Xperiments: Clint Small's Mobile Symphony
Clint Small is a longtime Mstation contributor and here he tells us his plan to make the hated mobile phone ringing interuption into the concert itself... maybe with your help.
It was a joke at first. But it just wouldn't let go.
Early 2001, we were hanging out in one of the uni cafes, clowning around, three music students who called themselves Deep People, joking about the cover band we would all wind up in.
The oboe player told us about a performance of Le Sacre du Printemps that he'd recently done. During the quiet opening theme a mobile/cell phone went off, ringing out some stupid tune.
The audience glared daggers at the philistine in the audience who'd allowed this outrage but on stage it was a different matter. The musicians were grinning.
For, while the audience fumed at the desecration of Stravinsky, the musicians heard a coincidental counterpoint to the music they were playing. They loved it.
So there we were drinkin' coffee and makin' jokes about it. You could do this, then you could do that. No - that wouldn't work. You'd need to do this.
And it got me thinking and thinking.
Three weeks later, I'm sitting in another uni cafe, eating my lunch and trying to study. I've got the book open and my eyes are following along the text. It was useless. Nothing. My brain was full of mobile phones and scales and aleatoric parameters.
I'm actually going to have write this bloody thing. And out came the pen and paper.
It was easy.
My work, Mobile : a Musical Work for Cell Phones, is a piece written to take full advantage of mobile/cell phone technology and harness it for purely musical purposes.
It consists of a large number of short themes written in a pentatonic scale. These themes are the ringtones of the phones.
At the direction of a conductor, musicians dial each other randomly and the harmonic, melodic and rhythmic elements are constructed spontaneously as the phones ring.
Phones that vibrate when rung can be placed on the skins of drums, inside pianos, on the strings of electric guitars laid flat, etc.
Because it is the ringtones that generate the sounds, a performance of Mobile is not limited to any one space. Performances may take place in multiple locations simultaneously with the musicians generating sounds within the same space or half the world away. It is only limited by the network.
Likewise a performance may start in one location, be handed on to another, on to another, and so on, until it has traveled the world. It can follow one path or many paths simultaneously and still be the same performance.
One of the main points of Mobile for me is that ordinary people (i.e. non-musicians, let alone academic, or, "art" musicians) could participate in it. I thought that this would be a great way to take contemporary "art" music out of its self-reflective environment and show that it wasn't all serious and intellectual. That it could be fun too. And that you could be in it.
Early in 2002, Mobile caught the attention of the media in Australia (where I live) and was featured in a major newspaper (The Age) and on the national broadcaster (the ABC).
As a result of this exposure, I've started a mailing list of people who have contacted me and volunteered to take part in a performance. I've heard from musicians, sure, but also from families, intellectuals, students and people who just think it's a great idea and want to be in it.
Currently I am preparing a proposal to present to potential sponsors with a view to doing as large a performance as possible, in as many places around the world as possible sometime in the middle of 2003.
If you're interested in taking part in a performance - anywhere in the world - feel free to email me saying so and telling me which city you live in, or which one is closest to you, and I'll put you on the list and keep you informed about what's happening.
My email address is clintsmall @ hotmail.com and I'd really love to hear from you.
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