Aside from his David Bowie remix and production gigs with Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Arcade Fire, the post-LCD Soundsystem career of James Murphy has been one distinctly lacking in convention. He directed the short film Little Duck; designed an actual sound system; launched his own line of coffee; wrote music for a Daniel Craig-starring Broadway show; and shared dreams of soundtracking the NYC subway system.
With that in mind, Murphy’s latest project should come as no surprise: he’s recorded and produced music from the data of tennis matches. As Rolling Stone points out, Murphy made use of an algorithm he personally developed to create a series of “remixes” of actual US Open matches.
Murphy crafted the songs using an array of synthesizers. The goal behind each song is simple: recreate the volleys, serves, and general action as effectively as possible, while also working to capture the often abstract emotional arc of each match.
Having translated a few hundred different matches into some 400-plus hours of music, Murphy has begun to upload these remixes to SoundCloud. He’s cataloged each piece by number and round, meaning it’s up to the listener to research the actual players. He and the project’s co-sponsor, IBM, have also included some lengthier descriptions for a few of Murphy’s most favorite matches/pieces.
For “Match 104,” the description reads, “When this match began, it could have been either player’s game. And like the match that inspired it, this track opens with beats that are balanced – intense but equal, just like the players – with no instrument clearly taking the lead. The music pulses steadily until the last half of the track, when the instruments start to break form as one player falls behind, and the other takes the lead. The track ends with a soft, high-pitched whistle that ushers the defeated player off the court.”
Meanwhile, the description for “Match 04” reads, “When a young player beats a top-seeded player, like in this match from August 25th, it’s bound to make some noise. And in this case, that noise is glorious: a series of simple, almost sweet opening notes that slowly transform into unexpectedly intense, mature sounds. Beats bubble up from out of nowhere, swiftly take over and set the track in an uncompromising new direction.”
Though several of the pieces clock in at upwards of 30-plus minutes, they’re actually shortened versions of Murphy’s original compositions. Musically, there’s a certain baseline to each track, as relying solely on the minimalist synthesizer created an aesthetic somewhere between krautrock and chiptune. Even still, Murphy found a way to express a multitude of emotions and concepts within each individual track: “Match 167” is almost whimsical; “Match 150” is rather elegant and haunting; and “Match 134” is super funky and danceable.
There’s already a couple hundred tracks available online — stream them all here. For the uncut originals, head here. Loyal Murphy devotees should all be totally stoked the he’s making music and not just slinging cups of Joe anymore.
Below, watch a behind-the-scenes trailer offering a little insight into Murphy’s recording process.