2-45. Song-O-Phone


Remember the “Chinese Telephone Game?” Fortunately, an awareness of linguistic racism has changed this to just the “Telephone Game.” The idea is that one person tells another a sentence. That person tells the sentence to someone else, and so on. After a few people, a sentence like “The fish is in the water” turns into “peanut butter and jelly” or something like that.

Communication tends to deteriorate as it’s copied. The simplest demonstration of this is to photocopy a document, and then copy the copy, etc. Your 10th copy will be a blurry mess. But it could also be a bit artistic, so what if it was done… with music?

The Free Music Archive is a storage house of music that’s accessible to everyone. And rather than just serve as a warehouse, they’re also providing inspiration for composers and musicians with their Song-O-Phone project. With Song-O-Phone, an artist composes a piece of music, and sends it to another. The second artist listens and has 24 hours to produce their version of the song, and then pass it to another. After 18 iterations of this, something amazing happens.

You can see the progression here. Play Track I and then Track XVII


Of course, they’re not trying to duplicate the song perfectly. They’re encouraged to add their own style and flavor to the piece. But after 18 iterations of the same piece of music, the comparison between the first and last piece shows us what was essential in the original recording, and that tells us something about music and that artistic process.

Or, if you’d rather not analyze such, just sit back and enjoy. You can listen several albums produced this way at freemusicarchive.org/music/Song-O-Phone/.


The "Dial," an artifact now.

The “Dial,” an artifact now.

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