I put my thing down, flip it, and reverse it.
April 8, 2017 6:05 PM   Subscribe

In a video posted to YouTube on January 30th, Andrew Huang (previously 1, 2) set out to see what would happen if you played Beethoven upside down. That is: suppose you had a piano roll and flipped it horizontally. All the low notes become high notes and vice-versa, but the intervals between them remain the same. Here, Andrew explains the concept and reacts to his own first playing of an inverted "Für Elise." You can also hear the full "Für Elise" without the commentary. But this is just the beginning.

Many other YouTube denizens have picked up the baton and applied what has become known as #MIDIFLIP to other songs, like the Moonlight Sonata, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", and Bach's "Contrapunctus 4" (gets underway at 0:37). Surprisingly, or not, the results tend to be quite listenable.

(Though the inevitable inverted rickroll turns out to be pretty discordant.)

Wagner's "Wedding March" turns out to have a resemblance to John Williams' "Imperial Theme" when flipped (gets underway properly at 1:00). And here's "Moscow 1941" (gets underway at 0:50).

Huang did it the long way, but it has been noted that the process can be done in one click in Ableton Live. (Flipped version of "All Star" starts at 2:09.)
posted by Shmuel510 (37 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is likely what happens deep inside the head of composers.
posted by sammyo at 6:16 PM on April 8


(Flipped version of "All Star" was inevitable.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:21 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Cool. I thought the A section sounded more like Bach after it was flipped, but I guess that's not surprising since Bach had a tendency to do some of that sort of thing himself.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:24 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Joe Zawinul used to do this, as you can see here.
posted by thelonius at 6:35 PM on April 8


Oh never mind - I thought you meant the leftmost note on the keyboard is the highest, and the rightmost is the lowest - that's what Zawinul did on one of his keyboards. Why? Dunno.
posted by thelonius at 6:36 PM on April 8


Well, that would have much the same effect, provided that you played it as if on a regular keyboard.
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:39 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


My friend, so flustered by the complexity of the sight-reading music, briefly attempted to play the snare drum solo for his All-State audition with the sheet music literally upside-down. And ... he made All-State. I didn't, which was difficult for me, given that he'd been so clueless as to attempt to play something with the sheet music upside-down.

In his defense, this was the most insanely dense, complex piece of music I've ever seen and it's beyond me how anyone was expected to sight-read it. But the judge was an avant-garde percussion composer at the state's flagship university, so his expectations of high school students may have been unrealistic.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:42 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


I'm a pitch class set theorist and these all sound the same as the originals to me.
posted by invitapriore at 6:43 PM on April 8 [22 favorites]


I recall a video where the creator made a tiny paper music roll of Bach. She then played it in different inversions and topological alterations (Möbius strip, for example). Can't find it any more -- maybe deleted.
posted by runcifex at 7:40 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Ah, interesting.

The closest thing I'm finding is Crab Canon on a Möbius Strip (done virtually, without inverting the pitches).
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:55 PM on April 8 [3 favorites]


(And then of course there's the late, great Victor Borge.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:58 PM on April 8 [5 favorites]


Freshest the classical warhorses have sounded to me since I was 12 or so. Still sounds like imperialism but at least it's upside down.
posted by spitbull at 8:02 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


Music is all about tones moving through time. (In Western music, with harmony.) I'm surprised that anyone except for music theory people find this pleasant rather than annoying.
posted by kozad at 8:10 PM on April 8


The inverted Fur Elise sounds like a deep cut from an early Of Montreal album.

I recall a video where the creator made a tiny paper music roll of Bach. She then played it in different inversions and topological alterations (Möbius strip, for example). Can't find it any more

That's Vi Hart. She does the Möbius music box here and a bunch of other 'folding space-time' stuff that's similar to what's going on in this post here, again on a music box. A fine instrument!
posted by carsonb at 8:14 PM on April 8 [8 favorites]


Come to think of it, lots of composers for the music box write their music with this sort of transposition in mind. When the notes are holes in a two-dimensional plane that you crank through the machine, you can send it through four different ways.
posted by carsonb at 8:19 PM on April 8 [4 favorites]


[Fixed a link.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:28 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


The inverted All Star is really compelling. And the Inverted Bach is great, except for not resolving at the end.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:28 PM on April 8


Thanks, carsonb. Exactly!

Metafilter: Vast Active Community Intelligence System
posted by runcifex at 8:40 PM on April 8


These all sound suspiciously like movie scores. Like, maybe this is where movie scores come from. The Fur Elise one is bringing a specific movie and scene to mind, that I can't quite place. Something with an artist- grayish, a slow action or montage scene- maybe Winter Story?

Overall, this is really cool but I learned to play Fur Elsie on the piano as a tyke and it's making my hands feel confused listening to it this way.
posted by fshgrl at 9:13 PM on April 8


I'm just not sure how much better Für Elise would sound right side up banged through that basic minimal piano roll and MIDI patch set.
posted by wotsac at 10:58 PM on April 8 [2 favorites]


Man, that guy has some serious star quality. Thanks for sharing!
posted by mantecol at 11:11 PM on April 8


Other examples include 'inverted frequencies' Sega Genesis rom hacks and the music game in The Lost Mind Of Dr. Brain (basically that Beethoven Google Doodle game on steroids - putting bars of sheet music in order and flipping them horizontally and vertically).
posted by BiggerJ at 11:24 PM on April 8 [1 favorite]


That Twinkle Twinkle Little Star sounds really interesting, but I have to wonder how much of that is this effect and how much of that is the really stellar arrangement. I am very interested in listening to the original to compare.
posted by kafziel at 12:28 AM on April 9


This finally explains All Star -- it's the inverse of a good song.
posted by a car full of lions at 12:57 AM on April 9 [3 favorites]


I tried this with Pachelbel's Canon in D, and Rob Paravan still hated it.
posted by happyroach at 2:24 AM on April 9 [4 favorites]


I tried this with Pachelbel's Canon in D, and Rob Paravan still hated it.

So that got me curious, and sure enough... Inverted Canon in D (rearranged back in 2012, as it turns out) isn't half bad.[1]

The same person arranged it backwards, then inverted and backwards,[2] and then played the right-side-up-and-forwards version simultaneously with the upside-down-and-backwards version.[3]

(I love YouTube so much.)


1. From the creator: "There is only one liberty taken with the inversion: The original has some C-naturals in bars 44-51; I couldn't find any analogous accidental that didn't sound terrible, so I left the passage diatonic."

2. Note 1 applies here as well.

3. "There are three changes made to the retrograde inversion: (1) The C-naturals have been removed from the opening bars (analogous to Pachelbel's closing bars), but inserted in the closing bars to harmonize with the original version's C naturals; (2) the final four notes of the bass line have been omitted, so it will end simultaneously with the original version; and (3) the flute part is transposed up an octave, and the bass clarinet down an octave from Pachelbel's original, to minimize congestion."
posted by Shmuel510 at 5:14 AM on April 9 [2 favorites]


... but the intervals between them remain the same.

I believe all the intervals would be inverted.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:17 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Yeah, what I meant was that if, say, two notes were three tones apart, they'd remain three tones apart, just in the other direction. But I am a dilettante and don't actually understand all the stuff I cut'n'pasted in the fine print a couple comments ago, so I may have screwed up the terminology. :-)
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:14 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


Hey conservatory people, quit putzing around with this kind of thing and start composing some new music that will stand the test of time as well as these old warhorses.
posted by Modest House at 7:13 AM on April 9


So part of the reason this works, I think, is that major chords turn into minor chords when you do this, and vice versa; also if you invert a scale like this you get a collection of notes that make up another scale. So for example the chord progression C - Am - F - G, inverted around C, becomes Fm - Ab - Cm - Bbm . Which, well, sort of works. Similarly if you invert the C major scale around C (here I mean just the collection of notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C) you get the notes of the F minor scale. (Or maybe A-flat major? I'm not sure what to call it!) I'd like to see some analysis of this from someone whose music theory is less rusty than mine.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:40 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


As a kid, I used to have a keyboard that could invert everything around middle D at the press of a button, so for example middle C and the E above it swapped places. Mozart K545 sounded terrific like this, but it changed the whole piece from C major to A minor. Generally, pieces with simple chords continued to sound good, but anything with fancy jazzy chords was ruined.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:51 AM on April 9 [1 favorite]


....the F minor scale. (Or maybe A-flat major? I'm not sure what to call it!

It just depends on what note is used as the tonic. F minor is the relative minor key of Ab major.
posted by thelonius at 9:00 AM on April 9


(apologies if you meant, it's unclear what the tonic is)
posted by thelonius at 11:43 AM on April 9


♬♪ NOW THIS IS THE STORY ALL ABOUT HOW MY NOTES GOT FLIPPED TURNED UPSIDE DOWN♪ ♫
posted by InkDrinker at 12:11 PM on April 9


Oh god that Wedding Match/Divorce March/Imperial March. So perfect.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:27 PM on April 9


They remind me of a particular style of film score or early game soundtrack that I can't quite place. Music that knows it's there primarily to set the tone, but sort of plays with hints of being diegetic.

Tavener's somewhat scary setting of The Lamb does it a bit too.
posted by lucidium at 4:22 PM on April 9


Hey conservatory people, quit putzing around with this kind of thing and start composing some new music that will stand the test of time as well as these old warhorses.

There's plenty of that being written every day. There's nothing special about "conservatory music". Pieces like "Fur Elise" or "Beethoven's 5th Symphony" are only still around because they were get GOOD POP MUSIC. This stuff was the pop of the day.

In a couple hundred years, they will still be playing The Beatles and Metallica.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 6:27 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


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