Interviewing Ennio Morricone in 2004, your scribe was bummed to discover that pressing his doorbell elicited a monotone buzz rather than the crazed "Ay-ee ay-ee ah!" of his theme for The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.In 2011, though, such everyday use of the maestro's music is a reality. In January, Korean company LG Electronics announced they'd commissioned Morricone to compose 15 new ringtones for their smartphone range. "Signore Morricone is one of the best-loved soundtrack composers of all time," gushed LG's President Dr. Jong-seok Park. "Reproducing his work gives smartphones a whole new level of respect as the primary device for on-the-go music."
That Morricone, one of film-scoring's most prolific and wily operators, should be the first 'serious' composer to deliberately exploit a gap in the ever-evolving ringtones market makes sense. One also wonders whether the 82-year-old's collaboration with LG is a playful nod to a project undertaken by one of his key influences, Karlheinz Stockhausen, who in 1974 composed 12 melodies - one for each sign of the Zodiac - for Swiss music box manufacturer, Reuge.
Enterprising folks have since fashioned music boxes playing everything from 'Hey Jude' to Gaga's 'Paparazzi', but naturally it's the ringtone - functional, portable, customizable, interchangeable - that continues to generate the big money. Last year, some $550 million was spent on Truetones (ie. ringtones derived from excerpts of actual songs) in the USA alone, and now, thanks to Morricone, the ringtone has gone highbrow, LG targeting a very different demographic to that encompassing kids for whom a hand-held snippet of chart-pop denotes cooldom.
We're clearly rather taken with ringtones, but why should that be so? These brief snatches of music rarely amount to a satisfying listen, and their commencement is a prompt for us to interrupt them. The upside, of course, is that they allow us to express something about ourselves and our musical tastes. Thus, while a subtler Morricone ringtone could be used to project sophistication, refinement and an air of self-confidence, the person whose ringtone is the theme tune from Curb Your Enthusiasm probably doesn't take themselves too seriously. The arrival of caller-assignable ringtones also allows us to say something about the person at the other end of the line: "A man whose phone plays the Jaws theme when his wife calls says much to the world", communications expert TJ Walker told the website a.m. New York in 2010.
Still, as 'Weird Al' Jankovic has clearly recognised, other folks may not think our choice of ringtone as cool, funny or tasteful as we do. Plus your ringtone, blurting out its reflection of you with scant regard for where you are, who you are with, and what time of day it is, can sometimes be the most crass of gatecrashers. Some years back I was at a Sufjan Stevens gig when someone's phone went off during John Wayne Gacy Jr., a gossamer ghost of a song about the serial killer of the same name. The interruption of such lyrically sensitive material seemed unfortunate in and of itself, but the breezy, monophonic strains of The Sailor's Hornpipe somehow made it worse.
For stuff about music that's good: http://www.mojo4music.com/.