The Ringtone Album
When I first heard about The Ringtone Album, I cringed at the thought of an album made entirely of ringtones. You know: those annoying, loud sound bites that always seem to go off at the most inopportune times, like in the middle of class or in a movie theater. So you can imagine my surprise when I began listening to the album and actually enjoyed what I heard.
Felix Obelix mastermind Wendy Spitzer got the idea to create The Ringtone Album after her cell phone died three years ago. She realized then what kind of power ringtones command over peoples’ lives. Many people hear ringtones more frequently than any other piece of music, and ringtones elicit a physical response (answering the phone) that no other music does.
Spitzer decided that since ringtones affect people so strongly, they should be composed of better music. So she created an album with 30 songs, each approximately a minute long, that are meant to be used as ringtones.
If the goal of The Ringtone Album was to create better ringtones, it’s a huge success.
The songs have some typical ringtone qualities: they are short, electronic sounding and have a steady, bright pulse.
Unlike many ringtones, there is a wide variety of instruments used, including the cello, marimba, bass, voice and electric harpsichord to name a few. The instruments, while diverse, blend together well, while still maintaining the individual character that each instrument has to offer.
Not only are the ringtones pleasant to listen to, but they are musically interesting as well. The album contains a surprising amount of musical diversity regarding tempo, rhythm and timbre.
Spitzer meets the challenge of creating a huge amount of musical variety in the narrow scope of a minute-long ringtone by altering every subtle musical detail at her disposal. She uses many odd beat patterns, like groupings of five and seven, to provide unsettling undertones to otherwise generic melodies.
She experiments with tempo and mood as well. Some songs are quick and lively, others are slow and somber, and still others are mysterious and even a bit eerie. Some songs are very percussive while others are more lyrical.
One thing that they all have in common is that they are very catchy. Each song has a memorable melody that listeners can easily associate with their personal ringtone.
The record did seem to be more of a collection of songs than a cohesive album. Each track differs from the next and there seems to be no logical progression of one song to the next. It is very much like scrolling through your phone to choose a ringtone and playing clips of each, which could easily have been the desired effect.
The Ringtone Album consists of some of the least irritating ringtones I have ever heard. I would hardly mind if one of them went off in a movie theater.
— Stephanie Zimmerman
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