Dialtones (A Telesymphony) is a large-scale concert performance whose sounds are wholly produced through the carefully choreographed ringing of the audience's own mobile phones. Because the exact location and tone of each participant's mobile phone can be known in advance, Dialtones presents a diverse range of unprecedented sonic phenomena and musically interesting structures. Moreover, by directing our attention to the unexplored musical potential of a ubiquitous modern appliance, Dialtones inverts our understandings of private sound, public space, electromagnetic etiquette, and the fabric of the communications network which connects us.
Dialtones begins with a brief preparation phase prior to its performance, during which the members of the audience register their wireless telephone numbers at a cluster of secure Web kiosks. In exchange for this information, the participants receive seating assignment tickets for the concert venue, and new "ringtones" are then automatically downloaded to their handsets. During the concert itself, the audience's mobile phones are brought to life by a small group of musicians, who perform the phones en masse by dialing them up with a specially designed, visual-musical software instrument. Because the audience's positions and sounds are known to the Dialtones computer system, the performers can create spatially-distributed melodies and chords, as well as novel textural phenomena like waves of polyphony which cascade across the crowd; these musical structures, moreover, are visualized by a large projection system connected to the performers' interfaces. Towards the end of its half-hour composition, Dialtones builds to a remarkable crescendo in which nearly two hundred mobile phones peal simultaneously. It is hoped that the experience of Dialtones can permanently alter the way in which its participants think about the cellular space we inhabit.
Dialtones was created by Golan Levin in collaboration with Scott Gibbons, Gregory Shakar, Yasmin Sohrawardy, Joris Gruber, Erich Semlak, Jorg Lehner and Gunther Schmidl. It was presented in two consecutive concerts at the 2001 Ars Electronica Festival.