The Ringtone Society Circa 2006


In 2006 this was The Ringtone Society's website.
A little history might be in order:

The Ringtone Society

Thursday 26 October 2006 12:00AM
The Crazy Frog ringtone became the first megahit on the ringtone chart a couple of years ago, with millions of people downloading it to their phones.
But it also drove millions of people nuts, including a group of young Dutch artists who decided to get even.
They formed The Ringtone Society, dedicated to creating quality original ringtones.
They invite musicians to submit original tunes or record them live, so they can be put on the Society's website and downloaded for a small fee.
They've been mining the talents of local musicians at this years Melbourne International Arts Festival.

 

Ringtones can no longer be downloaded from this site.
Content is from the site's 2006 archived pages.

 



 

Welcome to The Ringtone Society

The Ringtone Society is an international platform that aims to liberate the world of musically banal ringtones that have infiltrated our neighbourhoods. HOW? By asking composers and musicians from all over the world to join us in creating original ringtones and inviting you to acquire and use as many as you like, and thus protecting society from the digitally-dull ringtone! Let the revolution be mobilised!

Ringtone Society intends to transform public space in the same way that graffiti-culture made travelling in public transport fun again. What started out as an underground movement was soon picked up by the traditional art circuit. The Ringtone Society places audio-tags in the public environment, and puts avant-garde culture in the place where it belongs: not in a concert hall or in an art gallery alone, but back in the public domain.

Through composition assignments and special projects the Ringtone Society boosts the artistic development of the ringtone.

Until now the website was a Holland based community, with ringtones from Dutch and international prominent and emerging composers. However, between now and October 12th the society will grow as the creations of Australian musicians are added to the ringtone catalogue.

 



 

Ring tones will always be annoying

Dik Hermes
Introduction
Why will ring tones always be annoying? In fact, there is a very short answer to that question.  In general ring tones are attention or warning signals, and for people, for whom such a signal is not meant, hearing it is a false alarm. People do not like false alarms and, hence, ring tones get annoying after hearing them a few times.  
In contrast with ring tones, there are many sounds in our environment which we generally do not find annoying: foot steps, closing doors, cars passing by, birds singing and church bells are just a few examples. These sounds, though sometimes very well audible, do not divert the attention of people from what they are doing. Indeed, people reading a book, keep on reading; people falling asleep, are not woken up. Actually, these environmental sounds are not really perceived as sounds but as events which take place in our environment. They are interpreted as images of what happens around us.  In fact, they confirm the image listeners have of their environment and what is going on.  If such environmental sounds are not very loud nor indicating "new" events, they are assuring. The listeners can go on with what they are doing. Ring tones, on the other hand, must inherently draw away our attention from what we are doing, because they always indicate that something new is going on. .   
But this does not make any ring tone as annoying as any other, and so we ask what makes one ring tone more annoying than another.  In order to answer this question, we will first have to consider some elementary design principles for signals meant to draw attention, to warn, or to indicate an alarming situation. (Most of the principles mentioned here are derived from Edworthy & Adams, 1996, and Stanton & Edworthy, 1999. )By considering a few natural design principles, it will appear that, taking a few considerations into account, ring tones can be made less annoying and more functional.   
Detectability and audibility
Attention signals should on the one hand be loud enough to draw the attention of the listener. On the other hand, they should not be so loud as to startle the listener, certainly not if the signal can be heard by other listeners.  It has been shown that, when a signal is about 15 dB above the background noise level, it is well audible and not too loud. Furthermore, ring tones composed of many different frequency components are less readily masked by other sounds such as music than sounds composed of only one or two frequency components.
 
Identifiability
When someone hears a warning sound, it should immediately be known what the sound means. For ring tones this is only rarely a problem.  Only when operating in a control room in which other equipment can produce attention or warning sounds, one runs the risk of confusing ring tones with one of those other signals. 
 
Discriminability
This is a major problems for ring tones. Many people have more or less similar ring tones. Only after hearing a few tones, listener can distinguish the ring tones of his/her own telephone from that of someone else. As a consequence, when one is reading a book or just falls asleep, the attention is diverted from the book or from the day dreams into which one was just musing away.  
 
Localizability
It is a well known situation. In a train a ring tones sounds and, besides the owner of the ringing phone, various other people start looking for their mobile telephones.   The problem is that most ring tones consist of tones with gentle onsets and frequencies in the range between 1500 and 3000 Hz. These are the sounds which are more difficult to localize than any other sound. For sounds to be well localizable they should be wide band and have short attack times. As already mentioned, this has the additional advantage that they are less easy masked by other sounds. This can be realized by including higher harmonics and by replacing the trapezoid temporal envelopes by, for instance, envelopes which start very rapidly and then decay exponentially giving the tones a plugged timbre.  
 
Perceived urgency
The perceived urgency of an attention signal should carefully reflect the urgency of the actual situation. Most ring tones start calling and only stop when the listener answers the call. This is a property that can be very annoying even for real alarm calls. There is no reason not to interrupt the sequences of tones by relatively long pauses. These give the listeners the opportunity to communicate undisturbed. Silence is really an important component of well designed warning signals. Perceived urgency can then be increased by  increasing the tempo of the next tone sequence, increase the bandwidth of the tones, increase the interval between the tones, make them inharmonic, louder, or apply frequency modulation. Note however, that this may increase the annoyance of the bystanders. 
 
Perceived annoyance
Some aspects have already been dealt with. Moreover, the tones of some ring tones consist of pulse-like sounds. Such sounds have the property that the higher harmonics are so close in frequency that they cannot be resolved by our hearing system. As a consequence these high-frequency harmonics interfere, which induces a buzzy, nasal timbre, generally felt annoying. Too abrupt attacks also contribute to annoyance, certainly if not followed by rapid decays as in plugged sounds. Very loud sounds with abrupt attacks are excellent for creating panic. Ironically most fire alarms are of this kind. The risk of panic, also for very loud sounds, is much less when starting softly, giving them gentle onsets, and including long silent pauses in which people can deliberate what to do. 
 
Conclusions
The function of ring tones is to signal to the owner of the mobile phone that someone is calling. Hence, ring tones have the function of drawing someone's attention. For all listeners except the owner of the phone these calls are false alarms and, hence, disturbing. But the annoyance of ring tones can be diminished by taking a few simple measures. Do not make them too loud!  If you do not want to miss it, let the ring tones start softly only to increase in intensity after a few tone sequences.  Include long pauses between successive tone sequences, especially when the ring tones must be loud. Make the tones wideband, but do not pack the high frequency partials too close in frequency as this will make the timbre unpleasantly nasal and buzzy.  Wideband sounds are easy to localize, and are not so easily masked by other sounds.  Consequently, wideband sounds do not need to be as loud in order to be well audible.   
Remarks
Now try to realize how few ring tones fulfill the abovementioned requirements!  You see? That is why they are so annoying.   
Designers will classify much of what is said above as "purist". In my opinion the challenge is to realize ring tones which obey the abovementioned design principles and meet the demands of the creative designer.
 
Dik Hermes
Subdepartment of Human-Technology Interaction
TU/e, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
 

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A short history of the long relationship of tones and phones

Lutgard Mutsaers
American popular songs in the late 19th century often referred to the new medium of telephony, which created no less than a sensation. ‘Hello, Ma Baby’ by Ida Emerson and Joseph Howard from 1899 is a well known example, and was then sung by many artists in vaudeville and recorded both for Edison and Berliner Record Companies, bitter rivals at the time. ‘Hello, Ma Baby’ much later inspired ‘Telephone Baby’, made immortal by The Big Bopper who died along with Buddy Holly in their 1959 plane crash.

Long distance calling over the phone was perceived as the next miracle in an age where all sorts of modern inventions took shape. Numerous are the scenes in early Hollywood movies where jet setters and gangsters wait for the phone to ring, pick up the horn in great expectation, put it to their ears and do whatever business they are up to. The occupation of telephone operator was a new and exciting job for young female professionals, whose voices were selected to be pleasant and inviting. In the trenches of World War I the telephone was an indispensable tool for the planning of warfare and information about casualties. There is little that has not been mediated through a phone, from noncommercial messages of interpersonal contact to professional telephone sex.

The ringtone, for a long time identical to the dial tone (the one the caller hears in his or her ear when waiting for connection), has seen variations in different countries. Great Britain for example had the standard of two ringtones shortly after one another, followed by a short break, and then the repetition of the bitone sound. The Netherlands and many other countries have single ringtones with regular spaces of time in between. For any hearing person, the sound of a telephone ringing is unmistakable. The standard national ringtone is a cultural phenomenon understood by all. It is like the national anthem. The national annoyance is ‘waiting music’ when you as a caller are put on hold by the people or firm you try to reach, but that’s a different story altogether.
The advent in the mid 1980s of satellite communication including telephony and the consecutive boom in cellular phones brought with it the opening up of the ringtone possibilites. Customizing your own phone with a ringtone of choice is now normal practice. The intersection of the music industry with the ringtone business was a logical development. But it took some time to recover from the mobile wonder itself, or so it seemed. Not much was done about customizing and variation during those first years.
As late as 1997 Finnish producer Nokia began offering alternative ringtones to its standard ‘Gran Vals’ ringtone. These ringtones could be downloaded through what Nokia called Smart Messaging. ‘Gran Vals’ (big waltz), by the way, is the name of a composition by Spanish guitarist Francisco Tarrega (1852-1909). Had he lived, he’d be a household name. Since 1997 the simple monophonic or mono ringtone (just one melodic line, no harmonies) was joined by polyphonic or poly ringtones (more tones ringing simultaneously in a certain harmony), and even MP3’s of sections of original recordings (realtones).
It is impossible to say whose claim to be ‘the first original ringtone composer’ is true. Paris-born Martin Plante, now Montreal based and a rockband keyboard player (as such not blessed with a wide range of exposure), says he is the world’s first ringtone artist to compose music exclusively for cell phones. He started this new thing in February 2001. Classifying his work results in several official categories: techno, tropical, morbid melodies, buzz-tones, speedy melodies, Far West tunes, sophisticated ones, Mid East sounds, mystery tones (inspired by classic mystery film plots), ringtones-a-gogo (with a touch of Moulin Rouge), and the unclassifiable ‘Unclassified’ ringtones that are, well, interestingly different.
Different at yet another level are socalled ‘moantones’, sexy sounds relating to all sorts of phases of sexual arousel. The sexually explict audio clip for cell phones seems to be a whole new industry by itself. Started in Toronto in the world of prostitution, the moantone was an instant success. Technically the inventors went as far as assigning a specific moantone to specific incoming calls from clients, so they knew by ear who wanted their time and assistence. This principle of assigning a specific tone to a specific caller in your own address book was not new though. Another composer who has a claim to ringtone fame is the already legendary British monument of crossdressing and androgyny, Boy George. He was the first pop star to compose an original ringtone (‘Sonic Trigger’) for UK Vodafone in 2003. Some time before, in december 2001 to be precise, record major EMI had made the historical mistake to try and fight new developments in consumer music culture, instead of adapting to them. EMI ordered ringtone providers to stop turning the music of EMI signed artists into what they called ‘jingles’, altered versions of copyrighted songs, suited for mobile phone use.
A fairly recent development in Ringtonia - fantasy name of the world of the ringtone - is the chart system reinvented for ringtones. Its rationale is the same as the chart system for records: sales figures count. The virtual Ringtone Jukebox plays the ringtones of choice, so to speak. Parallel to issues in ‘normal’ popular music of the past, ringtones are not neutral elements in people’s lives. Some fit your personality more than others. For that reason ringtone websites offer special questionnaires to get to know yourself better in this respect. The omnipresent use of pieces of the biggest chart hits as ringtones has become the reason that the ringtone phenomenon itself is tainted by a kind of ‘cheap’ image. The fact that young children are the most fervent users of chart hit ringtones adds to the low esteem. All of which has nothing to do with the overall quality of the individual original songs themselves (a mistake quite often and undiscriminately made). It remains true that popular tunes soon lose their appeal when too many people use the same excerpts of hit songs on their mobiles. That makes the scene ideally set for composers of original material. The development of ringtones can still expand in so many directions; it has only just begun.
Definitive proof of the cultural importance of a technological invention or gadget is the mentioning of the device and what you can do with it in lyrics of popular songs. Apart from the ‘telephone’ songs mentioned earlier, there are also numerous songs about the grammophone, the transistor radio and the walkman, especially since pop culture became almost exclusively youth oriented. In the summer of 2004 Dutch based R&B artist and singer songwriter Alain Clark (24) released his single ‘Ringtone’, a Dutch language song. It contains two crucial lines, [in translation] ‘to make sure you know that it’s me’ (zodat je weet dat ik het ben) and ‘my ringtone made especially for you’ (mijn ringtone speciaal voor jou gemaakt). Like Emerson/Howard before him, Alain Clark couples a hot topical cultural phenomenon annex communication gadget with the notion of romantic possibilities and promises. A logic the ‘art’ ringtone composers might wish to disrupt in their own noncommercial but definitely communicative ways.
 
Lutgard Mutsaers
Popular Music Studies

Utrecht University

 



COMMENTS

 

Date Name Country Statement
2007.05.15 airline tickets `airline tickets` airline tickets Lesotho Hi. Great site.
2007.05.01 Mrlol `Mrlol` Mrlol Ethiopia I find of you site, espesially about admin!
2007.04.24 Saar `` Saar Netherlands  
2007.04.22 `` Bosnia/Herzegovina  
2007.04.22 `` Tunisia  
2007.04.19 Phocas Marlon `http://xw7.net` hocsarln@xw7.net Senegal Nedolgo tolko zhili byl. Phocas Marlon.
2007.04.19 Immacolata Danijel `http://q0q.com` macotadanijl@q0q.com Bangladesh Kogda nastanut holoda i belaja doroga ljazhe. Immacolata Danijel.
2007.04.19 Izumi Mahmoud `http://wnzy.com` iumimahm@wnzy.com Mali Ne v dengah ne v muzejnoj pyl. Izumi Mahmoud.
2007.03.17 Taiyo `mr business` Adolphus Australia POWER to the people! Corporations get F&%^ED! Expression and liberation of ideas! Artistic snobbery does not rule here.
Can someone get rid of the spammers and drug advertisers on the website.
2007.03.06 Niko `Ikon` Kino Germany God Bless U!
2006.11.29 Todd `pilgrimfox` Palmer Australia  
2006.11.13 Maxim `MaxStriker` Yevdokimov Russian Federation Ringtone culture RULLEZZ!!!
2006.10.18 Pauline `Pauline` Edwards Australia  
2006.10.15 Roman `e-was` Graneist Germany  
2006.10.12 Paul `Paul` Adams Australia  
2006.10.11 Max `maxman` Manylov Russian Federation Ringtone is a Genre.
2006.10.02 Anna `Goanna` Fee Australia Onwards the Ringtone Revolution!
2006.09.27 vasil `vst` tole Albania eumenides, opera.
2006.09.17 Zak `zakkiedude132` Gaddie Australia No more monotonous beeps!
2006.09.02 Molly `Cassandra` Cule Australia LIBERATE OR FACE FINES (that's right, we all saw the Chaser last week . . .)
2006.09.01 Helen `` Blunden Australia If the Ring Tone Society assists in creating a harmonious physical environment in the public space without jolting my nerves, then hooray!
2006.08.28 Kiernan `` Celestina Australia Ring-a-ding-ding.
2006.08.24 Allan `boomahay` Bryant Australia Feel the power of real expression people!
2006.08.22 ross `the load mayor` kavanagh Australia  
2006.08.05 lefteris `` papadimitriou Greece  
2006.08.04 Norbert `Norbo` Broers Netherlands Keep the ringtone alive! and Pure!

 

 

EDITORIAL

Concept: Submarine Channel & Muzieklab Brabant
Producer: Theo Andriessen

Project Coördinator: Joost Heijthuizen, Maike Fleuren
Design: John van der  Wens (2 meter 4 design)
Technical realisation: Leon van Kammen, Tim Gerritsen (IZI Services)

Artist Contact: Norbert Broers, Maike Fleuren
Managing Editor:
Norbert Broers
Thanks to: Marilot Baerveldt, Femke Dekker, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Australian Musci Centre, Mixed Industry, Victorian College of Arts, All participating artists and composers

Muzieklab Brabant production, 2006
Supported by VPRO 3voor12

The Ringtone Society is financially supported by the following funds:
Melbourne International Arts Festival
SICA
Mondriaan Foundation
OCW
Dutch Filmfund
Gemeente Tilburg

 

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RingtoneSociety.com