Just like Rufus Wainwright, I generally leave my cellphone on vibrate. But there are reasons to veer from that habit. There are certain situations, such as driving or setting a wake-up alarm, that suggest a sonic signal is the best option. And then there is simply the attraction of the sounds themselves, like when a musician of Scanner’s stature makes new ringtones available for free download. Late last week he posted 17 tracks from an aborted commission. They range in length from 3 seconds to 16 seconds, and in style from variations on a traditional doorbell (“Twing”), to minute techno (“Elelo”), to bell tones (“Cobel”), to violin (“Gentlemen”).
Brief as they are, the 17 individual tracks are each rich with detail, with a sonic depth that would have been unimaginable when cellphones were first introduced. It is, also, hard not to imagine each tone as the starting point of a fuller composition. Many of them work quite well, in that regard, on repeat — they are starter cells for long stretches of minimalism. A ringtone can, in the correct circumstances, set the tone for a given situation. In that sense, Scanner’s cellphone tones are cues to fictions that their users willingly submit themselves to.
Scanner explains the scenario that led up to the tracks’ release in a brief accompanying note:
Ringtones that were originally commissioned for a new telephone out on the market soon, but after some months of back ‘n forth all my sound work was rejected for being ‘too Scanner.’ Rather than let these rot on a hard drive, here they are all in mono, low resolution for your own delight. Playful, fun little tunes to brighten up your smart phone.