Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Hacks: Articles about programming in Python, Perl, PHP, and whatever else I happen to feel like hacking at.

Play this song backwards in iTunes

Jerry Stratton, March 31, 2007

This doesn’t work in the combination of Quicktime Player 10.0 and Snow Leopard 10.6.7. I don’t know at what point it stopped working. It appears to be breaking the music into short frame-like clips, playing the clips forward, but stepping through them backward, making it sound even more disjointed but without revealing the backmasking. That’s just a guess, though. It’s definitely not intelligible any more, and I don’t know how to make it work as seamlessly as this script once did.

I was listening to the B-52’s Detour Thru Your Mind and got to the end where Fred Schneider is clearly speaking backwards. A quick search for a “play me backwards” in iTunes found nothing. A quick search on Google found a Mac OS X Hint for playing a track more quickly, with the comment inside that if you give it a negative number, it will play backwards.

A close look at the script indicated that it was exactly what I needed. The script will open the current track in QuickTime Player, go to exactly where we were in iTunes, and start playing from that point. The only change I had to make was setting the playback rate to a negative number.

[toggle code]

  • --first, pause iTunes and get the current playback location
  • tell application "iTunes"
    • pause
    • --get the current track
    • set my_track to location of current track
    • --remember where the playback head is
    • set my_seconds to player position
  • end tell
  • --second, open QuickTime and start playing
  • tell application "QuickTime Player"
    • --open the iTunes file
    • open my_track
    • set my_movie to first movie
    • --go to where we left off in iTunes
    • -- time scale no longer necessary
    • --set ts to time scale of my_movie
    • set ts to 1
    • set current time of my_movie to my_seconds * ts
    • --start playing backwards
    • set rate of my_movie to -1
  • end tell

Copy this script, paste it into Script Editor, and save it in your iTunes scripts folder as “Play Backwards”. (Enable the Script Menu by using the AppleScript Utility in the AppleScript folder in your Applications folder. Use “Open iTunes Scripts Folder” from the scripts menu in iTunes.)

In your scripts menu you’ll now see your “Play Backwards” script while you are using iTunes. Cue up the end of some vocals you think are backwards, pause, and choose Play Backwards.

For example, cue up to:

ArtistAlbumSongLocation
The B-52sBouncing Off the SatellitesDetour Thru Your Mind4 min 53 sec
Bob & Doug McKenzieThe Great White NorthBlack Holes1 min 26 sec
Insane Clown PosseThe Amazing Jeckel BrothersEchoside2 min 31 sec
Led ZeppelinIVStairway to Heaven4 min 42 sec
StyxKilroy Was HereHeavy Metal Poisoning0 min 6 sec
“Weird Al” YankovicIn 3DNature Trail to Hell3 min 46 sec
“Weird Al” YankovicBad Hair DayI Remember Larry3 min 18 sec

You have to know Latin to get the Styx one. The B-52s and Al Yankovic’s Nature Trail to Hell are the funniest.

The Led Zeppelin one is pretty damned weird. Totally fucked up. Unlike the others, it is clearly spoken forwards. But if you see the words in front of you, it’s hard not to hear them in the music. This is most likely an example of how easily the human mind is tricked into finding patterns and sense where none exists.

It’s probably just psychological; you’ll want to listen to it backwards before reading the supposed words. They’re pretty unintelligible (for me, at least) unless I’m looking at the words as I’m listening to them.

Oh, heres to my sweet satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is satan. He’ll give you, give you 666. There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad satan.

Update: I got Bob & Doug McKenzie’s Great White North as a gift, and added that to the list.

Second update: There was a better way to get this to show only in iTunes.

Update (April 12 2011): Quicktime Player no longer uses or needs “time scale”, so I’ve removed it.

  1. <- ETech 2007
  2. Snakelets Blog ->