Tweeting Audio

And the complications and temperament of sound in this new (or new-ish?) service

So, it’s unclear to me how long this has been around, but you can tweet sounds. Not merely sounds that are links from other sources, but from within Twitter itself. I only got my new phone a few months ago, and all of a sudden today the iOS Twitter app had a little colorful waveform symbol next to the photo, GIF, poll, etc. options, and there was a little announcement saying it was new and I should try it out. So, I did.

My initial tweet, which isn’t embedding easily here, hence the link, contains 17 seconds of living room room tone (“living room tone”?). I could hear fog horns and passing cars from where I was seated, on the couch, when I recorded it, but I’m not sure how much is evident in the audio recording. Either way, this is nifty. Here’s what the tweet looks like:

It’s an interesting development. For many years, I’ve tweeted (in words) what I hear, and now I can just post sounds themselves. For example, at the start of 2019, I tweeted: “Morning trio for bathroom fan, passing commuter buses, and low-level electric hum.” And a few months later: “Morning sounds: plane overhead, typing, distant bus, low-level electric hum.”

Of course, it’s not that simple: Our phones “hear” differently from how we do. And describing is itself a form of recording, of inscribing. (I wrote an essay on this topic back in June 2017, “Audio or It Didn’t Happen,” for New Music Box:

It’s funny that this thing seems to be called “Twitter Voice,” since the human voice is to non-verbal sound what sight is to sound in general: an overbearing presence. I’m sure this will be used for more than voice. Oddly, there was a Twitter blog post, which I vaguely remember, back in 2020 about the service, but I think today is the first I saw (well, heard) it in action.

A few more initial thoughts:

  • The Twitter embed isn’t functioning well on my website, but that may be an issue on my backend. Still, the fact that it isn’t simple to share the audio beyond Twitter gets at the ease and versatility of text and image online versus the complications and temperament of sound.
  • It was just two weeks or so ago that someone on Twitter said they wanted to know why they couldn’t just drag an MP3 to Twitter the way they can an image. You still can’t, but you can record audio on the spot (well, on your phone) and post it.
  • I wonder how the copyright bots will come into play.
  • From what I can tell, this isn’t on Android yet. I’m also not seeing it in the macOS client, or in the web browser.
  • Is there an official manner by which one can extract one’s audio from a tweet one has uploaded?
  • Certainly, the “Mute this conversation” option within Twitter means something unintentional in a Twitter suddenly filled with sonic tweets. I wonder if the word “mute” will be revisited if sound takes off.
  • Crossing Signal

    An ongoing series cross-posted from

    All of the crossing signal buttons on this stretch of road have been taped over, block after block, north/south and east/west. In a breeze, this looks a bit like a very (OK, very) low-key Christo installation, or like someone speedily took down all the photocopied posters after their lost puppy was found. The tape suggests the buttons are due either for an upgrade, or for eradication. My money is on eradication. (Pedestrians shouldn’t have to wait for the little figure of a walking person to appear to remind drivers to pause before making a turn.) If these buttons are, indeed, disappearing from a major city, then they’re likely disappearing elsewhere, too, which makes me wonder: if the buttons are going away, then how about the crossing signal sounds? You know, like the fake birds, for example, that tell walkers they’re free to go? Presumably, the fake birds will remain, because they serve a purpose whether or not a button needs to be pushed. We’ll no longer have control, as pedestrians, as to whether the birds sing. The birds will sing every time the lights change, which is how it should be. Holiday Pause

    From the past week

    For many months now, I’ve made it a habit that each Saturday I collate in a single blog post the tweets I made over at during the preceding week. However, having taken the past week off Twitter for the Thanksgiving break, I find I have zero tweets for repackaging today.

    Now, the main benefit of reposting the Twitter material here on isn’t really about archiving it, though having searchable access is nice. It’s great, over time, to be able to sift through one’s own site, one’s own outboard memory, for the things one has said about a certain novelist’s penchant for sonic observation, or a certain producer’s employment of piano samples, or an unusual and inspiring cross-genre team-up¹, or a certain operating system’s annoyances², or a piece of hardware’s³, or the pleasures of re-watching a favorite TV series⁴. The main benefit of doing so, though, is the process itself, the process of reading back through a week’s tweets and reflecting on what I’ve said offhand, what I’ve learned, and what conversations I’ve participated in.

    I take every weekend off Twitter, which means that on a given Saturday morning, when I normally do the tweet package post while drinking coffee, I have five days’ worth of material to work through, Monday through Friday. This all takes maybe 10 minutes or so, a bit longer if I used a lot of images or links. Sometimes the previous Monday feels like a month ago. Often I recognize that my mood has shifted over the course of the week. On occasion I watch my attitude on a given topic veer this way and that as I absorb and process input.

    This week has been different. This week I’ve been offline. A week without Twitter is a strange thing, as the habit to tweet has become so natural, so commonplace, as much an urge as an outlet. I use Twitter as a public notebook as much as I do as a water cooler, as a way to float concepts as much as a means to chat. A post I make to Twitter is sometimes a trial run of an idea, an inchoate thought, a stray observation, a bit of data. Sometimes I’ll follow up with an additional thought, which leads to a thread. Sometimes I’ll revisit the idea from another angle later in the day or the week. If someone responds, then a conversation may ensue.

    For the past week, I’ve had no public venue, not in terms of social media. The break has been healthy. A week without Twitter doesn’t mean I’ve had no notebook; it just means I haven’t had a public one (aside from some pie photos on Instagram). When I read an interesting phrase in the new John le Carré novel, Silverview, which I’m almost finished with, I just jotted it down in an actual notebook, a paper one. Same with something in the new Neal Stephenson, Termination Shock, which I’m about halfway through, and something about guitar practice (I’ve been working on Travis picking), and something about the recent Robert Fripp box set, and about a few songs by the Jam. There’s been other writing, long form work, more on which later, and a few looks back at the year. All in relative isolation. I’ve still posted here every day, but here, on my own website, is different from Twitter. Here, it is quiet.

    See you next week at

    These are all things I would have tweeted this week. Some, yes, would have been threads:

    ¹Got a new CD player, because the old 5-CD changer died after 30 years of dedicated service. A simple, small, stereo component CD player is difficult to come by these days. For the moment, I’m using a DVD player with audio outs, but it has no display readout, so you don’t know what track is playing, which if fine for the Monkees’ greatest hits, but not so useful with Morton Feldman’s For Christian Wolff. (It’s also oddly difficult to find an affordable Blu-ray player with audio outs.) The first CD I put on was the Necks’ team-up with Underworld, one of my favorite albums in recent years.

    ²So, both iOS/iPadOS and macOS use the same gear icon for something similar, but the former calls it “Settings” and the latter calls it “System Preferences.” Within macOS, the “System Preferences” icon is re-used for “Software Update,” whereas in iOS/iPadOS, a simplification of the icon is used for “General,” which is how you navigate to “Software Update.”

    ³I got a “hardware authentication device,” and sometimes if my finger touches it the computer spits out random arrays of characters. Part of me wants to share what the letter salad looks like, but for all I know it’s some sorta private digital fingerprint. (Also, I’d swear this evening it somehow made the laptop screech out loud, such that initially I thought the noise was coming from the TV, which was on mute.)

    ⁴Been re-watching Person of Interest (2011-2016, 103 episodes). There is so much sound in this epic A.I. surveillance drama. That’s Michael Emerson as Harold Finch, working undercover:

    Moving Day

    To a new laptop

    No post tonight … well, except this post. Spent the afternoon and evening getting a new laptop set up. The old one had gotten to the point where it did very little without its fan running at full blast, and it took forever to turn on whenever the screen was brought back from sleep. Still have a bit further to go with the new one, but it’s working well.

    I’m not so picky about my settings that I need to transfer them over, but doing it manually does take a bit of time. The fact is, I’m fairly OS-agnostic at this point. The cloud is my computer, and a laptop is just a means to access that data and processing power. Still, one wants that laptop to have a good screen, and a fast hard drive, and a powerful CPU, albeit not so powerful that it sets the fan running.

    This new one seems pretty solid. The laptop is so deep, there is a sense of cavernousness to the keyboard, like the space below the keys is evident, not just the depth of them, but the spaciousness further below. That’s unlike my more recent laptops, where I was essentially tapping on the surface of something just above the table top, with a negligible air gap. Typing on those super thin laptops wasn’t particularly different from doing so on an iPad.

    There’s much to adjust to with the new laptop, but the majority of the software has now been installed. There are a few lingering issues, like an account calendar that won’t sync and a social network denying access due to some missing backup codes, but it’ll get sorted soon enough.

    Getting a new laptop is sort of like moving into a rental apartment. You know you’ll only be here for about five years (I’m pretty rough on laptops, and they often last little more than three), but while you’re here, you want to make it your own. Swap out the wallpaper, add your fingerprint to the lock, change the default tools for more specialized ones.

    And one by one, turn off those annoying alert sounds. Every time you mute one, another makes itself known. Months will pass at some point, and only then will you look back and realize, “Oh, it’s been a while since an alert went off. I must have gotten them all.”