A 3 Year Old's Dream

Before Bieber, there was Hamsterdance – what in 1998 counted for viral on the Internet. In today’s ever-geekier times, even obscure sound software can go viral. Photo (CC-BY) twodolla / Wendy.

In this age of the 24-hour news cycle and instant publication of stories, sometimes it’s good to slow down and wait. And thus, while for whatever reason I didn’t get around to mentioning the extreme audio stretching of a certain Justin Bieber track (see Synthtopia), I can’t let an ethereal, ambient reworking of 1998 Internet hit Hamsterdance go unnoticed, here shared on SoundCloud.

As it happens, while folks have taken notice of one of the tools, this strange Web meme opens a door on a lot of free and open source sound software goodness.

HamsterDance Stretched to 800% by Stefan Anion

Thanks to creator Stefan Anion aka Stefan Weise for sending his work our way.

The technique is catching on; now we get to play the game of spotting which producers slip this software into tracks coming out in the next 12-24 months. You can thank free and open source software: Paul Nasca aka Nasca Octavian PAUL has released two tools that use the magic of FFTs, a mathematical process by which it’s possible to transform time and frequency information quickly. HyperMammut (another cool tool that does huge, single-window FFTs on sound and image) and Paul’s Extreme Stretch (the tool used on Justin’s track) are GPLv2-licensed. Lifehacker even did their own how-to on the topic.

http://hypermammut.sourceforge.net/paulstretch/ Documentation and software page
http://sourceforge.net/projects/hypermammut/ SourceForge home of both Extreme Stretch and HyperMammut (Windows binary, Linux source)
Paulstretch Mac Port for PPC/Intel – your mileage may vary, as this is an unofficial port; let us know how it goes for you in comments, Mac users

Note that Paul is also the author of the terrific ZynAddSubFX open-source soft synth. (Look closely, closely at the title and guess at the feature set and synthesis technique.)

See also the software Mammut on which HyperMammut was based; the former is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. Via Anders in comments:

I would like to mention that hypermammut is based on NOTAM ´s (Norwegian Center for technology in music and the arts) Mammut programmed by Øivind Hammer and Kjetil Matheussen

Download: http://www.notam02.no/index.php?/eng/Technology-and-text/Software/Mammut

I’d love to see some of the basic notions of this technique adapted to similar real-time patches. (Pd, ho!) Ideas, sonic wizards?

After I was first introduced to the program in the early 90s at a program at Oberlin’s TIMARA electronic tech center, I spent much of that decade addicted to convolution in Tom Erbe’s strange and wonderful SoundHack, another free sound-shaping tool for the Mac. I watched as the convolution process evolved from something I let run overnight (literally) to something that took an hour or so to something that became near-instantaneous, corresponding to the extraordinary forward march of processing speed.

It’s clear that some of these more obscure processes are going mainstream. It’s likewise evident that, as this audio has gone viral, SoundCloud really has become the “Flickr of audio” I predicted it might when it was launched back in 2008. So, I guess we’ll have to go and find some new sound design secret. We’d better just not tell the rest of you. I know I’m good at keeping lots of secr… doh!

  • Hypermammut doesn't appear to have a Windows version available, and I don't know enough about Windows programming to port it. Anyone know if anyone else has done this already?

  • Chuck

    Darren: check the second link, Hypermammut is available for Windows

    The link to the Mac port of ZynAddSubFX is broken. Does anyone know of a mirror link? I'd love to try this out. Will the VST version work on Mac?

  • I'm the guy that did the 'unofficial' port of PaulStretch. I did this without changing a single line of code; all I did was find all the prerequisite libraries and write a script to build PaulStretch with all the prereqs. So it's 'official' in the sense of 'exactly the same as the Windows version.'

    I'd like to contribute the work I did back to the original project, but Paul Nasca is MIA — he doesn't answer my e-mails. He just surfaces every few years with another crazy piece of software.

    As far as the whole extreme stretch game goes — any idiot can do it, and many have. There may be an upswing in people using it in their own tracks but I'm only interested in people who use it in interesting and novel ways. This sort of stuff — phase vocoding, granular synthesis, time stretching convolution — has been part of academic electronic music for almost 30 years; it's not going to be that exciting in and of itself.

  • Yay for Soundhack! What a great, free tool!

    I did a small stretch on a slightly earlier 'sound' file (ca. 1860. No, I wasn't around for the original recording . . . ) :

    http://fau4943.pbworks.com/case_study_dual_site .

  • Canenero

    Hi Peter

    recently i have built a Max msp patch with some granular stretch stuff in it

    here it is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5nQ6GO0ZSk


  • Anders

    Peter Kirn,
    I would like to mention that hypermammut is based on NOTAM ´s (Norwegian Center for technology in music and the arts) Mammut
    programmed by Øivind Hammer and Kjetil Matheussen

    Mammut is for Linux, Mac OSX and Windows.


  • @Chaircrusher: Thanks for writing in, and yes, I tend to agree. I will say, I think — as with some of the idiosyncrasies of the SoundHack implementation — some of what Paul did in terms of how he parameterized it here is making the results especially nice, and that’s what I think people are responding to.

    It is funny that the Web went wild for this particular example, for sure.

    I never get tired of stretching warping sound, personally, whatever anyone else thinks of it, so I’m content to keep on doing it. 😉

    Developers who disappear for spans of time or can’t be bothered, also not atypical…

    Anyone interested in ZynAddSubFX, though, note that there’s a robust community behind this on Linux, front ends, the lot.

  • 800% time stretching is a fun meme. Several facebook friends have been posting links to both existing and new ones of their own discovery. I keep threatening to post an 800% rendition of Black Sabbath's title track "Black Sabbath".

  • bliss

    Thanks for the port, Chaircrusher! I've been a fan of this app for a few years, but the Mac version tended to be a little buggy. Anyway, thanks again! 🙂

  • Ffffffffffffft

    Are you trying to throw everyone off by mentioning convolution? "Time stretching" (SoundHack process name intentionally withheld) and convolution are not the same thing by any means. Just wondering as your wording is not very clear when you mention your past love of SoundHack. I'm just saying- stop giving out all the cool tricks! 🙂

  • No, I'm not equating convolution and time stretching (though by convolving files together you can certainly end up with a *longer* sound duration)… the act of doing this obsessively with files reminded me of happy hours spent with SoundHack's convolution feature.

  • Oivind

    The convolution feature of Soundhack is amazing, and now that the processing is almost instant, it's fantastic what you can do with it – still. Such a "basic" technique, yet it can give you more amazing sounds than a lot of (commercial) plug-ins during a late night session.

    Just use the right samples and the right settings, and the sky (or the dirt) is the limit.

  • I'd like to add my thanks to Chaircrusher, the Mac port of PaulStretch works without a glitch. I wasn't going to post any run-of-the-mill stretches online, then I remembered that my favourite band Half Man Half Biscuit had done a track called "Eno Collaboration", so I couldn't resist. It is rather addictive.

  • william

    this is like the discovery of the sigur ros genoma or something like that, awesome!

  • if you sample over long periods, i am kinda assuming all stretched pieces are gonna sound the same though and will not retain much of the original. Really neat program. i've used it on short very busy tunes (1 mn) and stretch them to 5 mns and the result is very soothing.

  • I was actually kind of annoyed when this became a meme, because Paulstretch is one of my favorite things to play with. One of my secrets is all over the internet…

  • Oh crap, I must have the best extreme time stretcher out there (Photosounder, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTi_HwdlJ20 ) and I failed to capitalise on the popularity of extreme time-stretching! How can I jump on the bandwagon?

  • Inspired by Douglas Gordon's video "24 Hour Psycho", where he stretched the visuals of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" to 24 hours, I'm working on "24 Hour Psycho Killer", where I'm stretching the first track of "Stop Making Sense" to roughly 24 hours. (The process actually came in about 15 minutes under for some reason… probably a rounding error on my part…)

    Next I'm trying to work the visual side for it. It was big enough hassle running into 4GB file size caps, and 12 hour quicktime size caps along the way with the sound…