Here's W.C. Handy's 1914 song St. Louis Blues, performed by Handy at some point in the 20s, probably.


I should add that's a 341KB opus file at 16kbps.

The flac file it was derived from (found here: is over 60MB.

I went from over 60MB to just over 1/3 of an MB.

And a close listen with some good headphones or speakers will reveal some minor differences on the compressed file, but holy shit it's 341KB.

Here's another rendition that's 10KBps, and that extra 6KB is really missed.

What I'm saying is that modern music compression technology has gotten really really really good.

341 KB for a 3 minute song.

This poster from is nearly 4MB.

12 times the storage space as our song.

Here's Kid Ory's Creole Trombone as a 413KB, 16Kbps opus file.

The "original" here is a pirated recording released in the early 20s of an impossibly rare jazz side from the first black jazz band from New Orleans to cut a record.

Piracy paved the way for preservation.

Now it's in the public domain, and I've compressed it down small enough that it fits more than one copy on a floppy disk.

I've made it small enough that it can be transmitted by basically any means.

It would take a little under 3 hours to transmit this over a standard hayes modem, or to store it in Kansas City Standard.

22 minutes to transfer at 2400 baud.

Faster than real time on standard 56k dial-up. (a little under 1 minute!)

Oh. Apparently mastodon is converting these back to mp3.

That's unfortunate.

One sec.

Here's Kid Ory's Creole trombone:

And here's St. Louis Blues

Half a megabyte for 6 minutes of music.

You'll have to download them and play them locally, until I write a blog post that embeds a player, but they are what I said they were, and they sound find.

Both of these songs are in the public domain in the US.

The recording of Kid Ory's Creole Trombone is definitely in the public domain in the united states.

The recording of st louis blues may or may not be in the public domain in the united states. I'm having a hard time dating it. says its from the 40s, but that seems ... unlikely considering the shit quality of the recording compared to the standards of the 40s.

It's more likely that this is an earlier recording, sometime in the 20s, I'd imagine, but I can't find any evidence one way or the other.

Handy recorded this song a Lot, and figuring out which particular recording this is isn't trivial.

But, the song is public domain, and the recording is old enough (and compressed enough) that no one is going to give a shit about me sharing it.

There are public domain recording of that track, if that one isn't one.

I'll find one later that's less ambiguous. For now, I was just enjoying making small files.

@ajroach42 that recording is 1925. Handy is from Florence and I’ve heard it a thousand times, and used to do lights and sound for a play about him yearly. Also been to his house where they have an original I believe

@ajroach42 The trombone player sure likes his schtick. I like it less. Remove that part and the song is really good.

@ajroach42 at those bitrates it might be guessing wrong which codec to use; you can set it straight by specifying --music on the opusenc command line, and it really does make a difference

@ajroach42 for example: generated with

$ ffmpeg -i 'St. Louis Blues - W. C. Handy-restored.flac' -ar 8000 handy-blues.wav
$ opusenc --bitrate 10 --music --downmix-mono handy-blues.wav handy-blues.opus

i think it sounds objectively quite good, and for 10kbps somewhat miraculous

@thamesynne @ajroach42 This is what happens to my FediVision 2022 entry with those settings. So, not perfect, then...

@DHeadshot @ajroach42 in fairness, it really only works because of the already low bandwidth, scratchy quality and poor SNR of 1920s-era recordings

@DHeadshot @thamesynne try opusenc directly, without converting to an 8khz wav first.

Something like opusenc --bitrate 12 --music --downmix-mono infile.wav outfile.opus

12 or 16 Kbps will produce dramatically different results as well.

@ajroach42 @thamesynne Doing that, there's more twang in the notes for some reason (like they're being played on rubber bands), the bass sounds like farting and the hiss just crunches...

@DHeadshot @thamesynne It's really agressive compression, so it can cause problems.

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