The jarring, abrasive jangling of the telephone has been a constant since its invention. Only when cellphones reached a certain technological maturity were we allowed to customize the sounds that disturb us, and thereby soften the intrusive blow.
Yet, how rarely people do that! Many phones continue to ring or notify at factory settings, in every case sounds so bland only their ubiquity annoys more than their content. Further, they never fail to declare brand affiliation – a commercial with every incoming call. Unless phone makers and providers will pay us for playing their jingles, we should change our ringtones.
But we shouldn’t change them to the even more objectionable buggeries of “classical” melodies. Für Elise sounds as bad coming out of a phone as a .MID file as it does from a doorbell. It’s galling that such a melody, which has already become hackneyed from overuse, should be further degraded by primitive synthesis. Player pianos at least offer the dignity of being pianos. Music boxes have small mechanical parts that, with wear and accretion of dust, produce microchanges in timbre with every iteration of the melody.
In reproduction, at every remove the music becomes less like what the composer intended. During composition, pieces were imagined in performance, in a parlor or symphony hall perhaps. The derivative process could be defended if it ever served the piece or melody. I can’t think that it ever has, though car horns playing “La Cucaracha” reference the actual horns driven by air.
So, convenience and commodification have driven the factory farming of bastard song snatches. The antidote to this corrosive denaturing is, on the one hand, to craft these omnipresent tones from common intentions and electronic material ab initio. On the other, phones can now play compressed audio files through speakers that reproduce frequencies somewhat loyal to recorded, digitized music – so you can play certain songs and hear their subtleties, like the hiss of a brushed cymbal.
Electronic music, such as jungle/drum & bass, is constructed from synthesized material with “organic” sound, like breakbeats: small segments of rhythm often isolated from funk 45 drum solos. (I mean electronic after the theoretical pioneers like Varèse and Stockhausen.) Instrumental acoustic material is repurposed into a tapestry concerned with artistic fidelity to a scene, not commercialization – until of course it becomes dominated by market concerns and then rapidly descends into greedy self-parody in the main.
Further, the technical strictures of samplers used in the early days required that rhythmic units be brief and bear repetition. Hence, to excerpt electronic music for ringtones is obvious, even natural. Device limitations should still be heeded: the saturated synthesizers of trance, for example, strain phone speakers and sound cheap, and tiny phone speakers will never take bass.
The idea behind Ringston is to provide an outlet for tailored sound: either electronic music that lends itself to ringtone repurposing, or primarily instrumental/vocal music with some fidelity to the “original” when played through a phone speaker. There are selections for different situations: “Sugar” or “Sublime” are ambient enough not to be noticed in an office, except by the ear expecting them. Thus everyone’s life is improved; a public service—Für Elise and everyone else.
Antiteater—I Kill Them—German spaghetti-western soundtrack (Fassbinder’s WHITEY), horns, punchy guitar and some cymbal hisses (still available)
Polska—Summertare—A shimmery hammer dulcimer ditty from the Irish downtempo and drum&bass scientist (available?)
Ozy—Sugar—Barely-audible sweet ambient delight from Iceland’s electronic craftsman (still available?)
Shock Headed Peters—Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret—Rhythm tape loop and piano improv intro from this song
Uusitalo—Social Selection—Something slinky and chunky from Finland’s audio polymath (still available)
In Deep—Skanking—Drum&bass from the mid-90s crates, very melodic with a bit of drum seasoning
FM Einheit & Andreas Ammer—(Heretics)—The sound of the HERETICS in the excellent Radio Inferno (still available) play. Festive and ridiculous toned bell flurry.
Rikers Island—Q-Project & Spinback—Shuffly drum&bass drumwork with blurry plucked strings and a supposed sample from Rikers Island
Shock Headed Peters—Blackouts in the Clear Sky—Boozy horns and percussion loop
Seba—Valley of the Moomins—Adorable Moomins-y noise from the drum&bass classic by Sweden’s sound machinist
If anyone can think of a brilliant way to allow previews for these, please comment. WordPress doesn’t allow free WPAudio Player uploads anymore, and I can’t figure out how to link FTPs…I’m paying enough for hosting elsewhere to pay here too. Tx!