The Listening Machine: A Live Soundtrack Of People's Thoughts On Twitter

A team of programmers and musicians in the UK are working to turn the tweets of 500 anonymous people into music. Wired reports that the goal of "The Listening Machine," a 6 month project by composer Peter Gregson, sonic artist and programmer Daniel Jones, and the Britten Sinfonia orchestra, is to create a “live soundtrack to the thoughts, opinions, feelings and conversations of the U.K.’s population, as played out on Twitter.”

The machine is a piece of software that monitors the Twitter activity of 500 people (the team won’t reveal their identity to ensure that the musical outcome is not affected by people becoming aware that they are part of it) selected from eight different fields — arts, business, education, health, politics, science, sport and technology. Whenever these people post an update, the properties of the tweet are analyzed in terms of the sound and meaning of the words, and generates music based on it. Many different elements of the music have been prerecorded as individual musical cells, which are then recombined by the generative software.

The stream is available 24 hours a day from now until October on the Listening Machine's official site. It's not particularly catchy -- at least it wasn't when we were listening -- but it isn't unpleasant either. If anything, it sounds carefully modern, since the cells are mixed in with more straightforward effects (the sound of a plane taking off to reference a tweet about an airline, for instance). Think "The Rites Of Spring" remixed by Steve Reich.

If internet-scraped art turns out to be your thing, we recommend you also check out We Feel Fine, Sep Kamvar's and Jonathan Harris' ingenious real-time visualization of feelings expressed online.

Go here to get lost in The Listening Machine.