James Murphy Turns U.S. Open Matches Into Music

 

 

By ALLAN KOZINN

August 29, 2014 11:48 amAugust 29, 2014 2:37 pm 1 Comment

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Nicole Gibbs at the U.S. Open on Thursday. James Murphy’s project created a soundtrack based on her second-round match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. (Ms. Gibbs won the match in three sets.)Credit Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

James Murphy has kept fairly busy since he disbanded LCD Soundsystem in 2011, with projects that have included writing film music, producing an album for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and working with Arcade Fire. Over the next few weeks, he plans to add 400 hours of new music to his catalog.

Mr. Murphy is collaborating with Patrick Gunderson, a developer at IBM, on “U.S. Open Sessions,” a project that will transform each game of the tennis tournament into a live-streamed electronic score, which Mr. Murphy will then edit, possibly for an album.

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James MurphyCredit Chad Batka for The New York Times

The tournament began on Aug. 25 and runs through Sept. 8, and the pieces Mr. Murphy has completed so far are posted on a web page for the sessions. Mr. Murphy is making the music with a program that Mr. Gunderson developed that turns the game’s action, along with weather data and crowd responses, into algorithms. Mr. Murphy will turn the algorithms into music using a synthesizer-like interface that Mr. Gunderson created for him, which allows him to assign musical values – timbres, rhythms, durations, musical figures and hooks – to each one.

The rest of the process is automated; the moves the tennis players make lead to the sounds Mr. Murphy has programmed.

“We’re going to generate almost 400 hours’ worth of music,” Mr. Murphy said in one of several video clips that IBM has posted to YouTube to explain the project. “I mean, I’m not going to sit there and play 400 hours of music. We’re setting up a machine to do that.”

The music, so far, is spacey and Minimalist, in the sense that figures and rhythms are, at least in some cases, repeated until something in the game creates a change. But the live pieces may only be a part of Mr. Murphy’s process. He told Self-Titled magazine that he will create 14 remixes using the material and will make them available free on iTunes, Soundcloud and Spotify.

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