February 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm

3.5 Apps Make Twitter into Music

When you put words on Twitter, those words become data. Twitter has an API. You know what would be cool? To turn that data into music. Why not?

To be clear, these apps are not for discovering music through Twitter (been there, done that). They actually incorporate Twitter — as in actual tweets — into music.

Tweet Concréte

Here is the sound of smartphones replacing PCs, as tweeted by @evolverfm.

How did we do that? With Tweet Concréte, an amusingly serious web app from Devin “FieldGuider,” Ryan Fitzpatrick, and rcoppola, who built it at Music Hack Day SF 2013. Enter a Twitter name and you’ll hear what a random “tweet” sounds like, translated into Music Concréte, a genre of music that involves found sound collage.

Designed to “generate short sound collages based on tweets,” the app purports to let you “hear a tweet.” We’re not sure how it works, and in this case, we don’t want (or need) to know, because the whole fun of it is watching your brain try to associate the audio with the text.

It works; the magic is largely between your ears.

Nightingale

Another fun entry in this relatively new canon is Nightingale, from Vivek Agrawal, who’s also responsible for Playground.fm.

Also a product of Music Hack Day SF (Twitter is, after all, in San Francisco), this web app “crawls through your Twitter stream and matches keywords and phrases to song lyrics by utilizing text processing and sentiment analysis,” according to the description. “After some serious data crunching, Nightingale delivers an amazing playlist that represents your life on Twitter in a musical way.”

Basically, it mines Twitter for your mood and words, finds those words in song lyrics, does some other stuff, and spits the whole thing out as a Spotify playlist.

The Evolver.fm Twitter feed consists largely of headlines and links. Here’s what it sounds like after being translated into a playlist by Nightingale:

Social Radio for Twitter (iOS)

We’re bending the rules a little by including Social Radio for Twitter here, because it doesn’t turn tweets into actual music. It does mix tweets in between songs on your own personalized radio stations, which is cool enough to qualify for this list. In essence, it turns Twitter into a music service that only plays songs you like and lets you hear tweets, say, while you’re driving.

Install this iOS app, which was free “for a limited time” when we wrote about it last March, and is also free today, and you’ll be able to listen to text-to-speech versions of your Twitter timeline, or “lists, trending topics, funny hashtags, news and searches.” In addition to giving you all of that control (so you don’t have to listen to, like, all of Twitter in a robot voice), the app mixes that into music from your iPhone, Spotify, Pandora, Last.fm, SoundCloud, or TuneIn. This is what we’re talking about.

Honorable Mention: The Listening Machine

A publicly-funded project from The Space in the UK, The Listening Machine watched the Twitter feeds of 500 people from a variety of fields, and meticulously turned them into music. It was complicated, gathering data from the sentiment and frequency of the tweets, their topics, and even phonemes and rhythms from their words, translated into individual notes and beats.

It’s like having a poet scan text, explain it to a musician, and then write music, based on the writings of 500 people — not a bad idea. But why would elected government officials (we assume) choose to fund something like this using money from the national Lottery system, as cool as it is? Wouldn’t someone eventually complain?

Maybe that’s why The Listening Machine, as ambitious as it was, is no longer operational.

(Image courtesy of Flickr/Sean Campbell)