Hear Brian Eno’s Ringtones Composed for Mobile Phones

In a Bri­an Eno inter­view from 2007, writer Gem­ma Win­ter remind­ed him of some­thing she had read about him and ring­tones:

GM: I read an inter­view with you in Q mag­a­zine about sev­en years ago, and you were asked had you ever com­posed your own ring­tone. You respond­ed by say­ing you would­n’t be that sad! But you’ve just com­posed ring­tones for Nokia — please explain.

BE: Heh heh! At that time they were ask­ing you to com­pose a piece of music, but you could only use those sounds. They would com­pose ring­tones out of these — beep boo boop, beepy nois­es. So I thought, ‘That’s hope­less — what can you do with that?’ You know the sound I mean, neep neep neep; so peo­ple were com­pos­ing neep-neep neep-neep nee-nee nee-nee. In the mean­time things changed so they had poly­phon­ic tones; so you could actu­al­ly have more com­pli­cat­ed sounds. It’s not real­ly a great medi­um for writ­ing music.

It’s a shame we don’t have the audio of this inter­view, because I would dear­ly like to hear what “neep neep neep” actu­al­ly sounds like. But in lieu of that, we have the above video, which col­lects all of the ring­tones Eno com­posed for the Nokia 8800 “Siroc­co”.

Eno was no stranger to writ­ing in minis­cule–he com­posed the Win­dows 95 open­ing chime. But in 2007 the “beep boop” lim­i­ta­tions had gone away and he was able to draw from a much larg­er palette. Now, we don’t know the para­me­ters of the assign­ment, but then again, look at what he was giv­en for the Win­dows chime, accord­ing to the same inter­view:

The music should be active, young, inspi­ra­tional, wise, stim­u­lat­ing, catchy, mem­o­rable, thought­ful, err glossy, futur­is­tic, nos­tal­gic — hon­est­ly a para­graph of adjec­tives. At the bot­tom it said the piece should not be more than three and a quar­ter sec­onds in length!

This time he was able to cre­ate over a dozen ring­tones along with alarms and alert sounds, all includ­ed above. The ques­tion might be: if we didn’t know this was Bri­an Eno, would we be able to rec­og­nize his music in such a small work? Also: Are these minia­tures inher­ent­ly more inter­est­ing than any oth­er com­pos­er?

For the first ques­tion, I did notice that some of the bright gui­tar tones sound a bit like his work with dul­cimer artist Laraa­ji, and the tone, the echo, and his choice of scale on some of the piano pieces come from the same world as his ambi­ent pieces, as do the round tones of his “alarms,” which are more of a con­cerned fur­rowed brow than a yell.

To the sec­ond ques­tion, I would say there is a cer­tain con­sis­ten­cy to this group than the grab bag of sounds on my iPhone. And if I used ring­tones anymore–does anybody?–I might be jeal­ous of the per­son with the Eno­phone.

Final ques­tion, prompt­ed by the nos­tal­gia in the YouTube com­ments: How many Nokia 8800 users bought a Bri­an Eno ambi­ent record because it remind­ed them of their phone?

Note: You can appar­ent­ly down­load Eno’s ring­tone col­lec­tion at this web­site.

via @darkshark

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Steve Reich is Call­ing: A Min­i­mal­ist Ring­tone for the iPhone

Down­load Jim Rockford’s Answer­ing Machine Mes­sages as MP3s

Bri­an Eno Reveals His Favorite Film Sound­tracks

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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