At This Concert, Cell Phones Sound Off
2001 Ars Electronic Festival celebrates 'Dialtones'
Despite the exceptions that (too often) prove the rule, everyone knows the drill: Turn off your damn phone at musical performances. But can you imagine actually being asked not only to bring a cell phone to the concert, but to leave it on and to turn up the volume? That’s just what happened at the premiere of MIT grad Golan Levin’s Dialtones: A Telesymphony at the 2001 Ars Electronic Festival in Linz, Austria, this past September.
The project, which took a year to come together, employed a complicated database system to register the phone numbers of more than 200 participants and their seat locations. Levin then routed this information into performance software that allowed the "conductor" to "play" specific phones by dialing their numbers on a computer screen.
Another cellular-obsessed composer in Israel, where it isn’t unheard of to carry two cell phones (all the better to reach you with), has written a piece praising telecommunications—and the many phones that ring such classical ditties as Beethoven’s "Für Elise" or Mozart’s "Eine Kliene Nacht Musik." His ten-minute medley entitled "Spring Cellphony" was performed as part of a technology exhibit at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem. The piece showcased cellular sounds from the "William Tell Overture" plus selections from Bach and Mozart.
In a much different approach sure to warm the cockles of every luddite’s heart, French composer Gabriel Yared, best-known for his Oscar-winning score for the film The English Patient, recently won a landmark victory over the French phone company, France Télécom, and single-handedly managed to slow down the company’s roll-out of its Orange mobile phone service. Yared claimed that the installation of a large cell phone tower near his vacation home in Ile-aux-Moines (on the Breton Gulf of Morbihan), "impaired his creative concentration," and he promptly initiated a court case against the mobile phone mogul. In July 2001, the Rennes appeal court ordered France Télécom to remove the towers or pay a $70-a-day fine. Fearing a host of copycat suits, the company has opted to pay the fine pending an appeal.
Is that your phone or mine?