October 4, 2022

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How Nokia Ringtones became the first viral earworm

How Nokia Ringtones became the first viral earworm

One of the best known ringtone archivists on the internet was barely alive to witness the golden age of his biggest hobby. The 20-year-old Scottish musician, who prefers to be known for his internet handle Fusoxide, was hooked through an Alcatel Flip he owned as a child. “I love the sound of old-fashioned ringtones, partly because of nostalgia and partly because I think there are real gems that have been overlooked,” he says. Today, Fusoxide is behind the popularity Tweet embed Twitter account. with others, like Tweet embedHelps keep André Louis acoustics Directory – a repository of phone software, sound banks, ringtones, and audio ephemera from a bygone era.

Getting into Fusoxide about a specific part of my childhood—the ’90s was a very special but embarrassing period for cell phones—seems like a strange dream where time makes no sense. It sends me down a YouTube rabbit hole of old Nokia tunes until I realize my cats hate them and aren’t afraid to tell me. As he howls in confusion at the loud screeching sound, I realize that if you took me back to 2002 after years of quiet, sober phone etiquette, I would probably feel the same. However, my curiosity remains. With young people interested in ringtones, how have perceptions about their origins changed, and how have ringtones survived in the modern soundscape?

Nokia’s flagship ringtone work is largely kept by hobbyists who extract ringtones from old firmware. “Sometimes the firmware is encrypted, so it’s almost impossible to get the files,” Fusoxide explains. “Often these packages are handled by more experienced people.” His love for the cultural aspects of the medium has made ringtonebangers more than just an unofficial archive thanks to his ongoing efforts to demand composers files and interviews; Among his famous followers is a music critic Anthony Fantanou And the Rebecca Blackwhose new music It proves that beats still resonate appreciably in pop productions, decades after their heyday.

It can be said that the culture of ringtones began in the mid-nineties with Nokia Tune, which was borrowed from the song “Gran Vals” by classical guitarist Francisco Tarija. Wherever I was at the time, it was impossible to escape the sound of Tárrega’s greatest legacy. Timo Anttila, one of Nokia’s early composers, bought his first phone, the Nokia 2110, in 1996. “Suddenly everyone got their own phone and everyone wanted personal ringtones and wallpaper,” he says. “The first bell tones were…really annoying, but they were creative and changed the acoustic environment dramatically.” When Nokia unveiled the world’s first polyphonic ring tone in 2002, insightful melodies became a vast part of everyday life and took on new importance as a form of personal expression.

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Nokia’s flagship ringtone is largely kept alive by hobbyists

Besides Anttila, the Nokia sound team was made up of young composers such as Hanno of Orsin And the Henry Dow Beside Alexei EpinAnd Marcus Castrin and contractors like Ian Livingston And the Noa Nakai. Castrén and Eeben participated in Demosin Programmers and experimental artists pushed the boundaries of computer-generated art and music. Af Ursin was an underground DJ who co-run a cabaret night called Miau! in Tampere, Finland. “We made Quite a few tracks And some of them ended up in amazing places like Global Underground,” He says.

In 2000, Livingston placed an ad in a magazine looking for work under the company name “MTS Media Themes and Sound Design”. When Jarkko Ylikoski, head of Nokia’s audio division, responded, he was forced to reveal that MTS was operating himself from a bedroom. Livingston, who has since scored Forza Horizon 5 and multiple all-out war Games (among many other things), he did not even have a mobile phone when he started contract work at Nokia. “I’ve spent a few years programming karaoke backing tracks via MIDIfiles for Roland – Copy and reproduce famous pop songs [them] via a compact General Midi audio suite,” he says. “So I had a few tricks up my sleeve to make the most of my limited audio resources.” A year later, he produced the first polyphonic Nokia Tune, initially released as a Korean Nokia Southern exclusively before its worldwide release.

Nokia was ready to break through the limitations of small phone speakers and capture the zeitgeist of the audio age of the early 2000s — the heyday kids clubEcstasy and house music. In his first week of work, Daw was shown a room and asked to create ringtones using a small keyboard and a computer with Cubase audio software, which he did not know very well. “It was a little daunting at first, but I quickly got into the challenge and enjoyed it,” he says. The team occasionally scanned competing phones for research. According to af Ursin, their biggest fear was that customers would set up a new phone and not find something to suit their tastes; The goal was for the phones to come loaded with “something for everyone”. Ultimately, Nokia worked with Beatnik, a leading audio technology company founded by MTV darling in the 1980s. Thomas Dolbywhich Livingston mentions as a “big step forward” for MIDI quality.

Around 2005, Antella realized that wherever he went, he could hear a ringtone he had either composed or collaborated on. “By then, everyone was making their phones sound in public. There were ringing tones everywhere and most Finns had nokias. It was really weird.” “no one [knew] Who did this and the amount of plays of those tracks [had] Globally every day… if you count the amount of phones that will be produced [the Nokia composers] One of the most recording artists ever.” Not everyone appreciated the subtle tones of Nokia’s groundbreaking ringtone work, though. While working on various versions of the Nokia Tune, Livingston, who ended up installing a recording studio in his basement, remembers a weak spot in the soundproofing that It led to the kitchen.“It was driving my wife crazy after listening to the Nokia tune over and over for hours and days on end!” he says.

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Star musicians like Brian Eno (who was famous for writing files Windows 95 sound), Crowder and DorfmeisterAnd the Ryuichi Sakamoto get involved. Artists Alison Craighead and John Thompson set their first silent ringtone Their demo store. A thriving sub-industry has sprung up around custom ringtones, especially when it comes to pop songs and Rap Ringtone. In high school, I paid for $1 versions of “Sandstorm” and all Alice Deejay’s song on my Nokia device. Ringtones have become a specific part of Hip-hop production styles. By 2007, Nokia acquired Global market share 50.9%And everyone had a terminal ringtone. But it was the pioneering work of invisible composers such as Castrén, af Ursin, Anttila, Daw, and their colleagues that shaped our psychological relationship with today’s modern earworm.

cultural critic Jetta dial, which specializes in electronic music and technology, is uniquely equipped to define the essential presence of tone in today’s music technology. “To me, TikTok is like new ringtones,” she says of the way users browse through the app’s audio clips. “These songs on TikTok became these memes very quickly, little bits of these songs… some of the old songs that people forgot, suddenly got hot again, because of TikTok… In a way, it’s like new audio signatures, and the excitement that was It’s about ringtones.” Ringtones, once an outright outflow of personal expression (and for some, a way to show flair or cultural capital), are reborn as common internal memes found on a few social media platforms.

With archiving of ringtones made by younger folks like Fusoxide (“the ringtone community…mostly just a subset of the old phone community, filled with a lot of immature kids,” he says), there are cute little nuances on the way Different generations are aware of the relationship between video game music and ringtones. When I asked Fusoxide for his thoughts on the relationship between chiptune (eight-bit video game music) and ringtones, he told me the scenes are mostly separate. “Most of the chiptune is inspired by game sound technology,” he says. “There are a few people doing things in the style of old-fashioned ringtones, but unfortunately not as many as I would like. I think the problem is either that the tools are difficult to use (like Yamaha’s SMAF tools) or opaque (like Beatnik Editor).”

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“To me, TikTok is like new ringtones.”

Perhaps a vivid experience of “ringtone mania” in the wake of formative video game music in my generation has left a different view of the relationship between video games—particularly Nintendo games—and the rise of ringtones. “Now, we might think of 8-bit chiptune music as a fun retro scene,” Dial says. “come back to me metroid or marble madnessor ZeldaAnd you can still remember those really economical shorts from [electronic] Music that has had a tremendous impact.”

Dayal adds that early games and early ringtones were born out of similar challenges. “They were able to compose music with this very limited set of instruments that was so emotionally impactful, so instant, so direct, even with all the limitations, they were able to make really interesting pieces of electronic music,” she says. “Ringtones are in a way the epitome of this kind of economy…you have a little time to get to the point that’s the most fantastic distillation of ideas that came out of video game music, to make maximum impact with a very limited toolkit.”

Today, I don’t think much about ringtones – my phone is either silent or, if I’m expecting an important call, set to a harmless tone. “I notice that people with iPhones tend to use one of the default Apple ringtones,” Dayal notes. “There is less feeling of having to express your personality in your ringtone.” I wonder how people in their twenties will look back at the current mobile voice culture, but few voices worthy of these future generations come to mind. Maybe we’re really cursed to live in a disturbing soundscape where everything bends toward nostalgia for polyphonic chaos.

Right now, the old Nokia crew are mostly surprised that there’s still interest in their work, and the couple — Antilla, for example — lament that they didn’t hold onto the old files at the time. However, Livingston says he’s been able to save about 90 percent of the work he’s done and plans to organize it to create an archive for the community. However, the work they did at Nokia is still a constantly neglected part of electronic music history. “I remember constantly working with them at the time,” he says. “I felt like we were making history together.”