When LCD Soundsystem split up, it left frontman James Murphy with a lot of time and creative energy on his hands. So he’s been experimenting with a number of weird and esoteric projects, the latest of which is turning tennis data from the US Open into music.
Murphy has teamed up with IBM to take this raw data and generate upwards of 400 hours worth of music. The video above is very clearly a promo, but it lays out quite nicely how it works. You have data and you have the music that comes from it. But what happens in between those two things? You need a middleman, which comes in the form of an algorithm — it, not Murphy, is the primary generator of the music. He says in the video that he’s not writing music, he’s “generating probabilities.” Which is vague and weird and cool in only a way that a guy that looks like a weekend dad and yet fronted one of the greatest electronic bands of all time can only be cool.
The algorithm is based in code, but IBM engineers working with Murphy translated them in such a way that made sense for a musician who’s used to working with physical instruments like drum kits. A serve and a volley and a fault, taken together as data and made into music, become instruments in and of themselves. Tennis has a natural rhythm to it, so the more you think about it, the more it seems not totally implausible that it could make music.
Think of it this way: The match Serena Williams played yesterday, well, it’s now a song. You can hop on over to the US Open site to listen to that and the music that has been made from all the other matches until September 8. Only one question remains unanswered: What do they do with all the grunts? [US Open via Stereogum]