Category Archives: Project Updates

*Mobile* Ringtone Performance at the 2013 Americans for the Arts Convention


On Friday, June 14, 2013, I’ll be at the Americans for the Arts Convention in Pittsburgh doing a *Mobile* Ringtone Performance. My appearance is sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, and I’ve prepared a very special series Pittsburgh ringtones for the event, featuring the above participants and/or sounds. The 10 new art cards include, from left to right: the Dilworth Drumroll Ringtone, Nermal’s Meow Tone, Erok’s Bicycle Bell Ringtone (2nd most downloaded tone in the project), Arrington de Dionyso’s Throat Singing Tone, the Uniontown Poultry Hall Ringtone, Balkan Babe’s Ja Posijam Lane Ringtone, the Welcome to Xenon Ringtone, Daniel Striped Tiger’s Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Tone (most downloaded tone in the project), the Afro-American Music Institute’s Boy’s Choir Ringtone and the Homestead Train Whistle Ringtone.

What is a *Mobile* Ringtone Performance?

During this 100% *mobile* and self-contained performance, I use my cell phone and re-chargeable battery-operated equipment to broadcast and amplify select tones from my public art project, Locally Toned. I also pass out a limited number of art cards featuring photographs of tone collaborators on the front, and tiny URLs and QR codes on the back, so that users may download specific tones to their cell phones. All equipment (broadcast and visual media) for the performance is lightweight and “wearable,” allowing the me to traverse almost anywhere to perform.

Here’s a diagram of my ringtone performance get-up:


Here’s a sample ringtone art card (front and back):

This art card features artist Casey Droge and her cat Nermal

This art card features Pittsburgh artist Casey Droge with her cat Nermal

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September / October 2012: What does Banff (Alberta, Canada) sound like?

This fall, I’m at The Banff Centre attending an artist residiency program. I’m here to work on my other ongoing project, Ventwittoquisms, but I brought along my audio equipment to record a series of tones from the Alberta region of Canada. I’m hoping I’ll be able to capture the sound of Elk in rutting season, but I can’t be sure I’ll have that kind of luck.

I’m here for 7 weeks of Experimental Comedy Training Camp. Led by artist Michael Portnoy, the purpose of the Camp is “to make your art work funnier.” I’m working with seriously silly and talented artists from around Canada, the States, Finland and England. When we’re not reading comedy theory, making prank phone calls, having studio visits or performing, I’ll be fishing around for tone contributions from those attending the Camp with me. Perhaps I’ll even get some from those who are leading and visiting the program (such as one of my sound-making heroes, Reggie Watts).

If you happen to live in Banff and have an idea for a sound that’s special to this region, time permitting, I’d love to work with you to capture it out in the field. Just reach out to me here, or write to me directly at locallytoned *at* gmail dot com. Scroll down to see a some of my snapshots from Banff / Experimental Comedy Training Camp.

T. Foley’s “Popcorn Eating Act” with Hector the Dummy (of Ventwittoquisms)

Michael Portnoy introduces artist Sean Joseph Patrick Carney

Artist Bridget Moser’s chair bit at Performance Night

Michael Portnoy, Director of Behaviour at Experimental Comedy Training Camp, gets his 5 minutes at our first Performance Night

Artist collective Fake Injury Party–Derrick Guerin, Scott Leeming & Paul Tjepkema (video still)

Still from Maarit Suomi-Vaananen’s “In a Misty Musty Thicket”

Neil LaPierre’s “Take Control of Your Life” improvement sessions (with artist Birony Clarke)

Emily McIntyre & Selina Doroshenko–Nothing Special–sport spectacular outfits each and every day.

Slide from visiting artist Steven M. Johnson’s lecture

Artist Steven M. Johnson talks about his work

The Banff Centre is situated within a National Park–stunning vistas are everywhere.

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Come Record Ringtones Saturday 19 Nov

Saturday Nov 19, 2011 12-4pm 

Location:  Assemble, 5125 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224-1636

Artist T. Foley brings her public art/original ringtone creation project Locally Toned to Assemble on Saturday November 19, 2011 for a Community Ringtone Recording Session.

Open to the public–come join us!

What does Pittsburgh sound like? You! Bring your robots, moo-cow toys, drums, rattles, harmonica or voice, and your super-bad self, and MAKE YOUR OWN TONE! Assemble will provide the space and minimal collaborative support for the session; the artist will provide the technical know-how and all recording equipment. Audio content must be copyright free (i.e., original compositions or sounds which exists in the natural world). Tone duration will be 30 seconds or less. Participants at this session will be photographed for possible inclusion in project exhibitions and archives. Tones will be made available to the public (as MP3s) by the end of November 2011 at Collaborative experiences are documented on the project Blog, and tones are pinpointed on a Google Map embedded on the tone distribution website. Funding for this Community Ringtone Recording Session has been provided by The Fine Foundation.

Assemble, a new venue in the Penn Ave Arts District, is a place where one can engage their intrigue through hands on activities about art and technology. Physical and nonphysical social and creative connections are fostered through film screenings, happenings, workshops, lectures, and community activities. assemble will activate the community with the contributions and presence of the audience and makers. With specific times for young and old makers alike, learning or making does not have to end when the work or school bell rings, it can become integrated into every aspect of life and time in the day. Founded on the concepts of sustainability, community, science, architecture, new media, and lowtech/hightech art, assemble will be a place for CREATION!


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Coming Soon: A New Series of Pittsburgh Tones

Locally Toned wishes to thank The Fine Foundation for their generous grant in support of a brand new series of Pittsburgh Ringtones. Funding is expected by the end of this month. The new sereis of tones is already in the works!

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Locally Toned and Ventriloquism

For the past few months I’ve been developing a new art project with a ventriloquist dummy. The experience has me thinking about ringtones and the concept of “throwing voices.”

I like a definition of ventriloquism that from an inspiring and thought-provoking book I’ve been reading, Dumbstruck – A Cultural History of Ventriloquism . The author, Steven Connor, defines ventriloquism as making voices appear to issue from elsewhere than the source. If that’s so, then Locally Toned succeeds as a type of electronic (or randomly automated) ventriloquism, when ringtones featuring voices go off on users’ phones.

Here’s an example from Faith Adiele, who shared her user experience story with Locally Toned readers (as a comment on a post) way back in May of 2009:

While on the road in Boston, I downloaded Momtone from an email onto my BlackBerry, and somehow it installed itself, unbeknownst to me. So I’m standing in a quiet bookstore in Harvard Square, trying to read for free, and my ride calls my BlackBerry. The entire bookstore bursts out laughing as Taylor and Peytie whine – with increasing volume – “Mommmm, mommmm…” I’m digging around frantically in my bag, unable to locate my phone. “I’m not even a mom!” I cry to my amused audience, at which point the clerk quips, “Well, that explains why you’ve hidden 2 little girls in your bag!”

As an artist (and media literacy practitioner), I work to give others voice through my creative process. With Locally Toned, an ongoing project, I enjoy learning about the sounds that resonate with individual–sounds that they want to share with others. Sometimes the tones are audio identifiers to express group affiliation (such as the Bicycle Bell Tone), or they are a form of cultural/collective memory (such as the Kennywood Merry-Go-Round Tone), or they are as a means of personal expression (such as Stuart Allen Braun’s Harmonica Tones).

In the new project that I’m working on for the 2001 Pittsburgh Biennial, I’m experimenting with non-traditional methods of ventriloquism, and am hoping to use social media as a tool to crowdsource “one-liners” for Hector the Dummy to speak in a set of performance videos that I’ll create this summer. The videos will allow me to explore concepts related to voice and voicelessness. This particular *leg* of the project, called ventwittoquisms, is a focused effort to experiment with voicing collective wisdom, humor or anxiety.

If you’d like to play with us (and if you don’t have automatonophobia–fear of ventriloquist dummies), begin by following the project’s Twitter stream ( There I’ll invite you to help me put words into the dummy’s mouth by Tweeting amusing, pithy or insightful “one liners” to be included in video performance works that I’ll produce this summer.

Prompts issued via Twitter by the dummy (this June and July) will look something like this when posted:

What’s the most encouraging thing anybody’s ever said to you? Reply with #encouragingwords.

Open a Twitter account (if you don’t have one) and reply with the appropriate #hashtag in your Tweet (in this particular example, the hashtag you’d want to include would be #encouragingwords).

If you don’t have/don’t want to open a Twitter account, you can Like Hector’s Facebook page.

If you’re curious and just want to watch, point your browser to this new (Tumblr) Blog (, or come to the Waffle Shop this Friday June 10th at midnight to see The Hector Can’t Talk Talk Show–an hour long performance I’ll be doing with the dummy as a kick off to the project.

And in the meantime, stay tuned and Locally Toned!

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Here’s to Juma and His Mighty Roar

I was saddened to hear of Juma’s passing last week at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

You can listen to his mighty roar here, or read more about him on the zoo’s recent Blog post, and on the Locally Toned post I published last year.

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‘IT’S FOR YOU: Conceptual Art and the Telephone’ (Exhibition Catalog)

“It’s for You: Conceptual Art and the Telephone,” at the Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport, CT, is curated by Terri C. Smith. The show includes work by artists such as Yoko Ono, the composer John Cage and the filmmaker Peter Greenaway (among many others). Click here to read the catalog.

Artist T. Foley is headed to Bridgeport next week where she’ll give a public talk about her project on Tuesday, March 22 at 5:00 p.m. and will hold an open recording session on Thursday, March 24, from 3:00-6:00. During the session people are invited to bring objects, ideas, and sound makers, then work with Foley to record their own ringtones. Both of these events are open to the public and will take place in Housatonic Community College’s Lafayette Hall. A Locally Toned display in the gallery is currently on view and features and take-away ringtone art cards that have special codes allowing visitors to send Pittsburgh tones directly to their cell phones.

See this press release for more information about Foley’s visit.

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