Mobile composition set to go global

An artist in residence at the Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts (ICIA) and the University’s Department of Computer Science will be opening Bath Digital Festival at 6pm on Thursday, 15 March with a new musical composition scored for ring tones and an open, worldwide orchestra of mobile phone users.

The project, called ‘Mobile Sinfonia’, is the work of artist, musician and composer Jem Finer, and grew out of a talk he gave in 2007 on the unconsidered effects of ringtones on the urban soundscape and the possibility of channelling their potential toward a musical composition.

Jem Finer in 'breezeblockgettoblaster' - another of his creations - is the artist behind Mobile Sinfonia

Jem Finer in 'breezeblockgettoblaster' - another of his creations - is the artist behind Mobile Sinfonia

The launch of Mobile Sinfonia will involve an event at the Roman Baths during which around 150 members of the public will be given an opportunity to download ringtones from the Mobile Sinfonia website, or via an Android app produced in collaboration with the University’s Department of Computer Science.

The ring tones, the musical events in the score, are played by the chance occurrence of an incoming phone call, and as each is triggered individual devices will send a signal back to the website, logging the place, time and particular ringtone which was triggered.

The result, over the course of the project, will be to create a world-wide map of the combined global piece, which can be listened to in the present or scrolled to any point in it’s past.

Professor John Ffitch from the Department of Computer Science said: “Our team at the University has worked closely with Jem to develop an android app to interface with the website, which will host hundreds of different ring tones. Each tone will be free to download, so it will be really easy for people to take part in the project.”

There is often a digital element to Finer’s artistic work. A computer programmer as well as a talented musician, Finer was able to work closely with academics at the University to develop the project.

Previous projects have demonstrated Finer’s interest in expanses of time and scale. ‘Longplayer’, installed in an East London lighthouse in London twelve years ago, is a 1000 year long musical composition which was composed by Jem in such a way that, though currently performed by computer, it can be played by any conceivable technology or means.

Longplayer began playing at midnight on the 31st of December 1999, and will continue to play without repetition until the last moment of 2999, at which point it will complete its cycle and begin again.

Jem hopes that Mobile Sinfonia, following its launch in Bath this March, will develop into a composition of global scope with an ever growing community of participants over space and time.

Michael Bassett, Creative Producer at the ICIA said: “We are currently working with universities in the United States with the aim of coordinating the launch to take place over web-cam, so that the project is global from the outset.

“This project has the potential to grow into something really big, and it’s fantastic that we are starting it here in Bath during a week of celebration about the city’s digital expertise.”

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