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.
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