Sadly, Richie Hawtin’s copy of Traktor doesn’t talk to you directly. “We’re about to go on. I’ve got my files cued up.” “Oh, Richie’s hands are sweaty today. Ugh.” “Hey, who’s that hottie who just got onstage?” “I hope he uses all four of my decks.” “I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that. lolz” Photo (CC) Caesar Sebastian.

For everyone who thought Twitter was just about “i m eating a ham sandwich lolz,” the desire to use connectivity to actually be connected continues to win out in unexpected ways. So far this month, we already saw the use of Max/MSP. Now, Twitter is showing up in the geeky, open source sound tool SuperCollider and in DJ sets in Traktor by Richie Hawtin.

Tweet a Sound, to the Max

twitter_subpatch First, some updates on Tweet a Sound, the sound design tool in Max that lets you share synth presets.

Creator Andrew Spitz has an updated story on adding a cleaned-up subpatch to Max/MSP. It uses the Ruby programming language to access the Twitter API. (You should be able to port to Pd, too – I have to look closer at this.) Correction: Ruby is implemented as JRuby, so it runs on the Java virtual machine – and there is a Java implementation for both Max (mxj) and Pd (pdj)

This means, if you’ve got a Mac or Windows copy of Max/MSP, you can now send Tweets from your patches. And that should open up still more possibilities when Max for Live becomes available, for Ableton fans.

How To Send A Tweet From Max/MSP { sound + tutorial }

Even if you’re skeptical about Twitter per se, if you’re interested in using Ruby and Max, this should be a good starting place for other APIs, too.

Friends of mine like Francis Preve have gone utterly nuts for this.


supercollider_twitter SuperCollider is an elegant, free, cross-platform synthesis language that expresses sound and sequencers as code. Since, unlike Max, its language is text, no conversion is necessary: savvy SuperCollider sonic programmers are simply copying and pasting code directly into Twitter.

You can get a feel for something of what’s happening here:

It’s an interesting exercise. As people have done with Processing for Twitter-coded graphics, the tiny 140-character limit means the challenge of trying to do more with less.

Unsatisfied with picking these up manually, SuperCollider Charles Céleste Hutchins has built his own bash script, connected to Yahoo Pipes, for fetching the resulting SC sound creations:

Twitter Supercollider App [les said, the better]

You’ll also see in the search, in addition to code there are lots of casual exchanges of tips and advice.

I’m not sure anything can cure me of my own sprawling code, but there’s something soothing about everyone else’s little code snippets appear.

Richie Hawtin + Traktor

Here’s the biggest twist yet: Native Instruments’ Traktor Pro is now Twitter-enabled. Richie Hawtin’s label Minus has developed a custom Twitter application that uploads song metadata, using the Internet broadcasting functions built into Traktor Pro. (I’d love to see this using OpenSoundControl, though I think in this case it doesn’t.)

What this doesn’t mean: no, Richie Hawtin is not tapping away on a cell phone while he plays, and if we see any of you Twittering onstage, we will call in the Dead Acts police.

What it does mean: you can keep track of track listings by tuning in on Richie’s Twitter feed. Updates happen every 30 seconds.

Now, generally, the mention of the words “Richie” and “Hawtin” seem to trigger some sort of irrational torrent of Internet hate in comments, so I’m hoping that doesn’t happen here. Personally, I think there’s some interesting potential to all of this – imagine if people who heard your live set could then go check out album versions of your songs the next day, and discover that some of you really are doing live PA stuff and not just straight DJing, too.

Also, Minus promises they’ll release the software to other Traktor users in the near future.

It’s something of a contrast with the Max users who may actually broadcast the patches and presets they’re using while playing, but that’s what makes all of this so intriguing.


Via Twitter, Giles notes that Beatportal responds to the announcement:

How Twitter tracklist app will change everything [Beatportal]

I agree with many of the points here on some level, but author Christen Reutens at Beatportal seems to be getting a little carried away. Online radio playlists were also supposed to change “everything” – and then didn’t. For one thing, the ability to purchase played tracks, while something that still has potential, hasn’t yet taken off in a big way. For another, legal questions have come into play. In the case of radio stations, publishing playlists in the US can make a radio station into a “jukebox” and become subject to greater licensing fees. I’m not sure what licensing considerations the DJ playlist could prompt – in the best case scenario, it could mean payments for artists; in the worst case, it might turn venues off from allowing DJs to publish playlists.

Also, as far as mystique, this is an entirely opt-in service. And many of the changes Christen describes have already happened because of digital files and Internet communication – with or without Twitter playlists.

Of course, feel free to disagree.

I have a simpler view, I guess. Publishing playlists is a cool idea for those who want to do it. It
’s likely to be used primarily by really big fans of certain DJs. The problem with Twitter is, that information could get stuck on Twitter. Smart DJs will use RSS to pull the information into their blog and give some of that context back. And as for DJs who have hidden behind producers’ tracks while creating a false sense of mystique – well, uh, some of us who are greater fans of live PA won’t be shedding any tears. Those who are intelligently warping tracks so they’re barely recognizable, requiring a Twitter feed to follow what’s going on, we salute you.

I’m not sure I’d want to be glued to a Twitter feed while in a club, with all the other Tweets happening, but it’s interesting. Perhaps more interesting than the features for fans is that Hawtin and company propose to get producers paid some royalties when their tracks get played, by using this feature for more accurate tracking – see James Holden on comments here.

And there’s nothing stopping the smart-a** music enthusiasts from going to sets without this feature, tapping away on their cell phone to prove they actually know what they’re hearing. We might even follow you.

But is There Another Way?

This is all very interesting, but I have to wonder if we should all take the next step and start thinking about open ways of connecting software. Of course, it makes sense to use Twitter for quick snippets and Twitter-style communication, because people are there. (Not to mention, I like the idea of freaking out your Twitter followers with unreadable code gibberish.) Likewise, it makes sense for software makers to do some of their own online integration, as Ableton has done with Share – a feature we’ll be examining in more depth.

But Twitter itself, while an interesting novelty, is not ideal, because of its data limits and the proprietary, crash-prone system behind it. Here are a couple of alternatives. XMPP is a standards-based protocol, built on XML, for bi-directional communication. For chat-style, real-time communication, XMPP – the basis of Jabber and Google Talk – makes much more sense. And there are existing, open source libraries out there with XMPP support, meaning it’s not tough to build upon. It’d be great to use XMPP to allow artists to communicate about what they’re doing in real-time.

For collaborating on shared projects, version control is a great way to go. Previously the domain of programmers, version control is catching on with all sorts of people, because it makes collaboration easier by tracking changes. Subversion remains the most popular way of doing this, even as Git gains some traction. And Sourceforge has beefed up its own functionality lately, while Sun’s Project Kenai is developing nicely, too.

See, previously:

Version Control and Sharing for Patching: Keep Those Max, Pd Patches in Order with Git

In other words, I hope this is all the tip of the iceberg. Ideas?

  • james

    this, in part, is the best idea hawtin's camp have squeezed out for ages: the idea of hooking djs directly into collection societies' databases and dishing out fair* chunks of money to the under-represented underground artists is wonderful, and it's super-nice to see a big dj trying to give something back to the producers without whom he'd be nothing.

    but letting people see your playlist? looking at that twitter feed i feel like i'm witnessing the time jim morrison exposed himself.

    *collection societies do sample at big events, but for example at glastonbury the man in charge of it said (after a performance on a tiny stage) "it's worth doing, because it's pro-rata'd across the whole festival, so it works out at about a grand a song for the people you put down. everyone else has just been writing a list of their own tracks." not exactly money going to those that need it..

  • james

    oops. i realised you didn't mention hawtin et al's idea to bully the performance royalty collection societies into following their twitter feed, so my post makes no sense.

    that's the good bit anyway, but like you said, a non-proprietary, open format would be wiser perhaps with offline support for those of us who can't get away with putting wireless networks on our tech rider. email perhaps?

  • ArmandoC

    the worlds a changing

  • Hi James – thanks for commenting. I'm doubly interested in what you have to say as a big fan of your work.

    I actually was unaware of the royalty collection aspect, which is something NI not surprisingly didn't emphasize. 😉 I'd definitely be interested to hear more about this.

    There's no reason you couldn't publish a well-formatted RSS feed with this information directly. Twitter in this case is actually acting as a (somewhat unreliable, restrictive) middleman here.

    The Max and SuperCollider things are mostly for fun, of course. But I think if you want to put time into this stuff then you really do want to start thinking about the best way to do this.

  • Hmm, I'm very anti-social-networking (long story) but seeing as how people are putting my software to cool uses with this stuff, I may finally have to break down and sign up for twitter and see what all the fuss is about. (Call me crazy, but I still refuse to join facebook.)

    BTW, Peter, the ajm.ruby object that the "tweet a sound" project is using is JRuby, not standard Ruby. That means it *is* Java and you can use the more succinct Ruby syntax to script Java (much like Groovy). It's worth looking into. I come from a Java background but this has really changed the way I program for the better.

    I should probably get my butt in gear and release some updates like I've been meaning to for months now…

  • One of the most exciting things about this is the Twitter API. It would not be difficult to build a service where you sign up to automatically buy every mp3 a given DJ plays. Traktor tweets the metadata, an app reads that metadata, and then goes to some known source like (for instance) Beatport. If the track is on Beatport, it automatically adds the track to your cart. Not something everybody would want, and I don't know if the APIs exist on Beatport's end, but it's actually quite doable. Alternatively you could have a service to search tracks you heard last night at the club and buy the ones you liked. Another thing is that you could pretty easily build a Web app that consumed the Traktor Twitter feeds of multiple DJs and built color visualizations of who was playing what. That would be really interesting, as you get these tracks every once in a while that are getting hammered by every breaks DJ *and* every electro-house DJ (for example). If you saved enough data for historical analysis you could actually chart the emergence of dubstep (for example) and see when it went from weird and unusual to the big current craze. The combination of APIs with ubiquity packs extraordinary power. These are just examples. Because the API's open to anyone who wants to use it, the uses this tech can see are very, very numerous, and you can't predict what exactly will happen. I set up a habit of posting a new beat on Twitter every day on an alternate Twitter account, @djgoatboy. After I had been doing it for about a month, a programmer who was following the feed spent a few hours programming and coded up a script which automatically turns my Twitter feed of daily mp3s into a podcast. So now there's a podcast of my music, and I didn't have to do very much at all to make it happen. This is extraordinary for artists, because you only have so much time in the day, and it's actually *better* to have a podcast which a fan set up than a podcast which *you* set up. Fans make things happen. This is also a really interesting way to leverage online community around DJs, and producers, and punters. Producers can find out who's playing their tracks. Sasha could literally boost a track's sales in real-time by playing it at some big event. Traktor tweets it as he's playing it, DJs at the event get the tweet on their phones and immediately buy the track, DJs who follow those DJs on Twitter all across the world then buy it too. Sasha uses Live, actually, I think, but it's just an example. The point is not the examples but the fact that so many examples can be made – the technology opens up a very large number of possibilities. Nothing's guaranteed but the potential for something like this is very exciting.

  • @Giles Absolutely, but the reason the Twitter API isn't so ideal is that, by definition, it strips all the structure from the metadata.

    Have a look at this Tweet:
    # is now playing: – M 73_Clickbox BERLIN SHADES_A1_33_12about 17 hours ago from web

    So, we have a timestamp, and some text.

    You can see three problems off the bat:
    1. The metadata in the original track may not be well tagged. (Oddly, the Beatport story claims this fixes problematic metadata — only if you're comparing to guessing.)

    2. Artist and track information is no longer separated.

    3. The metadata may be truncated.

    Now, you could build an intelligent script to try to repair the damage done, but that misses the point — Twitter has already degraded the quality of the metadata originally in Traktor.

    Look, if this is just something you do for fans and for fun, I think it's totally, totally fine. But if anyone expect this to be a world-changing thing, or something used to track payment, Twitter is simply the wrong choice. It's very, very easy to publish structured data to RSS. You could even republish that to Twitter and get all the advantages of this.

    But to just start dumping info into Twitter and then have everyone do the same would be a missed opportunity.

    So, the potential is exciting, but I think it has more to do with the fundamental idea than Twitter per se. Twitter may have the "brand recognition," but that doesn't mean it's the important part of any of the three stories here. 😉

    Oh, and if Sasha is feeling some Hawtin envy right now, with Max for Live you could use the subpatch above and Twitter those results.

    Heck, using the Live API you could go really nuts.

    "Auto Filter frequency cutoff 76%."

    "Grain Delay grain size…"


  • Richie Hawtin is the Paris Hilton of DJing.

  • @Peter – those are just implementation details. You can cook up a workaround, for instance normalizing track names or putting together a big-ass database of track names and common variations, or even a CDDB-type thing which adds in track length or whatever, but the workaround doesn't really matter. It's the potential, not the details of any particular example. The potential comes from the simplicity of the API (incredibly simple) and the ubiqiuity of the platform (on CNN). Those two factors make so much possible that any other limitations the system might have become irrelevant.

    Only time will tell, so there's a limit to the usefulness of this argument, but I really think this is something exciting.

  • @Giles: right, but exactly my point. You should publish the data in structured form and bridge that to Twitter. Then there's no workaround needed. Twitter is fine for someone with a mobile phone at a club or whatever, but let's say you want to search against or something — you have to separate artist names for that, so an RSS feed that's still structured makes more sense. There's no reason that then be dumbed down for Twitter, but you don't want to dumb down *first*.

  • Eric

    Here's a small script for SuperCollider which will pull down recent code snippets from Twitter to a new document. From there you can review and play the ones that interest you.

    <a&gt <a href="http://;” target=”_blank”>;

    It's an example file that comes with the bleeding edge packages of SuperCollider.

    Lot's of cool techniques in those obscure little code snippets 🙂

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  • God – it makes me exhausted just reading about this, let alone trying to implement or use it. There's not enough hours in the day/life is too short! I might feel differently if I didn't have to do music/tech as a hobby outside the 9-5, though.

    i'm all for producers getting some revenue out of people like hawtin playing their tracks, though.

  • Kassen

    Mental note; must title a track something involving "DROP TABLE".

  • pbxorcist

    This is such pure meme humping its retarded. It actually offends me on a certain level that this is getting any press. Twitter enabling software does absolutely nothing for the music or the performance itself, in fact I would suggest it damages the performance when you have folks glued to their smart phones waiting for the next news push about the track that were just played (that they didnt listen to because they were looking up an artist they had never heard of from the last information dump).

    Anything that takes you out of the mix or the environment its being played in, is a bad thing. If anything plugins like these go to show you that the technology has enabled and simplified the musical process too far, and that the only way to push the music forward is to "socially enable it".

  • BARF

    pbxorcist: You're getting old.

  • why i like tweet a sound: i like synths that have the "random patch" button…that's how i learned to program my waldorf pulse before i got the GUI to program it. i still like hitting the button to see what the pulse generates randomly. tweet a sound is YOU the user generating sounds for millions of other users.

  • @pbxorcist: I agree to the extent I wouldn't want anything taking me out of a performance, as a listener or performer. (Maybe if it's at a club and it's a DJ set, it's a different thing – and this is happening automatically, and may be something you check the next day.)

    But the SuperCollider / Max thing is going in a very different direction. It's about sharing stuff *while you're working on it*. And since we're talking about code, sometimes you actually want something that's a productive distraction — something that gives you ideas and helps you work through blocks. This is about taking an existing network that a lot of the time *is* pretty unproductive, and switching the content to something you care about.

    I already said it's important not to get caught up with the specific meme/technology.

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  • pbxorcist


    What I am trying to point out is those services provide nothing new in terms of technology or than the tools already available. If you talk about patch sharing for max/super collider integration with twitter does nothing that email or web services cant already due. I would point out twitter is even further limited than those distribution methods are already.

    The only thing noteworthy is that twitter is a new way of doing it, and thats why I pointed out that it was meme humping. Its not adding anything to the process, its just glomming on to the thought juggernaut.

    What I would rather see are CVS style patch storage and collaboration systems where you are checking patches/mixes/songs in and out with all the associated files along with change lists etc.

  • Well, actually, we agree.

    Now, I don't think the Twitter way of doing this is useless, however. Twitter has some things that systems we would *assume* are more sophisticated could learn from:

    * real-time updates (yeah, technically, RSS does, too, but note that Twitter is really a messaging system with built-in notification features)

    * simplicity – the problem is, you get lots of layers of information with, say, a Sourceforge – so much as the one-dimensionality of Twitter can be frustrating, it's also its best feature

    * mobile integration

    * instant gratification

    Now, all of these things are possible with things that aren't Twitter. But that's my point. I think you can merge these sorts of capabilities.

  • Also, if you're just learning to code the web-digesting stuff, there's nothing wrong with trying things out with Twitter. It could be a good introduction to this sort of thing that allows you to tackle more sophisticated stuff.

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  • Peter, your blog freaking rules.

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  • So, to review:

    + novel idea
    – …but more or less mental masturbation
    + adds information to the experience…
    – …but the kind of information that distracts from the music
    + could result in artists being more fairly compensated
    – … but needs to be implemented in a serious medium

    Overall, it's… a thing. 🙂 Neat to hear about, though.

    Also, I agree with Mike Nuvo.

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  • Wikipedia entry on Koan

    The SSEYO Koan Plugin for web browers was programmable in real-time through JavaScript, and was used to create several interesting interactive applications for web browsers. By 2001, Koan included a modular synthesizer; its engine also by then featured a file format referred to by SSEYO as Vector Audio, which allowed very complicated generative pieces, complete with full synthesizer sound descriptions, to be delivered in only a few thousand bytes of plain text within a Web page. This development led to SSEYO being awarded the 2001 BAFTA Interactive Award for Technical Innovation.

  • p

    I disagee with you. I think its great for listeners. Of course not in the situations like you described, when people would just stand still and wait for next track to be tweetplayed, but in "normal clubbing scenario" when you're dancing whole night and suddenly you hear a track you instantly fall in love with! The ability to check what it is using just your mobile is priceless! Of course this is my opinion 🙂

    Also, there is Richie Hawtin's tweetplaying archive for post-event checks 🙂

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  • Kevin

    Interesting thoughts, will be following this stream for sure… Twitter, Traktor on the HoloDesk Interactive surface sounds fun and interesting.

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