How old Nokia ringtones were born

How old Nokia ringtones were born

Twitter account @ringtonebangers is committed to maintaining Andre Louis’s phone tone directory, a repository of phone software, sound banks, ringtones, and audio effects from a bygone era. Almost.

There is a mid-90s-early 2000s ringtone culture that fascinates young people today. Among these there is Fusoxide, 20-year-old Scottish musician. “I love the sound of old ringtones, partly because of the nostalgia and partly because I think they are genuine underrated gems,” he said on The Verge. For this reason he created the Twitter account @ringtonebangerswhich together with others like @OldPhonePreserv, is committed to maintaining Andre Louis’s directory of telephone tones, a repository of telephone software, sound banks, ringtones and audio effects from a bygone era. Or almost: young artists like Rebecca Black, at the forefront of supporting the Fusoxide project, demonstrate how old cell phone ringtones are still attractive and perfectly fitting into today’s music.

The formation of this type of culture dates back to the mid-90s with the Nokia Tune, taken from the song “Gran Vals” by classical guitarist Francisco Tárrega. A sound that quickly became iconic. Timo Anttila, one of Nokia’s first in-house composers, told The Verge that “suddenly everyone had their own phone and wanted to have their own ringtones and background pictures.” The real breakthrough came in 2002, when Nokia introduced the world’s first polyphonic ringtone. His melodies have become an omnipresent part of people’s daily lives and have taken on new meaning as a form of personal expression.

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This desire led to the formation of a Nokia team dedicated exclusively to sound, which includes composers such as Hannu af Ursin and Henry Daw, Aleksi Eeben, Markus Castrén, the aforementioned Timo Anttila, as well as contractors such as Ian Livingstone and Noa Nakai. Anttila states that in 2005, wherever he went, he could hear a ringtone he composed or collaborated with. A progressive growth that in the following years brought further artists and professionals, such as Brian Eno (composer of the Windows 95 theme), Kruder & Dorfmeister, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alison Craighead and Jon Thomson. In short, a real industry has been created, then arrived at an amateur level: many will remember having paid friends or acquaintances to have their own personalized Nokia ringtone.

According to the well-known cultural critic Geeta Dayalthis subculture of Nokia ringtones continues to survive in today’s music technology. “For me, TikTok is like the new ringtones”, Dayal says. “Songs on TikTok become memes very quickly… some old song that people have forgotten suddenly gets super hot again, thanks to TikTok… in a way, it’s like new sound signatures.” Speaking of technology and music, it is impossible not to mention too video games. Songs taken from old Nintendo glories, like Metroid and Zelda, had to face the same challenges as cellphone ringtones before becoming iconic. Not surprisingly, some professionals belonging to the Nokia sound team then worked on the sound sector of videogame titles: an example could be Livingston and his contribution for Forza Horizon 5 and for several chapters of the Total War strategic series.

Today’s current ringtones have a different impact and are based on equally different concepts. In the early 2000s there was a desire to have unique and personal sounds in your phone now silent mode is the host. And when it is not active, a certain homologation of the sounds is evident, depending on the mobile phone brand used. Meanwhile, the old Nokia team is surprised that there is still interest in their work. After all, there is talk of an important paranthesis of electronic music, rediscovered only recently thanks to the younger generations of artists.

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