How old Nokia ringtones were born

The Twitter account @ringtonebangers is committed to maintaining the André Louis Phone Tone Directory, a repository of phone software, sound banks, ringtones and sound effects from a bygone era. Almost.

There is a buzzer culture from the mid-90s to the early 2000s that fascinates young people today. Among them Fusoxide, a 20-year-old Scottish musician. “I love the sound of old ringtones, partly because of nostalgia and partly because I think they’re real underrated gems,” he said on The Verge. For this reason, he spawned the @ringtonebangers Twitter account, which, along with others such as @OldPhonePreserv, is committed to maintaining the André Louis Ringtone Catalog, an archive of telephone software, database sounds, ringtones and sound effects from a bygone era. Or almost: young artists like Rebecca Black, who is at the forefront of supporting the Fusoxide project, demonstrate how old mobile phone ringtones are still attractive and fit perfectly into today’s music.

The formation of this type of culture dates back to the mid-90s with 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 phone and wanted their own ringtones and wallpapers.” The real breakthrough came in 2002, when Nokia launched the world’s first polyphonic ringtone. His melodies have become ubiquitous in people’s daily lives and have taken on new meaning as a form of personal expression.

This desire has led to the formation of a Nokia team dedicated exclusively to sound, which includes composers of the caliber of Hannu af Ursin and Henry Daw, Aleksi Eeben, Markus Castrén, the aforementioned Timo Anttila, as well as entrepreneurs such as Ian Livingstone and Noa Nakai. Anttila states that in 2005, wherever he went, he could hear a ringtone he had composed or collaborated with. A progressive growth which in the following years brought other 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 was created, then reached an amateur level: many will remember paying friends or acquaintances to have their own personal Nokia ringtone.

According to noted cultural critic Geeta Dayal, this Nokia ringtone subculture continues to survive in today’s music technology. “To me, TikTok is like the new ringtones,” says Dayal. “Songs on TikTok become memes very quickly… an old song that people have forgotten suddenly becomes super hot again thanks to TikTok… in a way it’s like new sound signatures. Speaking of technology and music, it’s impossible not to mention video games as well. Songs from Nintendo’s old glories, such as Metroid and Zelda, faced the same challenges as mobile phone ringtones before they became iconic. Not surprisingly, some professionals who are part of Nokia’s audio team have subsequently worked in the audio sector for video game titles: an example would be Livingston and his contribution to Forza Horizon 5 and to several chapters in the strategic Total War series. .

Today’s current ringtones have a different effect 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 master. And when not active, some audio homologation is evident, depending on the mobile phone brand used. Meanwhile, the former Nokia team is amazed that there is still interest in their work. After all, we are talking about an important bracket of electronic music, rediscovered only recently thanks to younger generations of artists.

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