Friday, October 07, 2005

A symphony for the devil

Teddy de Burca Jnr. says that the music isn’t in the air, in fact, it’s trapped in a mobile phone

I sit in the café beside a young couple – a lovely, smartly dressed and well educated looking couple. Both smile shyly and look down, averting eye contact. She giggles, he chortles.

You might guess it’s a little bit of harmless flirtation – but neither of them is making a joke, why, they aren’t even talking to each other.

No, as I sip my coffee, the wilful young lovers are doing something far more entertaining than confabulating in seductive tones over the low tables. What would be the fun in that when you can, instead, be trying every single ringtone in your brand new phone?

Of course, when they finish, to try and get back to the one they liked they have to go through the whole lot again. Desperately trying to find that catchy little Beethoven number, perhaps.

In the end the girl settles for the standard Nokia ringtone – apparently now the most frequently heard melody in the world – and the boy chooses, without irony I suspect, one of Britney’s finest, Hit me baby, one more time.

I know I’m not alone when I complain as there is a man in my office who twitches like a shell-shocked war veteran every time a phone rings.

And the rings are never easy to ignore: Jingle Bells throughout the year, the Mission Impossible theme tune, always chosen in every office around the world by the guy with the biggest bunch of keys. (I myself flirted with the idea of downloading the Darth Vadar score for my phone. Just for gentle intimidation.)

But it doesn’t matter what jingle or melody it is. Ringtones are designed to attract your attention, so if it’s not your phone ringing it’s like your little nephew prodding you repeatedly when you’re trying to read a book. Especially when the person ringing never gives up and the person who owns the phone is AWOL. The phone just sits on their neglected desk ringing away. And just as my beleaguered colleague starts frothing at the mouth, the phone stops. Then, after a very brief respite it starts again.

One day he’ll crack, it’s only a matter of time. I picture him as one half of the classic Dilbert cartoon, which had two office colleagues standing by a desk with one saying to the other, “Your cellphone? Was it small, white and... flushable?”

And spare a thought for the musicians belittled by the whole concept. Francisco Tarrega, the 19th-century Spanish musician, known as the father of the modern classical guitar. Tarrega’s life was a miserable one. He suffered from ophthalmia, a horrendous form of conjunctivitis, and was said to have contracted it as a child when he was nearly drowned in a poisoned river by a mentally-disturbed nursemaid.

Now, even in the grave the misery continues for Tarrega as his masterpiece Gran Vals is now the 13-note jingle that is universally known as simply “that really annoying Nokia ringtone”.

Other alarming facts - The bells are ringing out

* Money - One of Hip Hop’s top producers, Scott Storch, who’s written huge singles for the likes of Beyonce, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey and many more, now devotes his time to the much more worthwhile (financially speaking) pursuit of composing ringtones and why wouldn’t he, after the people behind The Crazy Frog earned an estimated £14 million from that particular ringtone – the most commercially successful of all time. Ringtones are estimated to be a $9.4-billion-business in the year 2008.

* Faith - Mobile phones and ringtones can be used in a more spiritual manner, or so says Thai monk Phra Phayom Kalayano of the Glass Garden Temple who after hearing sexually explicit sounds coming from teenagers’ phones, decided to develop a set of more wholesome ringtones. These “dharma doctrine” tones, as they are known, consist of several pithy sayings designed to set listeners back on the righteous path. Pick of the litter? “Don’t let mobile phone conversations lead to premature sex and pregnancy.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ding-a-ling ling