Golan Levin (b. 1972)
Dialtones (A Telesymphony) (2001)
Dialtones (A Telesymphony), a concert performance in which all the sounds are wholly produced through the choreographed ringing of the audience's own cellphones. Before the performance, the audience's cellphones are programmed at special Web kiosks where individual phone numbers are registered. Individuals are then given specific seat numbers and a new ring tone. During the concert a group of musicians plays the cellphones by dialing them up with specially designed visual-musical software created by the artist. Dialtones (A Telesymphony) was first presented at the Ars Electronica Festival (Linz, Austria) in September 2001.
The Telesymphony Experience
by Golan Levin
"If our global communications network can be thought of as a single communal organism, then the goal of the Telesymphony is to indelibly transform the way we hear and understand the twittering of this monumental, multicellular being. One of the Telesymphony's strategies for doing so is the musical reification of this organism's sprawling and enveloping omnipresence. By placing every participant at the center of a massive cluster of distributed speakers, the Telesymphony makes the ether of cellular space viscerally perceptible. In a rejoinder to the eminent electronic composer Iannis Xennakis-who once complained that all electronic music sounded alike, because it would inevitably emanate from the same pair of speakers-the Telesymphony's radical surround-sound is at once musically and phenomenologically unique.
In an appropriate acoustic environment, the sporadic triggering of calls to mobile phones can evoke the placid chirps and trills of crickets, cicadas, frogs and birds. If hundreds or even thousands of mobile phones were to ring simultaneously, by contrast, the result would be an unimaginably seething, engulfing cacophony. Between these two textural extremes lies an enormous terrain of more musically familiar possibilities: gently shifting diatonic chord progressions, distributed and aggregate melodies, roving clouds of spatialized sound-clusters, and pointillistic hyper-polyphonies. Over the course of its planned half-hour duration, the Telesymphony will explore sequences and combinations of each of these possibilities, scaffolded throughout by a set of recurring harmonic themes and slowly evolving melodic phrases. Ultimately, the exact composition of the Telesymphony will be a function of both the scored performance produced by the project's staff, and the button-by-button interactions of the concert's attendees. In the Telesymphony, the phones, and not their owners, speak to one another. By summoning a communication between communications technologies in which there is no interlocutor, the Telesymphony invites its participants to perceive an order in what is otherwise disorganized public noise, and ratify it as a chorus of organized social sound. Thus, the overdetermination of the world of Work is countered with an equally determined Play, as the ringing of mobile phones-ordinarily, the noise of business, of untimely interruptions, of humans enslaved to technology-is transformed into a sound of deliberate expression, startling whimsy, and unconventional beauty."