Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Suzanne has been referred to as the "Mother of the MP3" as it was her voice that was used as the model for Karlheinz Brandenburg's compression algorithm. From Business 2.0 Magazine:

"To create MP3, Brandenburg had to appreciate how the human ear perceives sound. A key assist in this effort came from folk singer Suzanne Vega. I was ready to fine-tune my compression algorithm, Brandenburg recalls. Somewhere down the corridor a radio was playing [Vega's song] Tom's Diner. I was electrified. I knew it would be nearly impossible to compress this warm a capella voice.

Because the song depends on very subtle nuances of Vega's inflection, the algorithm would have to be very, very good to select the most important parts of the sound file and discard the rest. So Brandenburg tested each refinement of his system with Tom's Diner. He wound up listening to the song thousands of times, and the result was a code that was heard around the world. When an MP3 player compresses music by anyone from Courtney Love to Kenny G, it is replicating the way that Brandenburg heard Suzanne Vega."