February 13, 2014, is the official release date for my 33 1/3 book on Aphex Twin's 1994 album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

API Music

Embracing the artifacts of automation

They key word is “may.” The sentence is “The following sounds from freesound.org may appear in this piece.” The sentence was written by Evan X. Merz by way of explaining his recent work “The End of My Career.” The “end” part of that sentence likely has to do with the automation inherent in the piece’s composition, and the projected, if still quite fantastical, image of “composer” as a role lost to semi-intelligent robots, as in the production of cars or the wrangling of in-bound phone calls. This projection relates to the algorithmic approach that is the basis of the writing of “The End of My Career,” in which an API — “application programming interface,” or perhaps more colloquially the means by which a piece of software can access and act on data from another software service — scours a source of audio for related material and than works with them.

Merz write a bit more on the project in these notes associated with the track:

The End of My Career is an algorithmic piece generated by using the freesound.org API to search for and download sounds uploaded by freesound users. Using the FreeSound audio search capabilities, along with the Wordnik API to find related words, a graph of sounds related to the word ‘orchestra’ was assembled by custom software of my own design. Then, this graph was traversed by swarm-intelligent agents. Their movements over the graph dictated how the sounds were collaged in time and space.

The result is an enticing if semi-chaotic phalanx of fast-shifting quotes of pre-existing sound, many of them explicitly musical, like snatches of instrumentation. The “may” in the sentence seems to suggest that even after being provided an automated list of the material accessed by his project’s API endeavor, Merz can’t be quite sure what made the final cut.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/evanxmerz for free download. More from Merz at computermusicblog.com.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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