Thursday, September 11, 2014

Game, Set, Bleep, Bloop...

Environmental sound has been used as long as man has been creating music. Drums mimic heartbeats, mutes on horns mimic voices, everything from the demons of hell (Saint-Saens Danse Macabre) to typewriters have been invoked or actually produced to flesh out scores and performances.

The industrial music genre looked at sound as part of our environment and turned it's eye and ear to themes such as our growing reliance on machinery and the dehumanizing effects of mechanization. With the advent of samplers and sequencers the tools for working with environmental sound not only grew but became more affordable and, therefore, more democratic. Today Children's toys do this for a few bucks and anyone with a smart phone can capture sound, manipulate it, and toss their completed work into a song or ringtone. 

And as you use that smartphone, or browse your web on your computer, tablet, or laptop  advertisers and business are scanning your searches, clicks, and choices and feeding that data into algorithms that help them predict patterns, sales, market trends and more.

So really, it was only a matter of time until a player in the data business decided to co-op the themes of man/machine and  use art to display their wares. Enter IBM, The US Open Tennis Match, and a pile of analog synths. A nice touch being many of these are classic analog modulars from a different place and time including an EMS Synthi and Arp 2600. 

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem  teamed up with Tool designer Patrick Gunderson and his team to come up with an interactive self generating program that would take raw data from the tennis match in real time (Serves, scores, faults, player names, etc) and then synthesize that to controller data which would then be fed to Murphy's collection of instruments. A good overview is provided by FastCoCreate.Com here:

Interactive Data interface for Instruments

All the matches are uploaded on this site: . The results sound like pings, whirs, and percussive yelps rather than mainstream beats or melodies but if you skip around and listen to different games you can hear distinct themes and sounds emerge.  For those with less  avant tastes apparently some of the music will be edited and remixed for an upcoming album based on the results. For those who want an immediate fix however, try this match between Serena Williams and Varvara Lepchenko!/match/WS301

Serve on!