DJ API’s secret sauce

Last week at the Echo Nest 4 year anniversary party we had two renown DJs keeping the music flowing.  DJ Rupture was the featured act – but opening the night was the Echo Nest’s own DJ API (a.k.a Ben Lacker)  who put together a 30 minute set using the Echo Nest remix.


DJ API at work (Photo by Jason Sundram

DJ API at work (Photo by Jason Sundram

I was really quite astounded at the quality of the tracks Ben put together (and all of them apparently done on the afternoon before the gig).  I asked Ben to explain how he created the tracks. Here’s what he said:

1. ‘One Thing’ – featuring Michael Jackson’s (dj api’s rip)

I found a half-dozen a cappella Michael Jackson songs as well as instrumental and a cappella recordings of Amerie’s “One Thing” on YouTube. To get Michael Jackson to sing “One Thing”, I stitched all his a cappella tracks together into a single track, then ran afromb: for each segment in the a cappella version of “One Thing”, I found the segment in the MJ a cappella medley that was closest in pitch, timbre, and loudness. The result sounded pretty convincing, but was heavy on the “uh”s and breath sounds. Using the pitch-shifting methods in, I shifted an a cappella version of “Ben” to be in the same key as “One Thing”, then ran afromb again. I edited together part of this result and part of the first result, then synced them up with the instrumental version of “One Thing.”

2. One Thing (dj api’s gamelan version)

I used afromb again here, this time resynthesizing the instrumental version of “One Thing” from the segments of a recording of a Balinese Gamelan Orchestra. I synced this with the a cappella version of “One Thing” and added some kick drums for a little extra punch

3. Billie Jean (dj api screwdown)

First I ran summary on an instrumental version of Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (another YouTube find) to produce a version consisting only of the “ands” (every second eighth note). I then used modify.shiftRate to slow down an a cappella version of “Billie Jean” until its tempo matched that of the summarized “Single Ladies”. I synced the two, and repeated some of the final sections of “Single Ladies” to follow the form of “Billie Jean

It was a great set and everyone had a good time listening to the morphed tunes. At the next party hopefully we’ll get to see Ben do some live remix performance programming during the set (which of course won’t be a set, it will really be a python list).

, , ,

  1. #1 by Nick on July 20, 2009 - 10:08 pm

    I don’t think trackbacks are working, but I responded to this (and your boom boom pow) over on my blog:

    These examples (especially the first) are really wonderful!

  2. #2 by zazi on July 21, 2009 - 4:34 am

    Yes, that’s a cool usecase – Dj API. Now, its up on enthusiastic users to demostrate the power of the Remix API. The future will show wether this API is just a nice toy to merge and modify sounds or to “create” really good music.
    In the first example the vocals sounds often clipped, but the second track is real hot shit, which can become a dancefloor filler ;)

    Cheers zazi

  3. #3 by brian on July 21, 2009 - 8:02 am

    absolutely zazi, we really hope some people make some great tunes w/ remix, none of us want this to get all academic. Unfortunately at the moment the people that know it best are also developers of the system– which generates a massive “fish / cut bait” resource contention problem w/r/t making music and working on the thing that makes the music….

  4. #4 by yhancik on July 21, 2009 - 8:24 am

    It already came to my mind with your Boom Boom Pow post, and it’s even more obvious now, but it totally reminds me of the work of the new media artist Sven König. sCrAmBlEd?HaCkZ! in particular.

    Have a look at this video where he explains the process and shows some examples :

    More on &

    I think that should interest you.

  5. #5 by mhodges on September 9, 2009 - 12:32 pm

    >I was really quite astounded at the quality of the tracks Ben put together

    not me. sounds awful.

  1. Top Posts «
  2. Hacking on the Echo Nest at the Berlin Music Hackday « Music Machinery
%d bloggers like this: