ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Archive Team: Pssst, Want Some MIDI? —

Hey, remember those MIDI backgrounds so popular on some websites over the years? Sometimes the songs were great. Sometimes they really weren’t. For some people, the sound of “My Heart Will Go On” playing over a memorial site or “Crazy” (by Patsy Cline) playing over your personal weblog page was the height of tacky. For others, it was an initiation to tearing up and smiling while you read. Without a doubt, it certainly has led to millions of times, all throughout the world, of someone finding out the hard way how high their sound systems were turned up.

Naturally, a lot of the people using Geocities would have been partial to using MIDI, just as they were partial to using backgrounds or flashing animated GIFs or, for that matter, anything striking that got their page to be unique and special.  In the interim period of time, we’ve had lots of ‘designers’ and aesthetic princes declare what we “should” and “shouldn’t” do, but back when anything went, anything did.

I’ve been putting a bunch of runs through on the Geocities data acquired so far, and pulling out thematic collections. I’ve assembled one of all these MIDI songs. Update: I’ve been informed some of this archive (a handful) are mp3 files mis-labelled. Sorry about that! Consider them a bonus.

MIDI is a very interesting format, with a very cool history, one told by others with great ability. I won’t duplicate those efforts. Like most formats, when done well, it can be done really well. When not done well, it’s easier to do but your audience pays for it and you bring the general quality down. Some of the files in this collection are great. Some are really awful. All are historical to some degree.

Here’s the link to a Pirate Bay Torrent. I’ve railed about how torrents are not the be-all end-all of file distribution, but for short-term bursts, it’s a great way to go. This collection’s about 370mb, compressed. It’s about 1.5 gigabytes uncompressed. It would take, I think, months to play all this music.

Let the songs begin.


Since I had the thousands of duplicated MIDI files in one place, I decided to find out which ones were most popular. With the caveat that I only worked with the Neighborhoods-era (pre-Yahoo) set, and of course many sites had disappeared before I ran my scripts, here are the top ten most popular songs that you could have show up on a Geocities site!

Categorised as: computer history

Comments are disabled on this post


  1. JudgeDeadd says: is an useful MIDI search engine (though about 75% of links it returns are dead.)

  2. Mr. Copy says:

    It interfaces with a russian roulette server

  3. Peter says:

    Thank you and all the Archive Team very much for this.

    Loading the entire thing up in foobar2000, I quote the playlist length at 17 wk 2d 20:07:53, so yeah, about four months of non-stop playback.

  4. Daniel15 says:

    OMG, awesome 😀

  5. Surprised that Axel F didn’t make the list. Perhaps that was more a mobile phone thing?

  6. herzmeister_der_welten says:

    Well most electronic music you hear today is MIDI. Much movie score too. Any synth used in rock and pop music is MIDI, any orchestration in songs too, as long as it’s not recorded using a real orchestra.

    MIDI is mainly to be seen as a tool for composing and arranging. The quality of playback then of course depends on the synthesizers and samplers that are used. There are of course software synthesizers today. The built-in Windows MIDI playback thing is an example for a not very powerful software synthesizer.

    I’m sure the “2001 theme” sample will sound awesome and hardly distinguishable from a real recording if you use a library like the Vienna Symphonic Library [ ] for example to play it back. It costs a lot of $$$ and consists of a lot of gigabytes (about 100 nowadays I think) of real sound samples from real orchestra instruments playing every possible note in all kinds of variations in volume, attack and expression.

  7. robohara says:

    Sweet Child O’ Mine had to have been in the top 20. Seems like every page had that one for a while. I just put a midi player on my iPod Touch for next week’s trip; this’ll be great!

    • Jason Scott says:

      Rounding out the top 20, Rob, are: “Wind Beneath My Wings”, “Untitled” (Obviously many different songs), “Stairway to Heaven”, “Under the Sea”, “Ave Maria”, “The Dance” (Garth Brooks), “Linus and Lucy (The Peanuts Theme)”, “Music” (Many songs), “The Simpsons Theme”, and “Music Box Dancer”.

  8. Alkivar says:

    that Mission Impossible remix sounds like the Moby version:

  9. deepgeek says:

    Another great ware! Da Bomb!

    At first I had fear over piratebay as a tracker, because of their legal stuff. But when I retried later, it turned out that there were no seeders, I got it, and now I am seeding. BTW, initial help in the irc channel was very freindly.

    Keep up the great work!

    (currently rocking to “White Wedding” via the “freepats” library, and feeling nostalgic!)

  10. Ro says:

    What?! No Macarena? That thing was everywhere.

  11. Aaron Davies says:

    i’m surprised “hotel california” and enya’s “sail away” didn’t make the top ten. those are the two i remember hearing everywhere.

  12. sep332 says:

    Does anyone have a good sequencer and GM or Soundfont banks?

  13. coda says:

    thanks for this. i think geocities seriously took about 90% of the MIDIs off the internet when it went down.