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February 12th, 2008

And the Grammy Goes to…Woody Guthrie???


Well, not exactly. At Sunday’s pitifully watched Grammy Awards pop-star circle jerk ceremony, mathematician Kevin Short and a team of engineers won – albeit not televised – the statue for Best Historical Album. What was this historical album, you ask? According to Julie Rehmeyer of Science News:

“Shortly after September 11, 2001, a small, heavy package wrapped in brown paper arrived in the mail at the Woody Guthrie Archives in New York City. Inside was a mess of wires.

Guthrie’s daughter Nora eventually figured out that the suspicious package wasn’t a bomb, but rather a recording of her father on a device that predated magnetic tape. After a year of searching, she managed to track down someone with the equipment to play it.

What she finally heard was a bootleg recording of her father singing a live performance in 1949. It was the first time she had ever heard him perform in front of a live audience. He had developed Huntington’s chorea and stopped performing when she was a child, and she thought he had never been recorded live.”

According to Gizmodo, Dr. Short found rhythmic sounds buried in the recording and used signal processing algorithms to piece together the badly damaged tracks, interpolating holes and correcting for distortions and speed-shifts.

Thus, The Live Wire, winner of the 2008 Grammy for best Historical Album. Thank you, Dr. Short.

[download] Guthrie Clip, before processing ——> Guthrie Clip, after processing!

[photo © Gizmodo]

[clips courtesy of Science News]



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