The Internet’s Autocanonizer takes your favorite songs and recuts them


Attention: music nerds!

In music, a canon (also known as a round) is a piece where one voice starts a melody, and a second voice repeats that melody before the first is finished — think "Row Row Row Your Boat." Here’s a fancier version of a canonThe Autocanonizer takes any song and turns it into a canon by identifying melodies or motifs within the song and repeating those parts over each other in a looping pattern. 

Not every song comes out of the Autocanonizer sounding great. After some very scientific experimentation (playing around with it for an afternoon), we found the best results come from songs that have the same chord progression throughout, and don’t modulate in key. A few of our favorites:


“Oblivion” – Grimes
Why it works: The song is two chords repeating (the tonic I to relative minor VI), and her descending “la, la, la’s” perfectly complement the recurring line “see you on a dark night.” Plus, Grimes just knows how to have fun.

“Lotus Flower” – Radiohead
Why it works: As if the chorus of “slowly we unfurl as lotus flowers / ‘cause all I want is the moon upon a stick” wasn’t haunting enough, the Autocanonizer gives us a double dose of Thom Yorke, creating a sort of delicate, out of phase stereo. It makes us yearn for a world in which two coexisting, identical Radiohead front men engage in a post-modern danceoff.


“Casimir Pulaski Day” – Sufjan Stevens
Why it works: Sufjan could teach a master class on writing songs without bridges (it’s the same V, IV, iii, I chord progression throughout). The tl;dr version of the story in this song: Pulaski was born in Poland and became a celebrated cavalry officer in the American Revolution. His holiday is observed on the first Monday of every March.

“Romulus” – Sufjan Stevens
Why it works: Because Carrie & Lowell told more of the story of Stevens’ relationship with his biological mother, this song is that much more heartbreaking. The doubling on “we grew up in spite of it” gives us the feels, man.


“Float On” – Modest Mouse
Why it works: Isaac Brock is already a pretty conflicted dude. We imagine two Isaacs combatting each other in his signature spastic vocal style, with one yelling, “All right!” with the other furiously responding “Already!”

“Carry the Zero” – Built to Spill
Why it works: Because lead singer Doug Martsch shreds. And it’s the same four chords, save for the guitar outro, which is when things really get cooking. Two Dougs = double shred.

What songs work best for you? Share your results on Twitter or in the comments below. For the audacious and programming proficient out there, the source code, which was designed by Paul Lamere, can be found here.

This story was first published as a blog post from Sideshow.

Are you with The World?

The story you just read is available to read for free because thousands of listeners and readers like you generously support our nonprofit newsroom. Every day, the reporters and producers at The World are hard at work bringing you human-centered news from across the globe. But we can’t do it without you: We need your support to ensure we can continue this work for another year.

When you make a gift of $10 or more a month, we’ll invite you to a virtual behind-the-scenes tour of our newsroom to thank you for being with The World.