This is What Music Made From Tennis Sounds Like

LCD Soundsystem's frontman James Murphy announced an ambitious project last month to turn all the tennis data gathered from the U.S. Open into algorithm-generated music. In total, that would be about 400 hours of music total.

You can listen to this music via the U.S. Open's website, but luckily Murphy has put together two tracks that are a little more audibly palatable than just a massive collection of raw, algorithmic sounds. These two remixes are from Murphy's favorite matches followed by specific track commentary. [Rolling Stone via Pitchfork]


When a young player beats a top-seeded player, like in this match from August 25th, it's bound to make some noise. And in this case, that noise is glorious: a series of simple, almost sweet opening notes that slowly transform into unexpectedly intense, mature sounds. Beats bubble up from out of nowhere, swiftly take over and set the track in an uncompromising new direction. Hear how James portrays the swagger of the younger player and the relentless drama of the match in the deep, pulsing beats.

When this match began, it could have been either player's game. And like the match that inspired it, this track opens with beats that are balanced–intense but equal, just like the players–with no instrument clearly taking the lead. The music pulses steadily until the last half of the track, when the instruments start to break form as one player falls behind, and the other takes the lead. The track ends with a soft, high-pitched whistle that ushers the defeated player off the court.


LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy Is Making Music Out of Tennis

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 U.S. 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 engineers from digital production company Tool 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 U.S. 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? [U.S. Open via Stereogum]