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4/24/2002
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Celling Out

One ring to bind them all: Serious musicians are using cell phones as instruments. (Honey, they're playing our cell-phone song.)

Nothing zaps the enjoyment of a live concert quite like the scourge of ringing cell phones. But that hasn't stopped composers from trying to turn this annoyance into the main event. You could say they write the songs that make the whole world ring--or wring its hands.

Folks who adore the dulcet tones of their StarTacs may want to plan a trip to the United Kingdom in July for the Cheltenham Music Festival. There, they can hear the world premiere of New Ring Cycle, a piece by composer Simon Turner and writer Marcus Moore featuring 30 mobile phones. It will include audience participation, and those who play the ring tones on their phones will be called the Cheltenham SIM-phone-ya.

Perhaps Turner and Moore were inspired by composer Golan Levin's Dialtones Telesymphony, which debuted last fall at an annual festival for the Ars Electronica Center in Austria. The telesymphony incorporated the ringing cell phones of 200 audience members, who volunteered to have melodic ring tones automatically downloaded onto their handsets. Then there's the Spring Cellphony, first performed in Jerusalem in June. It gave cell phones a more modest introduction to the role of musical instrument. Each section of the medley was kicked off by a cell phone with a classical-music ring tone; then the traditional orchestra played the rest.

If you can't seem to find a ring-tone concert near you, don't despair. Just find a seat on a crowded train at rush hour, close your eyes, and pretend it's a Philip Glass tribute to Nokia.

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