Dial the signals! Radio Concert for 144 Mobile Phones 

Kunsthalle Hamburg, 04/26 - 04/27 2003

The Radio Concert for 144 Mobile Phones invented a new musical instrument, that could be played by an uncountable dispersed mass of radio listeners in a process of interactive collective composing. 

Its core consisted of the 144 phones, which were arranged in a grid of 12 x 12 phones, being placed in the contemporary art museum Galerie der Gegenwart. Each of the phones was equipped with an alarm sound composed especially for this event by the Composer Jens Röhm. The sounds he chose ranged from single tones to rhythm patterns, chords and sound clusters. Like any other instrument the grid of the 144 mobile phones was tuned, every single alarm tone was composed to fit with all the others. 

The next important component of that instrument was the radio: Every tone the mobile phones played was broadcasted to an unknown number of listeners – by several german free FM radio stations and by live stream on the internet. 

With their own telephones – the third part of the scattered instrument - the listeners could call those in the Gallery. Every call set of a signal. Taken together the calls created a field of sound, a concert of ring tones. So the constellation of listeners caused an uncontrollable, constantly changing coincidental composition. 

The concert lasted for twelve hours – from eight in the evening to eight in the morning. So the participation of the listeners and the sound changed according to the time. Early in the morning the concert was very silent, due to the small number of people still awake and calling.
Every call changed the association of the sounds and thus was responsible for the composition. No listener knew in advance who else called at the moment he or she was dialing. The composition couldn´t be controlled by anybody, but everybody was responsible for its development in the way he or she responded to the sound the others made with an own contribution. Every response changed the association in an unpredictable way. An answer without a question. Thus to compose did not mean to communicate, but to enjoy this impossible collective responsibility – to enjoy dissemination. 

The numbers of the mobile phones were passed to the audience on different ways: flyers were distributed, additionally the grid of the mobile phones was displayed on the website, that also streamed the sound, as an abstract field of light dots. So during the concert one could see, which phone was ringing and which one was silent. This enabled the participants to choose consciously which sound they wanted to add to the sounds that they already heard. 

Excerpt 1: 9.31 pm to 9.36 

Excerpt 2: 3.39 am to 03.44

The grid of mobile phones as it appeared in the internet

A sketch of the composer Jens Roehm

The mobile phones before the concert

- and after.