How to make music out of the Mueller report redactions

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Four rows of 8 small pages of the Mueller report are displayed in a grid. Several are redacted — one is completely redacted.

Several redacted pages of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election are seen in a photo illustration.

Credit:

Reuters illustration

About 11% of the 448-page Mueller report is redacted.

How do we know? Developers at The World and our partner company, PRX, counted every character.

No, really. (There are 1.2 million characters, if you're curious.) 

You can take a look at this Google spreadsheet, which shows the number of lines per page. They counted the number of characters per line and then estimated the number of characters in each redacted section.

So, page 20 is a doozy. A total 96% of that page is redacted. The only readable words are “graphics and IT” and some footnote material. Page 38 is entirely redacted, except for the page header and the page number.

Then, we went a little further. We sometimes sonify data to help listeners hear data on the radio. Using Python, you can convert a CSV file of data into a MIDI file. Once you have the MIDI file, you can use software such as Logic or Garage Band to make music.

So Ryan Cavis, a technical lead at PRX, had a little fun with the Mueller report redactions.

(Tip: There's a lot of redaction near the 30-second mark. You can also watch the video on YouTube.)

He chose an “eerie” sounding synth and set a beat. Each eighth-note is one page of the report.

The pitch varies based on the percentage of the page redacted. But volume also represents the amount of text on a page. 

That means, for example, the nearly blank title page is 0% redacted but has very little content, so it’s one of the quietest notes in the composition.

And that’s how we turned the Mueller report redactions into a song.

You can look at the redaction percentages here or download the .midi file and make your own song out of the Mueller report.  

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