The web is literally buzzing about The Listening Machine, a new musical work by Daniel Jones and Peter Gregson. The piece takes the content of 500 Twitter accounts, and through some clever computer programming and musical mapping turns them into an indefinite bricolage of sound, which somehow represents their content.
The result is one of the most successful pieces of data sonification I’ve heard. What’s great for me is the clear relationship between the twitter stream content and the end result. If you asked me “what would Twitter sound like as music?”, The Listening Machine isn’t far off. It’s also aesthetically interesting, visually and musically — I wan’t to keep coming back to hear “what’s happening now?”, “what does Twitter sound like at night time?”.
The piece also presents some interesting ideas about music and technology. The question “can machines listen?”, often has the subtext “…like humans”. In The Listening Machine, we have a machine that listens to humans like a machine, and generates music from fragments played by humans. Technology and art serve each other. Beautiful.
The piece is running from May until October 2012 on The Space, the new on-demand digital arts channel from the BBC and Arts Council England.