Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Technology

Help! My Ears Are Ringing

DiscoblogBy Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)September 22, 2006 3:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

For most of us, the phrase “music technology” probably conjures up images of synthesizers, samplers, mixers, and other gizmos that can create and manipulate sound. But apparently these options didn’t quite cut it for composer David Baker at Indiana University. He’s turning to a new source of electronic music: cell phones.

Baker’s new composition, Concertino for Cellular Phones and Orchestra, will premiere at the opening of the Chicago Sinfonietta’s 20th anniversary season. The orchestra’s percussionists will contribute a few ring tones from the stage while audience members are invited to turn their phones on and off, adjust the volume, and of course, allow them to ring at random. No word yet on whether concertgoers will earn dirty looks for carrying on a phone conversation during the piece.

The music of ambient noise follows a tradition dating back to John Cage, whose 1952 work 4'33" requires the performer to clock out four minutes and thirty-three seconds’ worth of nothing while the audience listens intently to the unscripted background soundscape. Legend has it that Cage was inspired to write the piece after visiting Harvard’s anechoic chamber, designed to eliminate all external noise and minimize sound reflection within the space. Even there, the story goes, he couldn’t find complete silence: his darned circulatory and nervous systems kept right on humming. (While others have been able to hear their own heartbeats in anechoic chambers, the claim that it's possible to hear the nervous system is more dubious. It has been suggested that Cage may have suffered from mild tinnitus.)

And now, if you’ll pardon the interruption, I have to take this call.

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In