The Sound of the Discussion of Sounds


The Sound of the Discussion of Sounds is a real-time composition and performance computer program built in PHP, MySQL, Max/MSP and Ableton Live that allows listeners to musically hear the subtle changes that occur over time for trending and popular musical artists on Twitter. It is a piece of music that explores the discussion of music. Public opinion is often describes as fickle, but how fleeting is this popularity? Graphs, charts, and datasets give us a glimpse into the short lived nature of fame, but for the most part are limited to two dimensions at a fixed point in time. By making music with data gleaned from social media (Twitter, in this instance) the very nature of the ongoing discussion about musicians and their craft is built into and experienced through a piece of music. This piece will last for as long as the artists it is referencing remain in the popular discussion. As artists lose their hold in the public?s eye the piece will become more and more sparse, until finally there is silence. This may take days or weeks or perhaps even months, and during the process we will be able to hear these changes take place in a way that is both beautiful and thought provoking.

The Sound of the Discussion of Sounds was written and chosen as a finalist for the 'Listening to the World Listening' Sonification contest at the 2012 ICAD conference in Atlanta, GA.


The Sounds of the Discussion of Sounds - Version 1

This version was recorded on February 9th from 9:30 to 11:30 am. It assigns ascending notes in an A major chord to the sixteen most popular artists of the day and adjusts their corresponding note velocity over time based on their rise and fall in popularity. It was originally recorded at 20 beats per minute with the note updated every 30 seconds. After speeding it up to 800 beats per minute, we have an interesting picture of how the discussion of these sixteen artists changes in the span of two hours.

The Sounds of the Discussion of Sounds - Version 2

This is a sample of the program running in real-time. In this version the droning background note is powered by the most popular artists of the day, much in the same way as version 1. When the Max/MSP application is launched a root chord is created from these artists in the key of A major (from MIDI value 57 to 74). The program continually refers to the parsed JSON data, and every time there is a change in the popularity of any artist, it triggers the note to be played via Ableton Live. The popularity change of each artist increases the velocity of their particular note. In this way, the changes in velocity over time creates subtle changes in the tonal quality of the chord. Meanwhile, the program locates the artist with the highest positive change amount since the last chord was played and applies a short frequency modulation to their corresponding note, further highlighting the movement of the discussion in a musical way.

Supplemental Material

Download the paper ( pdf )

Download the SOTDOS Max Application

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