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The Sound of One GIF Animating (MP3)

Tom Moody provided an answer to a question I had asked awhile back, at

“Wondering if there’s a sonic equivalent of (or parallel to) an animated GIF, and if so what it is.”

The question yielded some immediate responses at the time, beginning on May 17 in the form of comments, some collected here, at, and others at this site’s page. Among them were these suggestions: A loop? A ringtone? Samples? Even a “crankable music box”? The latter is an especially enticing idea because it locates not only a sonic approximation of lo-fi visual reproduction, but does so in a technology that predates computers, let alone animated GIFs, significantly so. The general consensus tended to be that a MIDI loop is the equivalent of an animated GIF.

Moody, about a two months later, summed up his proposal at his excellent website as follows:

It would have to be (a) short, (b) a loop, (c) digitally timed, (d) compellingly misaligned in some way, (e) easily grasped by the listener but containing some subtleties that reveal themselves in repetition, and (f) pattern-based. Obviously we’re talking about the more abstract GIFs here, not a seagull strolling into a convenience store and stealing a bag of chips over and over.

In the process of pondering the question, Moody also recorded an example that fulfilled his hypothesis (MP3).

[audio:|titles=”Three Sequencers”|artists=Tom Moody]

He explains what we’re listening to:

Here, three sequences play simultaneously. Two are the same note pattern played on different synths a few steps out of alignment. The third is a different, mostly rhythm pattern. Some unexpected syncopations, polyrhythms, and polyphonies result.

Moody’s post is at (Animated GIF of speaker found at via

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tag: / Comments: 2 ]


  1. tom moody
    [ Posted August 4, 2011, at 1:20 pm ]

    Thanks for this post, Marc. A MIDI file probably is the best answer in the sense that the music is both the art and the container, and browsers (or plugins) will tend to read them slightly differently. All the sounds in this mp3 are MIDI-triggered but the textures are unique to my software, gear, and production choices. With this experiment was trying to imagine both how a GIF would sound (a kind of impossible synaesthetic investigation), as well as to think about what we expect from a song and how a song could be more GIF-like, in the way a GIF is acceptable in itself and not just a form of truncated video. The genesis was your question, posed a couple of months ago, and later a, well, troll who griped that I frequently posted “incomplete music.” I tried to make something proactive out of this.

    • Marc Weidenbaum
      [ Posted August 4, 2011, at 5:19 pm ]

      Yeah, I really appreciated the effort that went into it. I’m not sure what your troll means about “incomplete music.” Nothing is complete until its remixes have been remixed.

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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