, will have a lifespan of a decade tops?

        Progress, anyone?
        • Bullshit. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Ayanami Rei ( 621112 ) * <> on Monday April 19, 2004 @10:07AM (#8903843) Journal
          I've got images of the Windows 95B CD in my home directory. I don't see that going anywhere anytime soon, and I'm not even trying for preservation.

          Listen, you can by an SDAT tape drive that can read DAT tapes that were invented 15 years ago, and consolidate 10 of them into one new cartridge. And if you want to be safe, you make a copy and send that to a different site. And in 10 years there'll be a new generational standard that's backwards compatible, so you'll do another transfer then. Hell, you should be making multigenerational copies every few years and checking checksums between generations of media to make sure you're not propogating errors.

          And why will this be possible? Because companies NEED THIS. They need to keep records for ages for various purposes. So the situation you detail will never happen if the custodians of the digital archive are just SLIGHTLY aware of the marketplace. Better than just leaving them to rot, eh?
        • Cheap CD-Rs stored incorrectly (e.g. not in a container that shields them from UV radiation) have a lifespan under a decade. Stored in a metal box in even (cool) temperature conditions and only handled infrequently, this is substantially improved. Using high quality media improves this still more. By making multiple copies and incorporating additional error correction information this could be increased beyond the availability of technology to read it.

          At this point the problem merely becomes format-shif
        • What is the lifespan of a bit of information? Storage of bits can be handled many ways.
    • Re:quality loss (Score:5, Interesting)

      by image ( 13487 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:55AM (#8903279) Homepage
      Also, listen to the examples if you can. The first one is so covered in hiss and scratches from the old record that it is very hard to make out much detail to the music. The new technique seems to render a fantastic amount of fidelity. But don't worry, there is plenty of character left -- the original analog recording techniques were more than warm enough. The difference is that you can now hear the cylinder going around (when it was being recorded), rather than it being obscured by playback artifacts.
    • Noise != charm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tweakt ( 325224 ) * on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:02AM (#8903307) Homepage
      Even if a lot of quality of the songs are improved a bit of authenticity of the songs is lost. The cracks and the spikes in a song can give it a certain charm.
      Sorry, I disagree. The spikes and pops are merely a function of poor recording quality, and doesn't represent anything about the original performance Actually, it's far more likely due to higher noise floor, subtle nuances in the music are actually lost forever. The only reason you feel it sounds more "authentic" is you're used to hearing it that way. When it comes to acoustic music (classical, jazz), the closer to capturing the sound as if you were sitting right there with the musician, the better. The only coloring of the sound that's sometimes desirable is from the acoustic properties of the venue in which they were performed if it was a live show.
      • Re:Noise != charm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nanojath ( 265940 )
        I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I agree that excess noise is not signal, and the idea that something is more authentic because it's showing the age and limitations of its media is very questionable. I think it is true though that many methods of eliminating noise also end up eliminating some of the signal. I have a number of early CDs with relatively noise free but unfortunately flat, lifeless recordings that don't sound half as good as an old LP, scratches and all.

        But it seems like the m

      • Recorded music without cracks and pops is like Email without spam.
    • by SmackCrackandPot ( 641205 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:42AM (#8903624)
      The cracks and the spikes in a song can give it a certain charm.

      You can always put them back, if you really want to.
    • Even if a lot of quality of the songs are improved a bit of authenticity of the songs is lost. The cracks and the spikes in a song can give it a certain charm.

      Can't they be digitally added back in? Instant authenticity!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      No, the charm is an entirely different particle.
    • Yes and no. For a long time, recording technology led playback technology by a significant margin. The old cylinders and discs contain a lot of sound quality that contemporary listeners couldn't appreciate. As playback devices have improved, so has the quality of the sound produced from playing back the same physical medium. So if we extract a high-fidelity signal from the medium, and you want to appreciate the low-fidelity playback that your grandfather did, it would be perfectly authentic to have your

    • Even if a lot of quality of the songs are improved a bit of authenticity of the songs is lost. The cracks and the spikes in a song can give it a certain charm.

      Why, do you think the singer's voice cracked and popped like that when he sang in the recording studio? How do distortions and degradations of the original performance increase "authenticity"?

  • This may help (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 3.5 stripes ( 578410 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:38AM (#8903163)
    with the digital image restoration in the previous article, image is only half the equasion, having the sound properly restored would make a world of difference.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:38AM (#8903164)
    Haven't these maniacs ever watched Lexx?! Detecting the Higgs Boson particle will shrink the world to an ultradense particle, about the size of a pea!

    TV doesn't lie to me!
  • I wonder if these guys can help me with this cheap batch of DVD-Rs I bought.
  • by OwlWhacker ( 758974 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:44AM (#8903197) Homepage Journal
    It seems a bit sad to think that the Higgs boson detector has been demoted to a record player.
  • Improved quality? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mike Morgan ( 9565 ) * on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:44AM (#8903199)
    Perhaps the Library of Congress should have hired some acoustic engineers to do this job. The Berkeley Lab seems to have replaced one type of noise with another (random static with a pulsating hiss.) I'm not sure which is more distracting.
    • The "clean" version they've made is really a disgrace to any historian or music lover. The original was actually recorded very well and has a near perfect equalization. It sounds very natural and it's rare to hear the treble so extended on early recordings. The new version has no highs and the mid range is filled with gaussian noise and is far too prominent. Even a half-deaf recording engineer would notice that right away. Sure, the clicks and pops are reduced, but the music is completely ruined as well.
      • Evolution (Score:3, Interesting)

        by poptones ( 653660 )
        The thing is, they still have the high resolution scans of the recordings. Playing music from digitized pictures of recordings is not new at all [], this being only one more step in the evolution. But now that the project has more mainstream attention and funding, the LOC will be creating an archive of many digitized recordings that might otherwise have been lost due to their having been written off as "unplayable."

        Like all technology, this will surely improve. And, as it does, those digital pictures can be "

    • by Fratz ( 630746 )
      I suspect those cyclic noises are actually worn into the physical media at this point. It's an old record and may have been played alot, or perhaps that was an artifact of its creation.

      If you do a noise filter in Audacity 2.0, using some of the quiet parts toward the end to get the noise characteristics, you can get a very clear-sounding result. You may want to try different levels of filtering. I only filtered a little, since the defaults were too much.

  • by pendragon ( 119435 ) <dean.paxtonland@com> on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:45AM (#8903207) Homepage
    1). It's "Ledbelly"
    2). It's "Good Night Irene"
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:22AM (#8903458)
      And Ledbelly is, of course, the moniker of Huddie Ledbetter. That's why it's spelled that way. He got the knickname during his tenure in Sugerland Prison, for manslaughter. That would be his first tenure for manslaughter. Part of the Ledbelly legend is the way he got out of prison by singing.

      Huddie died in poverty in December of 1949. One month later Goodnight Irene hit number one on the charts (as recorded by The Weavers) and stayed there for longer than any song has since.

      Since that time other Ledbelly songs that have had great sucess on the charts include Black Betty, Midnight Special (written while in Sugerland, the Midnight Special was an actual train running out of Houston and prison legend had it that if it's headlight shone on you in your cell you would be released the next day. This was rather like saying that if you stuck your elbow in your ear you would be released the next day) and The Rock Island Line. Ledbelly was also a friend of Woody Guthrie. Woody's Roll on Columbia was written to the tune of Goodnight Irene (although Woody didn't realize this until Pete Seeger pointed it out to him).

      I really pissed off a barmaid one night when I ended my first set with that song. Her name was Irene. She hates that song. I found out why.

      Nice girl otherwise.

      Good night.

      • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @10:25AM (#8904003) Journal
        Since that time other Ledbelly songs that have had great sucess

        But perhaps the most telling Leadbelly song is about the time when Huddie Ledbetter, beter known as Leadbelly, came to Washington D.C. to record for Library of Congress's Archive of American Folk Song.

        Huddie and Alan Lomax were denied accomodation at several hotels because the hotels wouldn't rent to an interracial group: Huddie was black and Lomax, co-founder with his father of the Library's Archive, and, was white.

        So Huddie, with Lomax's help, wrote "Bourgeois Blues", which begins:

        Gather round people, listen to me
        Don't try to make a home in Washington, D.C.

        It's a bourgeois town, it's a bourgeois town,
        I've got the bourgeois blues, I'm going to spread the news around.

        Huddie's gone now, and Alan Lomax died two tears ago, but the song, and their work, live on.

        And even after desegregtion, Washington D.C.'s still a bourgeois town, it's a bourgeois town.
        • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @11:32AM (#8904753)
          Yeah, that's the one I've been singing in my head since about halfway through writing the above post.

          Huddie's manslaughter charges were basically semi-bogus. There was something of a tradition in Texas ( and much of the south at the time) that if there was a general melee in a bar, and someone never got up again, when the police got there they arrested, tried and convicted the biggest, toughest looking black man who hadn't run away yet. Huddie was almost always the biggest and toughest looking black man in any crowd, and not prone to run from anyone or anything (Sugarland Prison is still probably the nastiest prison in America, and Huddie earned his knickname by being the thoughest man there). That's also what made it so easy for him to sing his way out of prison. Everyone knew he was just the stand up fall guy who took the rap for a killing that couldn't actually be attributed to any one person.

          It was racist, and hardly legal, but in an odd sort of way it kept the peace, because the public (both black and white) could pretend that justice had been done, if only in spirit, and I can't recall ever hearing that Huddie ever made any real complaints about it. And he might have actually had some hand in the killings, although in a modern court with a decent lawyer it's unlikely he would ever even have gone to trial. There was simply no evidence against him.

          But the peculiar racism of Washington really, really pissed him off. The city was completely (although entirely "unofficially") segregated, and there wasn't anyplace he and Alan could go to stay or eat together, either in a "black" place or a "white" place. Even in the deep south he'd never encountered anything like that. (Dr. King had much the same experience when he went to Chicago. The unofficial, but very real, segregation of the north was much more insidious than the official segregation of the south, and continues that way in many places. Yeah, it's still a "bushwa" town).

          Pete's still with us, but the last time I saw him (which was a few years ago) I was jolted into recognition of his mortality. Pete's always been the Dick Clark of folk music, and gave off a certain air of immortality. Other than a few more wrinkles he's always looked more or less like he did back in the 50's, and acted like it. All of a sudden he's started to look, and act, well, a bit old.

          Quoting Pete on Ledbelly:

          "One year he started having to use a cane to go on stage. His voice, always soft and husky when speaking, still rang out high on the melodies, but his hands grew stiffer and less certain on the guitar. Then one day he was gone, and we were left with regrets that we had not treasured him more."

          I'm afraid it's time to start treasuring Pete while we can.

          (I hope Pete doesn't read Slashdot)

          (Ok, really, good night. At least for me. Your diurnalage may vary. Lord knows mine does, all the hell over the place)

          • by orthogonal ( 588627 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @12:39PM (#8905775) Journal
            I'm afraid it's time to start treasuring Pete while we can.

            Yeah, I know. Recently I recall half listening to Folk Alley internet radio [], which features a lot of Seeger's songs, and I though I heard the announcer comment hat "Pete was" something or another. I spent several sort-of-panicked, sort-or-resigned, sort-of-apprehensive minutes on Google news until I'd convinced myself Pete was still around to rabble rouse.

            He's almost a movement by himself.

            I saw that, even though he has that typical Leftist problem. I have a Seeger compilation (Pioneer of Folk) on which Seeger sings "Round and Round Hitler's Grave" and
            "Dear Mr. President" ("I hate Hitler...Now, Mr. President , we haven't always agreed in the past I know, but that ain't at all important now...We gotta lick Mr. Hitler...."
            and on the same compilation ""Washington Breakdown" ("Franklin D, listen to me, you ain't gonna send me 'cross the sea"" and "C for Conscription". (I think I mentioned thsi once before on Slashdot.)

            Of course, Pete's opinion on the desirability of fighting Hitler "matured" after Hitler's "Operation Barbarossa" commenced on 22 June 1941, the Hitler-Stalin Pact went down the memory hole, and Stalin jerked Comintern's strings 180 degrees.

            (On a personal note, I've always been about equally disgusted by the Stalinists and the Red-baiting McCarthyites (Joe, not Gene, of course). Stalin killed millions, but "Tail gunner" Joe was pissing on my constitution. The America Communists I've always seen as rather willing dupes who would have sold us into Uncle Joe's Gulags, but I've also admired them for all the shit they put up with for bucking trends in America, and for their support (whatever their motivation) for civil rights and workers' protections. And I love the music.

            I lost my copy of Pete's Songs of Hope and Struggle but I found a copy of Paul Robeson singing the 1944 version of the Soviet anthem. The tune is awfully rousing, and the lyrics are so boot-licking toward Stalin ("And Stalin our Leader, with faith in the people, inspired us to build up the Land that we loved."), especially given that it's on a album named Songs for Free men.

            I can't help, from my 21st century perspective, enjoying the irony in a macabre way, Robeson being vilified in this country for his idealism about a Soviet Russia, where at about the same time, as Solzhenitsyn tells us in Gulag Archipelago there was that local Communist Party rally where the applause for Stalin's name went on for thirty minutes because everyone was afraid to be the first to stop. Not to mention the anthem principally celebrates victory in the Great Patriotic War, a victory that almost didn't happen thanks to Stalin's purges of the Army and State in '37, a victory which happened only after Hitler and Stalin split Poland down the middle and Stalin destroyed the Polish elite at Katyn Forest and then at Nuremberg blamed Germany for the massacre.

            I have some Soviet recording of the anthem too --- big "proletarian" choruses of "New Soviet Men" as frightening in their raw-boned way as Hitler's blond-haired, fanatic-eyed Aryan poster boys. Still, I can enjoy the Soviet recordings, despite Stalin's 60 million victims, in a way I can't enjoy my copy of the Horst Wessel Lied or my few copies of SS marching songs -- those I only listen to occasionally when reading histories of the Nazi era. Does my hypocrisy shows too?)

            Sorry for rambling. Back to Pete.

            So I don't quite agree with his politics, but I love the spirit they represent. Even though that spirit was brutally misused in Soviet Russia, here in the U.S. the left did help bring about great things, especially the Civil Rights movement. Even knowing he was, to some degree, a "useful idiot". Because he also roused people to organize the AFL-CIO, and to march in Selma and he wrote Last train to Nuremberg! ("Do I see Lieutenant Calley?... Do I see the voters, me
    • by Siener ( 139990 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:39AM (#8903600) Homepage
      1). It's "Ledbelly"

      No it's not. His surname was Ledbetter, but his nickname was Leadbelly. More info about his life can be found here []. If you still think it's Ledbelly, look at the photo of his gravestone at the bottom of the page.

      If there are any slashdotters who don't know who the hell he is, you might know at least one song he wrote : Where did you sleep last night which was sung by Nirvana on MTV Unplugged
      • by yet another coward ( 510 ) <> on Monday April 19, 2004 @11:08AM (#8904481)
        "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" was not written entirely by Leadbelly. It borrows heavily from a folk song often called "In the Pines." I once played it following the Leadbelly and Nirvana versions, but one musician recognized it from bluegrass. Others know it as "The Longest Train" or "The Longest Train I Ever Saw." The lyrics to some versions make much more sense than others, particularly regarding the decapitation verses.

        This mixing and changing of songs is and has been very common. The urge to be authoritative is very strong, but you ought to avoid it here. I have read Ledbelly, Lead Belly and Leadbelly without finding any truly convincing arguments about which is correct. Did he carry around buckshot in his belly? Was it just from Ledbetter? I do not know. With unwritten traditions, the roads often just peter out without leading anywhere conclusive.
    • Many of his Library of Congress [] recordings have been released as "Lead Belly". Document Records "Complete Recordings of... []" series are under the name "Leadbelly" His gravestone [] says "HUDDIE (LEAD BELLY) LEDBETTER"
  • Good thing(TM) (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:48AM (#8903227)
    It's great that they have come up with a non-destructive way of digitizing these recordings. This will make the recordings easier to distribute, and I hope that many people who could not otherwise hear these recordings will get to do so via their local library or something other method.

    On a related note, why does the "after" filename contain the word RIAA? What the hell do they have to do with this? The Library of Congress recordings were made by Alan Lomax (another great american folk singer), somewhere around 1940. If the RIAA gets to make money off this, I think I'm going to be sick. Though actually, now that I think about it, I believe the RIAA has some "standards" for music formats. Hopefully that's all this is.

    • The Library of Congress recordings were made by Alan Lomax (another great american folk singer), somewhere around 1940

      1940?!? I wonder what they were recorded on - acetate? There's much better quality recordings done in the 1920's that have been remastered using technology we've had for years.

      Or maybe the LOC hasn't stored these records properly?

      • Re:Good thing(TM) (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jdreed1024 ( 443938 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:23AM (#8903464)
        I wonder what they were recorded on - acetate? There's much better quality recordings done in the 1920's that have been remastered using technology we've had for years.

        That's precisely what they were recorded on, according to the article. That, and shellac, and wax. And it's not that we can't remaster them now. In fact, I have a CD of Leadbelly's LOC recordings. It's that this is a non-destructive way of remastering them. Prior to this, remastering them was merely playing them again. Granted it was in a controlled environment, with a near-perfect stylus and the record was painstakingly cleaned, but it was still playing them, and that is by definition destructive. Think of how this will change things. You can remaster something merely by taking a picture of it (yes, i'm oversimplifying). It will make remastering these recordings cheaper and more copies will be available (since the LOC doesn't have to worry about each remastering destroying the original)

    • RIAA Equalization (Score:5, Informative)

      by north.coaster ( 136450 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:18AM (#8903435) Homepage

      Back in the good old days of vinyl records, RIAA Equalization [] was/is an industry standard for how music that is recorded on vinyl records is played back. The idea is to compensate for the fact that vinyl does not have a flat audio frequncy response.

      The link above explains it much better (and in more detail) that I can.


      • Re:RIAA Equalization (Score:2, Interesting)

        by arjay-tea ( 471877 )
        Not quite.
        Bass frequencies were attenuated before cutting the disk in order to put the grooves closer together on the disk. Treble frequencies were boosted, so that noise could be correspondingly attenuated by the playback reverse equalization.
        Some of the first CDs were made with the vinyl RIAA eq. by mistake. Boy were the artists pissed!
      • RIAA EQ wasn't standardized until the 1950's. And even then there were some holdouts - early preamps all have "eq knobs" for playing back LPs, as each record publisher had their own standard they insisted was superior (most likely due to the fact they didn't have to pay an licensing fees on their own standard tech).

        And implimenting such a curve digitally is an essentially trivial exercise, so I fail to see how that would be an issue here. Anyone who is capable of extracting high quality audio from the PICT

    • Re:Good thing(TM) (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Hater's Leaving, The ( 322238 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:46AM (#8903667)
      "come up with", eh?

      Why do I remember seeing exactly this technology (as in non-contact vinyl
      reading) demonstrated on BBC's /Tomorrow's World/ back in the 1980s?
      We saw it actually demonstrated live, it wasn't just a theoretical idea.
      IIRC they played a Cliff Richard album, and IIRC they also, with great
      humour, scratched the fuck out of it for a second test, which the reader
      passed admirably.

      That was nigh on 20 years ago. It appears that the wheel has been

    • what blows my mind is they spend huge $$$ to replicate a device that has been available to the general consumer for over 24 months....

      with a regular wintel PC (hell even a cheap one from 3 years ago) running a old copy of something loke cooledit could do the exact same job for much less money... []

      what? did they even LOOK to see if there was a OTS solution before they spend Gobs of cash to do this?

  • Mirror of WAV (Score:2, Informative)

    by paragon_au ( 730772 )
    0 posts and it down to going at 6kbps.
    Sure it'll be slashdoted soon.

    Orignal [] & Digital version []
  • I still hear static (Score:3, Interesting)

    by donbrock ( 705779 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:48AM (#8903230)
    The after version does have a much fuller and richer sound but I still heard a lot of background static. Can't this be filtered out?
    • Well, the idea is to pull out ever bit of audio information possible and archive it. If you want to post-process the data locally to remove that hiss (and any other audio in that frequency band), you can still do so, but the original should be kept pristine. After all, noise filtering is dramatically better now than it was 20 years ago. In another 50 years, I don't want an audiologist complaining about how great those 2004 re-masterings could have been if only they'd known about the Transflugian Transfor
    • We did this in a signal processing project, where we scanned old recordings and extracted the music. We tried Wiener fitlerning, but settled on spectral subtraction. Listen in []. The problem is (as an anonymous coward so wisely pointed out) that you inevitably remove some of the wanted signal as well.

  • Woot! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:48AM (#8903235)
    Slashdotted a .gov! Soon we'll be able to hold the world's governments for ransome!
  • by TheRealStyro ( 233246 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:49AM (#8903237) Homepage
    Granted, it is better without all the static. But the flutter (shwush, shwush, shwush...) introduced is still distracting and a serious quality problem. Actually, the new version gives me a low scale headache from the constant flutter.
  • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:49AM (#8903241)

    Before the song is "Good Bye Irene".

    After the song is "Good By Webserver".

    The sound of this new song is unusually pure and quiet. My congratulations to the Berkeley team.
  • Big Deal (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I ran the first sample through noise reduction with an old copy of Cool Edit and got better results. None of that lame pulsing background noise either.
    • mod parent up (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mcbevin ( 450303 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:23AM (#8903470) Homepage
      While the news release makes what they're doing sound impressive, theres little to be proud of inventing a complicated expensive method to create something worse than a simple computer program can achieve.

      The 'lame pulsing background noise' or whatever you call it is really quite bad. I haven't tried putting the original through Cool Edit but it wouldn't surprise me it all if it does produce better results as the parent claims.

      Perhaps the technique will be improved, but the article should have been a bit more honest about the current state of the technology - its claimed results really don't match what you hear when you listen to the wavs. Reminds me of some wavs Microsoft supplied demonstrating the superiority of wma to some other format. Despite being samples picked by Microsoft to suite wma, the wma's sounded much _worse_ than the other format's. But their marketing obviously realised the simple fact that 99% of the readers wouldn't bother listening to the samples, but just assume that since the samples were there, the corresponding write-up must be credible.
      • Re:mod parent up (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Peale ( 9155 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:39AM (#8903598) Homepage Journal
        That 'lame pulsing sound' is the sound from when it was originally recorded. It's the sound of the wax cylinder spinning.
        • That would explain it nicely, however do you have any references for this?

          I read the paper published by the researchers and it contained this, which seems to be saying they don't know the cause of the 'lame pulsing sound':

          A background continuous noise (hiss) is present in the optical sample. The hiss is also slightly modulated by a signal at about 4 Hz. The origin of this is not completely known but it may be related to the particular differentiation algorithm, imaging fluctuations in the edge finding p

        • That 'lame pulsing sound' is the sound from when it was originally recorded. It's the sound of the wax cylinder spinning.

          You've probably got experience dealing with these old recordings and I don't. But, I've got a couple questions. Would they have made the master on a wax cylinder at that time? And wouldn't it show up as a low-frequency rumbling instead of a high-frequency hiss?
  • Digital Needle (Score:5, Informative)

    by TwistedGreen ( 80055 ) <twistedgreen@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday April 19, 2004 @08:51AM (#8903257)
    This reminds me of this project [] (which has been Slashdotted before) which can be done with a home scanner. But this new Berkeley method is obviously much more advanced.
    • Ahh, good find. :) If I'd read your comment first, I wouldn't have had to google for it...

      The virtual gramophone is an awesome project and I hope someone with the requisite skills will pick it up and do something with it. There's a pile of 78's in the bottom of my grandma's victrola that I'd love to clean up nondestructively.

      Since all this stuff is out of copyright, there should be no problem sharing it for everyone to enjoy. Consider two records of the same music, damaged and scratched in different areas
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:04AM (#8903319)
    By colliding two audio recordings together at near-lightspeed in an underground tunnel, physicists hope to uncover the much anticipated Higgs boson, or at the very least produce a half-decent Britney album.
    • Colliding two Britney albums at high speeds makes them both better. Further research revealed that colliding a single Britney album against a brick wall improved that album to the same degree as colliding it with another Britney album. Grant proposals are being written up as we speak for extensive studies in this field, both with different celebrities and combinations of celebrities to see if this observation holds true, and under what circumstances.
  • interestingly (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:05AM (#8903326)

    There is the laser record player [].

    The cost is only $10k, plus $500 for a record cleaner.

    Anybody in slashdot land know of a cheaper version that us mere mortals might buy?
  • Scanning records (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:08AM (#8903347) Homepage
    This reminds me of a project posted quite a while back. Somebody used a plain old scanner to scan old LP's and try to convert the picture to sound. Can't remember how successful he was, I know he got some sound, but I don't reallt think it was that close to the original.

    It's way too long ago to even thing of finding a link, but if anyone has it feel free to post it.
  • big news (Score:5, Informative)

    by NixterAg ( 198468 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:14AM (#8903399)
    Besides the neat way the archiving is being done, this will help out the Library of Congress immensely in getting their archives digitized before the originals deteriorate to the point they cannot be archived at all. A few years ago, PBS (maybe on Nova) had a special about the digital restoration project at the Library of Congress. They were having to take special care to prioritize the works they wanted to save, as they didn't have enough manpower to digitize all of them before the original recordings completely rotted. Most of the recordings were one-of-a-kind, so much of the archives was expected to eventually be lost forever.

    They also emphasized about how they wanted digital version of the original recording, with all of the noise, clicks, and dropouts intact. After all, they are digitally archiving what they have, not restoring it.

    One of the biggest finds was an original recording of "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie with the following stanza intact:

    Was a big high wall there that tried to stop me,
    Was a great big sign that said, "Private Property,"
    But on the other side, it didn't say nothing,
    That side was made for you and me.

    I believe it's a one-of-a-kind and it was found on accident, as the archives literally have dozens of different "This Land is Your Land" recordings and it had previously been digitized before this version was found.
    • Re:big news (Score:3, Interesting)

      by NixterAg ( 198468 )
      Here's a link with more information about the uniqueness of the recording:
      Woody Guthrie - This Land Is Your Land []
    • Re:big news (Score:3, Informative)

      It's not a one of a kind, in the sense that the folk music community has known all along about Woody's alternative lyrics to the song. In fact Woody wrote several additional verses, as this link [] shows. Considering the state of politics back in the 1950's and 1960's, it's not surprising that these lyrics were not widely published (or performed). In fact, I know of some musicians in my own community today who refuse to sing these verses because of concern that they would offend some members of the audienc

    • Reminds me of a sign I saw on a trail in an undeveloped area: "No trespassing. Private property." On both sides of the sign.
  • by Ndr_Amigo ( 533266 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:36AM (#8903565)
    I ran the resampled version through a quick noise removal and bass boost in Audacity to come up with this:

    Obviously this was a quick job, as the sample was too short to come up with a decent noise profile.

    And to answer a quick question about the presence of RIAA in the filename.. Whilst conspiracy theories are fun here at /., and we all know Cowboy Neal did it anyway..

    I believe that 'RIAA' was a type of amplification method in old vaccum tube kits. I assume the RIAA in the filename is implying it was normalised based on the RIAA response curve.

    Disclaimer: I'm not old enough to know what I'm talking about. I'm sure there are some old-timer audiophiles around here that know the details tho :)
    • fundamental to the ability to record music on vinyl.

      Basically, it involves the master being equalised with the bass rolled-off by (up to 20dB) and the treble boosted by a similar amount. On playback, the 'phono' input on your amplifier ampplies inverse EQ to re-create the original signal.

      The reasons are two-fold:

      The initial treble emphasis followed by roll-off reduces the contribution of record surface noise from the mechanical transcribing.

      The bass rolloff means that the excurions required by th

  • Star Trek (Score:3, Funny)

    by hey ( 83763 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:45AM (#8903657) Journal
    Anybody remember the episode of the original Star Trek where somebody was drunk and driving everyone crazy singing
    Good Night Irene thru the intercom.
    Now that's TV!
    • Re:Star Trek (Score:3, Informative)

      by red floyd ( 220712 )
      It wasn't "Good Night, Irene", it was "I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen". By Lt. Kevin Riley. In the episode, "The Naked Time".
  • by Onan The Librarian ( 126666 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:45AM (#8903660)
    The LoC collection of American folk music was certainly one of the strangest ventures ever carried out by the US government. In a way, it paralleled the ancient Chinese venture that resulted in the Shih Ching (Book Of Odes). Both govs sent recording agents into the country with the directive to collect the songs of the people. The Chinese had only ink & paper (or whatever they used for paper circa 800 BC), while their US counterparts (beginning in the 1920s, I think) utilized their day's equivalent of direct-to-disk recording, i.e., big in-field acetate disc cutters with acoustic recording gear. For the most part these intrepid researchers are unknown, but they collected an incredible mass of disparate music. Black & white music from the deep South and the Appalachians, cowboy music from the plains states, music from native American tribes... The impression I have is that they were told something like "Go ye forth, collect their songs so we may know the mind of the the people". Well, that's what the Chinese collectors did anyway...

    There are some well-known LoC recordings that have gained some fame, including a series of recordings by Leadbelly and an awesome set of music and reminiscences by Jelly Roll Morton. However, both those sets were recorded "in studio" and are not field recordings. They are magnificent though.

    Btw, I should make special mention of the Lomax family. Father John and son Alan were responsible for some remarkable recordings, including the work by Leadbelly and Jelly Roll. Alan also made the earliest recordings of Muddy Waters and some excellent recordings of Son House while working for the LoC. John was something of a Texas cracker (check out his dialog with Willie McTell on the LoC recordings), but he was a brave man going into some of the places he visited. He also wrote a very weird account of his acquaintance with Leadbelly in a book he wrote about the great self-proclaimed King of the 12-string Guitar..

    Some of the catalog has been available to the public for quite a while, but I doubt that catalog has listed anything close to the amount of material the LoC must have in their vaults. Those acetate masters won't last forever, and I'm glad to learn that an attempt will be made to save those recordings.

    Btw, I doubt copyright is an issue with this material. Unless I'm mistaken I believe all of it is in the public domain now. Perhaps someone else can clarify ?

    No recent US administration would dream of doing such a project now. They definitely would *not* want to do it to know the collective mind of the people...
  • by Siener ( 139990 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @09:59AM (#8903777) Homepage
    Whether you like rock, blues, jazz or R&B they all have their roots in the early part of the 20th century among the poor black population in the southern parts of America. A big part of that history is already lost for ever.

    I am a big fan of early blues. My favourites are Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Jordan

    Indecently, Robert Jordan is the guy who supposedly sold his soul to the devil one night at the crossroads in exchange for his guitar playing skills. This story gave rise to the whole blues, rock etc. comes from the devil story.

    You can find a lot of their music on p2p networks - it's worth checking out. You'll be surprised how many songs you recognise - they have been copied and covered so many times.
    • I might be mistaken, but are you referring to Robert Johnson? As in the same Mr. Johnson who went to the cross road and sold his soul to the devil. The legend goes that he couldn't play a lick. Then suddenly one day Johnson shows up and is able to play some amazing blues. The movie cross roads uses that legend. Many modern blues musician refer to Robert Johnson, like Eric Clapton's "Me and Mr. Johnson".

      Robert Johnson was an innovator of blues guitar and did lots of things like open tunings. Many musicians

    • Sorry .. very embarrased by that one. Of course it's Robert Johnson. Robert Jorden is the author of the Wheel of Time books ... nothing to do with the blues
  • Only Step One (Score:3, Informative)

    by arjay-tea ( 471877 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @10:12AM (#8903894) Homepage
    Removing the noise is only the first step.
    A complete restoration would compensate for the transfer functions of the microphone and other recording equipment used for the particular recording. Need to archive and preserve all the recording equipment also!
    • Excellent points and suggestions. Do you know where that gear can be seen these days ? I wonder if the LoC displays it ...

      In the 1970s someone published a series of small paperbacks about interesting aspects of blues history. The series included John Fahey's graduate thesis on the music of Charley Patton. It also included a volume focused on the blues labels, and how and by whom the material was collected, recorded, and distributed. Interesting history...
  • by farrellj ( 563 ) * on Monday April 19, 2004 @10:57AM (#8904349) Homepage Journal
    CBC has been restoring their archives using a program/workstation called NoNoise. It has given us some wonderful resurections of Glen Gould's early works at the CBC, and allowed the band FM (inc. Nash the Slash) to "master" the CD release of their seminal Jazz/Rock Fusion album "Black Noise" from virgin vinyl...since someone stole the master tapes from the Canadian National Archives.

    Farrell McGovern
  • by Anixamander ( 448308 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @11:11AM (#8904515) Journal
    The second one sounds just like the first one, except with Puff Daddy going "Unhhh, Unhhh" over top of it.
  • Very interesting results! Obvious musical features masked by pops and crackles in the original "Goodbye Irene" are revealed in this result.

    But I am curious -- there is a 4-5Hz broadband undulation in the result signal which does not, but I could be mistaken, sound like motor noise from the original disc recording. The undulating noise sounds like a digital artfact. Perhaps this noise relates to the digital filters used to process the images?

  • by karmajudgment ( 762211 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @12:35PM (#8905709)
    The following judgments are based upon my listening, and my viewing of the result sound of "Goodbye Irene" in spectral form. The following three images are spectrograms of the result "Goodbye Irene". Each image has a different peak threshold, whereas all the images share the same minimum threshold of -120dB.

    Result sound viewed with -42 threshold []
    Result sound viewed with -60 threshold []
    Result sound viewed with -42 threshold []

    And the following image is a spectrogram of the original "Goodbye Irene" file:

    Original sound viewed with -42 threshold []

    Each of these spectrograms was computed using 1024 point Discrete Fourier Transforms with a factor of 8 overlap. The dimensions of the images are unlabeled, but provide a frequency range of 0Hz - 22050Hz along the vertical axis, and approximately 344 horizontal pixels represent one second of time. Darkness represents the magnitude of the signal at a particular measured frequency.

    With significant interest, I can perhaps label these axes for easier reading. Simply keep in mind that the top of the vertical dimension represents 22050 Hz.

    Given the sound quality of the result sound provided, utilizing 16-bit quantization with a sampling rate of 44.1Khz is more than adequate. But while the result is promising, it is hardly archival quality in my opinion, due to the obvious digital artifacts.

    The dynamic range of this particular music is confined by musical convention and the microphone technology available for the recording. The theoretical 96dB of dynamic range availed by 16-bit quantization is more than sufficient to represent the dynamic range of this particular music (and many others) recorded with similarly early microphony and disc-cutting technology.

    The frequency range of the music does not appear (in this result mind you) to have significant musical information above an approximate (but conservative) 11000 Hz. The frequency range availed by a sampling frequency of 44.1 KHz is more than adequate to quite faithfully represent this music. To significantly reduce the broadband pops and crackles in the recording, high frequency information is lost. Further, the recording technology available at the time probably could not accurately transduce such frequencies from the original performance either.

    The spectrogram reveals that the undulating noise in the result sound occurs at a nearly precise 5Hz. It also reveals that this "noise" is obviously an artifact of the restoration process; it really isn't noise, but the result of a time-varying filter which cuts gaussian lobes into the spectrum of the music from approximately 4000Hz to 9200Hz in a manner somewhat a kin to a wah wah pedal. The lobes can be seen clearly in all of the spectrograms I provided, but they appear more stark as the peak threshold of the spectral plots decrease. Their duration is quite close to .05 seconds.

    In my opinion, archives should preserve physical recording media as long as possible to allow transduction techniques to mature. I find the 5Hz filtering artifact present in this result to make the current state of this particular optical transduction process unacceptable for archiving. It would be a shame to replace physical media with music colored with such avoidable artifacts. I am sure that such artifacts can be alleviated and that optical scanning of phonograph records (discs and cylinders) has great promise as a transduction technique.

  • by ph43thon ( 619990 ) on Monday April 19, 2004 @01:02PM (#8906131) Journal

    How come it seems that no one is mentioning that they are mapping the surfaces of these records? That's the interesting part. That's why they are able to extract the audio from these records. They are essentially "taking photographs" of records and using a software program to simulate a needle traveling through the grooves. Removing pops and hisses is just run of the mill filtering (be it old high-pass, low-pass or newer wavelet techniques). This could be a neat new thing for record junkies to keep from futzing up their old records. Make a 3d model of the record then simulate it playing in a virtual record player.

    Isn't that the amazingly cool part??
  • I don't get it. Why do people at Berkeley need a grant to re-invent technology that has already been comercialized by people from Stanford in the early 80's? []
  • Didn't anyone even listen to the sound clip? When did Leadbelly become a woman?

    As mentioned in the press release, the clip is from the Weavers 1950 recording.

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