November 07 2002
If I was still making music I would have done this myself sooner or later 'cause I always thought about the possibility of creating something musical with today's most widespread and intimate piece of technology of the Western world: the cellular phone. Apparently somebody did it before me and considering that somebody is 29 years old computer whiz Golan Levin, 32 years old sound designer Scott Gibbons from Lilith and sound artist Gregory Shakar, they did it much better than I ever could have done or thought. Anyway the day I never thought would come, the day major phone network providers and manufactures sponsor a Staalplaat record, has arrived: 200 people in the audience, 3 sound designers, 9 additional technicians, 200+ phones, 200 discrete channels of patched audio and a computer system that could trigger the sounds of these portable phones and play new custom-composed ring tones distributed via SMS (one of the many features that the shitty American wireless networks don't provide) before the concert. An audio-video matrix system allowed the creators of this amazing project to individually trigger (call!) these cell phones 8000 times in 30 minutes and at the same time light up the person whose handy is ringing in the audience and project a dot of light on two wide screens, while everything is also reflected by a 36foot/12meters wide mirror diagonally spanning from the stage to the ceiling above the people... A surreal third millennium scenario in which people can explore the sonic possibilities offered by the musical instruments, sort of an un-complete synthesizer, that one in ten people in the world have been half-unconsciously carrying around for the past decade in an ensemble context. Musically we are talking about a carefully choreographed cacophony of cell phone ring tones and dial tones producing everything from polyphonic drones sounding like a cello or a church organ hovering above the audience's ambient noise (coughing, laughing, talking, moving...) to sparkly mellow spatial chords sounding like frogs, birds, crickets or other bugs in the wilderness; from actual and logical electronic music improvised compositions with melodies to the loud cacophony of 60 (the maximum) hand-held devices ringing contemporaneously that you would only wanna be running away from if you were in the same room. Everything in between the two ends of the sonic spectrum is uncharted territory for new creations. The concert consists of three "movements": in the first one the audience's 200 un-amplified phones ring in various configurations; in the second one Scott Gibbons plays a solo on a small number of amplified phones (he prefers Siemens ;-); while in the third section the staff's phones dialogue with the audience's phone like a soloist would with an orchestra. The whole thing was recorded and shot on the 2nd of September 2001 at the big and beautiful Brucknerhaus Auditorium in Linz, Austria (as part of the TAKEOVER: the 2001 Ars Electronica Festival) and then again with a 99-piece audience from May 28th to June 6th at the Arteplage Mobile de Jura in Murten and Biel, Switzerland (jeeez, I can't believe I am Swiss and I missed it!!!). Of course such performance could only take place in Europe, where the GSM network (G for global), as opposed to the lousy CDMA digital network of the States), allows for much greater flexibility and creativity. As an owner of a cell phone I belive you must buy this CD to become aware of the unexplored potential of this modern appliance and to start pushing the envelope yourself, for this could easily become a new musical sub-genre in the coming years (maybe we'll have Dj's and Cj's - cellphone-jockeys!)... The CD comes in a nice digipack with a thick booklet stuffed with information and also has a CD-ROM section with loads of hi quality pictures, four mp3 files, a video of the concert, video interviews with its creators, links to various interesting websites and to the websites of the people involved in this outstanding project and a lot of written technical and philosophical material about the concept. One of the most forward-thinking records of this year! Definitely highly recommended buy!!! For more info check out and if that doesn't work point your browser to
ID # 401