Tag Archives: Megapolis

Throat Singing and Other ArringTONES from Arrington de Dionyso

Are you the kind of person who’s always wanted a throat singing ringtone? Or how about a tone influenced by British Romantic poetry, that’s sung in Indonesian by a trance-punk recording artist?

In that case, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to the work of Arrington de Dionyso and this new series of Arringtones. On September 21, 2010, de Dionyso performed Malaikat dan Singa with his band mates–Germaine Marie Baca-Has on drums, and Nehemiah St-Danger on bass at Pittsburgh’s Garfield Artworks. Later in the post, I’ll describe my impression of his performance and share a 25-minute interview with the artist, but first things first–


These audio files were recorded a capella, with de Dionyso singing straight into the stereo mic on my WAVE/MP3 recorder. And believe-you-me–when these tones go off, they make heads turn in public, and cell phones literally vibrate. De Dionyso practices throat singing, and on my phone (an LG enV), even when the vibrate mode is turned off, his vocal tracks produce little electronic tremors. The Minum Mani Ringtone is a direct quote from the album Malaikat dan Singa (“Angels and Lions”). The particular turning (and tuning) of the words sung in Indonesian, “Minum mani malaikat manis,” is a William Blake-influenced phrase. It translates as, “Drink the sweet semen of the angels.” Arrington de Dionyso’s low frequency improv, this Throat Singing Ringtone, resounds beautifully on a cell phone’s tiny speakers. And his Brrrrrrrrrr! Tone is the perfect length for a highly energetic text message alert. It’s the sound of de Dionyso rolling his Rs as he does in the mighty song, Mani Malaikat. The last Arringtone is a bonus–I pulled it from my audio-interview with the artist. For his Motorcycle Sound Tone, de Dionyso vocally recreates the sound made by a cat-killin’ teenage boy who rode his motor bike up and down (and up and down) a quiet residential street in Chicago.


Malaikat dan Singa is Arrington de Dionyso’s dance hall influenced/punk rock interpretation of William Blake‘s poetry translated into Indonesian. “I used about 3 or 4 Blake quotations as springboards for free association in this piece,” he said, when I asked him about the concept for the album.

Earlier this year, I saw de Dionyso perform the piece in Baltimore at MEGAPOLIS (an audio art festival). I arrived at that show preliminarily charmed. For I dig Blake’s Proverbs of Hell, I’d studied Bahasa Indonesia (which felt ticklishly delightful to me–like marbles were rolling about in my mouth as I spoke it), and I’d seen this hilarious animated video before I went to the show. I was super-curious–Punk + Indonesian + William Blake? What was Arrington de Dionyso going to do?!

I found the work to be–as he later described it to me–both mellifluous and aggressive. Watching him perform his vocal gymnastics, I was transfixed (with astonishment). What energy; what vocal control and power–what a performance. So when I heard that he’d be passing through Pittsburgh this fall, I sent him an email asking if he’d like to contribute some tones to the project. He said yes–to making ringtones and to an interview.


When I have the opportunity to visit with someone particularly sensitive to sound, my favorite question to ask them is, “Can you describe a formative experience from your childhood in relation to sound?” This interview begins with de Dionyso’s stories about some of his very early influences. Star Wars, church organs, motorcycles, Popeye and (the power of) microphones led to his approach to vocalizing and making music today. You’ll occasionally hear me ask a follow-up question, and will hear comments from his band mates Baca-Has and St-Danger. De Dionyso also talks about his practiced approach to throat singing and the making of Malaikat dan Singa. His story about the alligators (that drummer Baca-Has encouraged him to share) is not to be missed. The way to listen to the Interview with Arrington de Dionyso, I think, is to turn out the lights and tune into this 25 minute interview having made yourself a nice drink or hot beverage. Settle-in on a couch, around a kitchen table or near a fire and have yourself a good old-fashioned, undisturbed-by-anything else listen.


Thanks, Arrington de Dionyso for your mighty powerful vocal contributions to Locally Toned.

Leave a comment

Filed under Locally Toned (all posts), Ringtones

Locally Toned Interview with Artist Brian House

I encountered work Brian House’s work this May, at MEGAPOLIS 2010, while performing at the sound art festival in Baltimore, MD. His text-messaging project intrigued me from the get-go–the description on the MEGAPOLIS events page read, “Pull My Ears happens when you send a text message to 917-XXX-XXXX.”

One of my professional goals, while in attendance, was to learn about the work of other artists—especially those who employed the use of similar tools or materials. Both Locally Toned and Pull My Ears use similar platforms for the presentation of content (cell phones), and use business-sized cards to promote our projects, through small interventions engaging people through happenstance.

House’s short bio for MEGAPOLIS described him as “a composer and conceptual artist making work through large gestures and small collisions.” I found another reference where he referred to himself as a Bricoler, a person who makes creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose).

As context for the interview, I’ve transcribed the series of text messages sent to my phone from House’s Pull My Ears. Once I sent a text message to the number, during the festival weekend, I began to receive the messages. They appeared at various times and intervals.


Hello. What’s your name?

[I messaged back, “T. Foley of Locally Toned.”]

Ok, T. So I’ll send you a few instructions. Later, not now. No big deal, just follow along.

Reply to this message with a transcription of someone else’s conversation.

Run around fast enough that you can hear the wind in your ears.

Listen to everyone’s voice. Whosoever you like the most, remember that about the person.

You have 5 minutes to hear a heartbeat. 5 points for a friend’s, 10 points for your own, 15 points for a stranger’s.

Whistle a Michael Jackson song until someone joins in.

Walk around saying ‘Marco’ until someone you don’t know says ‘Polo.’

For the next five minutes, forget how to understand English.

Write me an instruction and I’ll send it to someone else.



TERESA FOLEY: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about your work. I appreciate the opportunity to share your work with my readers. This visit will also help me reflect upon my own practice, so thanks for that, too.

How would you like me to introduce you to my readers—what is it you’d like me to say about you and your work as an introduction? Should I mention you as someone who makes locative media projects?

BRIAN HOUSE: I don’t set out to make locative media per se, so I’d say that I have a primary interest in combining physical embodied experience with encoded abstract structures. But this naturally leads to locative media, and I often collaborate with people specifically interested in exploring the city.

FOLEY: Tell me about the technology/system behind Pull My Ears for folks who aren’t super techno-literate—what people who played along didn’t see or know about behind the scenes.

HOUSE: Pull My Ears is text based—I’ve done many projects like this. In the course of doing those projects, I developed my own platform for writing code and doing text messages. I’ve been working with text messaging since 2003—at that point there was lots of physical labor involved—hooking up phones, working with serial ports, etc., to make projects like this happen. But there are services like twilio.com now, and they provide the infrastructure for doing this work. I write platforms for making this kind of art, too—I wrote a coding language called txtml, and the back end of Pull My Ears is twilio communicating with txtml.org.

FOLEY: I was only able to follow your project, not to interact with it by messaging you, or the system, back. Tell me about the kind of response you got during MEGAPOLIS. How many folks played along? Were there some interesting responses with, say, the transcription of someone else’s conversation prompt?

HOUSE: Close to 60 people participated. This particular piece it doesn’t ask for a lot of responses—so I don’t know what happens—where people are when they receive the text messages. It’s hard to know how it went.

In terms of the “Write your own instructions” prompt, a fair amount of people did that. But what Pull My Ears is about, is it gets you to listen. The genesis of the piece was inspired by fluxus scores—work by people like George Brecht and Yoko Ono playing with the form of written instructions (or John Cage’s work). But the problem, though, in the form they employed was, if you’ve been handed the score [their instructions during a performance], you know you are in an art context, so you’ve adopted a role.

So what’s cool about messaging is once you sign up for the project, you forget about it. I turned it off at the end of the festival and Justin [the MEGAPOLIS Managing Director] texted at the tail end, so I saw it and then ran the program for him, but there was a good delay. But that was perfect, illustrating the point of the project that the message comes to you when you are not expecting it. The times are random, but in an interval. Maybe you ignore it, maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re distracted for a moment. Well, it was not totally random—there was approximately 2 hours between messages; within 45 minutes or so of 2 hours. The goal is approximate spacing so you couldn’t anticipate when the next text message would come.

FOLEY: Do you ever find yourself visiting with people who don’t understand what you do? How do you describe your work to people like that?

HOUSE: That’s tough, specifically because the kinds of things I do don’t have a physical manifestation. I’m interested in work that incorporates the world around it; not work that is framed or object-based. I think by example is the best way to do it—to describe a piece, and if there is something in that description that people can connect to, they can understand.

I work under the name Knifeandfork, and my partner, Sue Huang, is in LA. Some of the more accessible projects, like Trying the Hand of God, at MOCA (reenactments of a soccer play, and the piece includes different audience members “playing” that play)—work like that you can describe, and it kind of makes sense.

FOLEY: I found Pull My Ears to be a very reflective work—it drew my attention to listening to the acoustic environment and encouraged me to be playful within it. You asked me to send out little audio messages, to say “Marco,” or whistle a Michael Jackson tune, which was a call for people to message or signal me back, without words, in the physical world, without technology. The work is highly associative. In it I discovered the kinds of instructions kids give each other in games they make up to teach each other interesting things, like making Wint-o-Green lifesavers spark in your dry mouth, in a dark closet. It was pleasurable, by the way, so thank you for making it.

What kind of person do you think engages with Pull My Ears?

HOUSE: It’s great to hear you say that. As for the kind of person who would engage with the work, in an idealized case, this would be everybody–the work would be for anyone. But there are social realities. Certain social populations are much more likely to encounter your work. I don’t think I target a particular type or kind of person—they’re written for me as an experiencer. You know how you have some kind of abstract version of yourself when you make work? Well, you want to disrupt that. And with participatory projects—I’m generally shy. The kind of stuff that I do is gently prodding—it gives people permission to be playful. And conspiratorial—the messages are sent to someone’s phone in their pocket. Intimate.

I approach work conceptually first, and then work on the programming (structural level). But in this piece, it was very explicit that I had to write. So I was going around the city—thinking about what I’d write. I didn’t have all the messages ready until right before the festival.

There’s a Knifeandfork piece we developed called The Wrench—that is the fullest manifestation of text messaging dynamics so far. We took a character from a novel (Tino, from Primo Levi’s The Wrench) and put him into the messaging as a character; he actively engages you in conversation. He texts you about things. The narrative depends upon what you write, and there’s a couple levels of that project. That is like Pull My Ears—an intervention; breaking down the frame of a fictional experience. With the book, there’s the suspension of disbelief; but with messages, you can take or refuse the text—it breaks down that frame. But it is also very hard to make computers intelligently respond to conversation, so it’s an exercise of beautiful failure. Sometimes he’ll reply with the perfect quirky thing; the audience should know this is a robot/computer program. But it becomes rich because people read a lot into the work. And The Wrench, that’s an ongoing project—it will run again next month. We need to better document that. Because the Wrench piece is so dynamic, there was this aspect of just the simple instruction that I wanted to delve into in a pure way. So when MEGAPOLIS came up, I thought it would be great to focus in on one aspect from that earlier project.

And the two times Pull My Ears did ask for conversation, it was like a Yoko Ono prompt—“Cut a hole in the sky,” or “Don’t think about an elephant.”

FOLEY: How do you evaluate success with a project like this?

HOUSE: At a base level you want participation, a certain amount, relative to the size. I enjoyed the aspect of being at the festival. I liked having a piece that was there but not connectable to me. Because of the nature of it, I got some feedback, but it’s hard to evaluate, but for me the project was satisfying to do.

FOLEY: In reading more about you and your work, BTW, I loved what you said about maps in the urban omnibus piece, “that maps are particularly problematic when they are viewed as closed works or interpreted as frozen representations.” And the quote, “Applied to urbanism, this becomes an imaginative practice, one that requires each of us to contribute to the re-creation of the city with every step.”

HOUSE: As for maps, you’re constantly building them in your head; as a kid I would draw maps—a fantasy world in relation to the real world, forts, dungeons, whatever—and that’s a powerful process. Then you get older, and those maps get put off to the side. Keep that loose, I think. Use those childhood powers with the benefit of experience, and not in a naïve way, but to realize the flexibility of things.

Google Maps are amazing and powerful—you can manipulate and view things from different perspectives, but looking at the difference between text messages, which are minimal, which are language, and then you look at a map with your iPhone, it’s hard not to equate the map with reality. Something like—I’m here, and I need to get there; I’m whipping it out [Google Maps on my iPhone] to understand where am I. That comes with a bias, with an iPhone, you need to look at the screen.

With travel, you retreat into identity a bit, you form an identity-negotiation between who you are and what the world is.

What’s important is trying to exercise that critical approach; we adopt models—between different forms of transportation, you see it [the world/the experience] differently. Even walking is different, depending upon the side of the street you are on. Coming from the subway and walking to my apartment, noticing that this smells this way when I walk here, might be something that I perceive. I guess that’s a central tenant of psycho geography—to not feel like every street is the same; to recognize the affects that the design of places have over you—to seek out the cracks that expose the more potent underbellies of things.

FOLEY: You do some teaching at the university level. Do you ever conduct educational experiences or workshops for artists and others outside of academia?

HOUSE: I’d like to; I really enjoy teaching, that’s a thing in the moment that I’m thinking about. My primary work is as a designer with a media design studio, but teaching is great cause you really don’t learn something ‘til you teach it. I would love to be more active, but can’t, due to time. There is a lot of informal teaching, though. What is cool with the media arts stuff, there’s a lot to learn; a new skill set, or domain. There’s a lot of opportunity to exchange methods and ideas and whatnot. Like when I work with Sue [Huang], she teaches drawing, we really enjoy the exchange collaboratively.

FOLEY: Here is a question—one I like to ask acoustically perceptive folk—I asked the MEGAPOLIS curators, and the architect Michael Schoner. Can you describe a formative experience from your childhood in relation to sound?

HOUSE: Cool. The immediate thing I think of is—my dad was a big jazz buff—he had an old phonograph in the living room. There were big speakers; I would put them on the ground so I could hear the bass, so I could feel the bass coming through the floor. I liked playing Mingus, Coltrane and Miles. And I’m a bass player.

FOLEY: Thanks for the visit, Brian.

HOUSE: Thank you–I enjoyed the interview.

Leave a comment

Filed under Locally Toned (all posts), Related Art(s)

Artist Nelson Loskamp’s Electric Chaircut Tones (+ an Exciting Interview)

You may have read a bit about artist Nelson Loskamp’s Electric Chaircut performance in an earlier post on this blog (a report I filed after attending MEGAPOLIS 2010 Sound Art Festival). Since Loskamp agreed to allow me to publish the audio samples I recorded of him during his Baltimore performance as ringtones, I didn’t want to skip the tradition of interviewing him as a collaborator. I also found some interesting similarities between our work. We both do amplified-audio performances in public, and we both give things away as part of our performances, so I wanted to ask Loskamp questions about what he does, in order to better reflect upon what I do. And, well, having been a shampoo girl, I thought it’d be fun to talk about the Electric Chaircut performance from that perspective, too.

Before I get on with the interview, let me give you what you probably want, STAT–direct links to Nelson Loskamp’s Electric Chaircut Clipper Tone, and his Electric Chaircut Scissors & Comb Tone.

BTW, a big shout out to MEGAPOLIS 2010. I’m super proud to say that the first tones published outside of Pittsburgh on the Locally Toned distribution site are from that mega-wonderful sound art festival that played out in Baltimore May 14-16th of this fine year. Lookey here–the Locally Toned expanded map! Pittsburgh and Baltimore (and Valencia, Spain, soon, and Brazil, too!).


Teresa Foley (TF): Before we get to talking about your work, I wonder–have you thought about turning your sounds into ringtones before? Do you make or purchase interesting tones for your phone, for amusement or utilitarian purposes?

Nelson Loskamp (NL): No. I hadn’t thought about turning the Electric Chaircut into tone, but it’s a great idea. I don’t buy them, and I don’t mess around with that kind of stuff on my cell phone. The mainstream ringtones–they’re all kind of bad. You know–a pop song you’d rather not hear anyway…

TF: Tell me how you got the idea for the performance.

NL: It started as a series of requests from friends. I was cutting hair and was also involved in some sound-noise bands at the time, in post-punk kind of way. I had one friend who liked to be roughed around in a very physical way when he got his haircut. I had another friend who was an exhibitionist–everything he did had to be in front of an audience. So cutting hair in front of people became an idea, and the idea of using tape, from my other friend, came into play–the tape for holding someone down, combined with giving someone something that they needed. There is kind of an S&M relationship between a hair cutter and person getting haircut anyway. The person on top is in control; and the person on the bottom is giving himself up, but he also wants to direct the person on top.

And the sound came about cause I was involved in making musical “noise” and instruments. I wanted to be involved in sound production beyond sound-making as the only outcome–I wanted whatever sound I made to do something. In the Electric Chaircut, I’m making sound, but there’s also a finished product–someone has a haircut at the end of it. But the performance itself basically came out of my personal relationships, and through making music by other means.

TF: How heavy is the amplifier on your back? I was so busy taking pictures and recording audio  that I couldn’t really look very closely at all you were doing. Tell me how your tools and amplifier all work together. Are you working with contact mics?

NL: Yes, that’s an amp–not heavy but not light. But after 4 or 5 hours, the Electric Chaircut becomes an endurance piece. Ironically, the more successful the work is–the more people who want to participate, the harder it is on me. Lots of artists do stuff with duration. And yes, it gets heavy, and I get worn out. But I give good haircuts–I’ve done it [haircutting] so long–it’s natural to me. Maybe I give even better haircuts when I’m slightly out of it.

Yes, I’m using contact mics, and everything’s ungrounded, so there’s a lot of feedback. When I go out look for a pedal in a store, they let me set all my equipment up, and I test things with their crappiest amplifier–a practice amp, cause that’s what I use in the performance. They always ask if I’m sure about that–if want to use something better, and they look at me like I’m strange, but I want the sound I want.

The sound of the piece changes slightly over time; my approach and what I can tolerate hearing while performing, has changed and evolved. The different pieces of equipment that generate the audio effects–the wiring, clippers, and scissors, have changed over time. Scissors break, or I switch something out to get a different sound. Only the major equipment is the same–the amplifier, the belt that holds all my tools.

TF: Do you have mirrors available for people as part of the performance?

NL: Yes I have a mirror that I show people and it has a crack in it. But I like to ask people different questions when they’re still taped up. “How does that feel? What do you think?” I do that while they’re still gagged. “How does that sound?” I try to hit on aspects other than “How does that look?”

One time I gave a girl with long hair a shag haircut, and at a certain point she told me that I’d cut off too much. She panicked when she felt her hair while her eyes were taped, but then she saw the cut and she was relieved–she liked it. I try to give people what they want–I don’t want to scar anybody emotionally.

I think of the participant as someone who gives over their trust; they have the experience of giving over their appearance over to me for a time.

A lot of people ask, “What’s the tape for?” I say it’s there to emphasize our willingness to participate in the fetishism of appearance. I’m using the tape in a fun kind of way; I’m not trying not to hurt anybody with the tape. But I know that there are also really negative connotations to people being taped up–for example if someone is abducted. But if trust is there in my performance, it’s fine. Not cut and dry, though. Things having different connotations. Fashion and terror might, at times, have a similar appearances.

TF: One of the things I appreciated about your piece personally, since I was a chop-shop shampoo girl for a a year or so, was the idea of the performance being a hairdressers’ revenge fantasy. Your Electric Chaircut flies in the face of folks’ sensitivity towards getting a haircut or the seeming paranoia they have that something really bad could happen when they get their hair cut.

NL: Great that you touched on that–a lot has been written about the Electric Chaircut, but no one’s mentioned the hairdressers’ revenge fantasy. Since you have that practical experience, I think that’s the kind of thing you, especially, in an underling position at a salon, could relate to. People have anxiety and don’t know how to release it. The fear or worry on the client’s part doesn’t come out too much to the hairdresser, it’s generally expressed to the underling, the shampoo girl. Clients don’t dare so much to let the hairdresser know they’re upset, because the hairdresser is in power. He or she could really do some damage.

TF: I noticed right away that your piece has interesting aspects in relation to public and private space. In Baltimore, and in the other photos I’ve seen of your performance, you work outside. Getting a haircut, especially for women, is often a very private experience. Salons (compared to barber shops) are built with a good deal of clientele privacy. You’re helping people address a very private need in a very public space. Can you talk about that? Or are there any other public and private issues that come to mind for you?

NL: Not so much the public/private thing–I just wanted to make a piece that could speak to everybody–not just gallery goers and people who understand critical theory. Whether you knew something about art or performance or not, I wanted to make something that someone just off the street could enjoy. It’s funny. I take elements that don’t really go together. It’s a little jarring, but it makes you think about these things. Whether you see the Electric Chaircut as a passerby or as someone who’s analyzing it, I hope the work is enjoyed. It can be sonically irritating, but I want to bridge the gap between art and people who are not art-related. There was a time in the early 90s and beyond where the general population hated art (and congressmen made careers bashing art). A lot of art is difficult to understand. Why is an abstract painting or a performance art? How can you understand it?

A lot of times when people see this piece, they talk about tipping–they wonder if I should I put out a jar for tips. But I don’t want to create a situation where people feel like I’m trying to get money out of them. I’m trying to interact with people and I leave it at that. Money is not the point.

TF: The performance is very generous, though. People actually get something out of it, as individuals, if they “sit” for you. Your work is literally a gift.

NL: Thank you.

TF: Yes, and it’s not until now, that I’m talking to you on the phone that I realize that may be another reason why I was drawn to your work–you know, the gift culture–in both of our projects we give stuff away. You give a service, I give a sound. Locally Toned was designed in part to replace a system of commerce with one of shared creativity.

NL: I think that gift culture as part of art is an interesting idea.

TF: I feel like there’s a lot of wonderful humor in the work–the hairdressers’ revenge, the sounds that you generate–they’re not gentle sounds–they sound scary, like sounds heard in scary movies. So haircuts are scary! Would you care to speak to the humor in your work, or is it not funny. Am I projecting?

NL: Humor–that’s another thing that gets lost in art. The Fluxus artists were quite funny–they looked at society in a funny way. That is something that I wanted to create–something that people would laugh at. They do say it’s funny, especially what I do when I get dramatic and act like a music conductor or a guitar-playing rock star–at a certain level the performance is entertainment.

And people ask me how long have I been doing  stand up comedy. I have to be open to all kinds of interpretation. Everybody spins out their own meanings.

TF: Do you ever have someone come up and say, “Do whatever you like, Nelson”?

NL: That does happen sometimes–but there are parameters. For example, if I respond to them by saying, “How about patchy?” I usually get back, “No, I don’t like patchy.”

I have been involved in hairdressing for a long time, and so I know the correct and incorrect ways for cutting hair. In my day work I don’t get to do things counter to my professional training, but during the performances I can do things that are not in the rule book.

TF: Have you made any professional discoveries when performing?

NL: I have discovered a couple of techniques in the performance, so that I can find fast and efficient ways to cut lots of hair within a short amount of time. One of the things I do is use all four fingers as a comb. I’ll hold three sections instead of one, and what it does is it makes an unorthodox line in the hair–you’d normally try to avoid unorthodox lines in haircuts, but in certain circumstances, this helps to blend things really nicely if you know what you’re doing. It’s called the four-finger technique.

TF: What are you working on now?

NL: Mainly drawing. My wife and I have a baby (a year and a half old), so lately I’ve been doing drawings at home; I’ll go around the corner from Pratt and do some life drawings and take them home and mess around with them. They’re up on my website. Take a look and tell me what you like–I’ll send you the images. [Nelson sent these images below post-conversation.]

TF: Thanks for your time, Nelson, for talking to me about your work, for doing what you do, all gift culture like. And thanks for contributing to Locally Toned. I set the clipper tone on my phone today as my standard ring, and it went off in front of someone today. They said, “What is that?” Love it!

NL: Thank you, Teresa.

Leave a comment

Filed under Locally Toned (all posts), Ringtones

Locally Toned Performs in Baltimore (Megapolis 2010)

1 Comment

Filed under Locally Toned (all posts), Project Updates

Locally Toned to Perform at Megapolis 2010!

Locally Toned has received an invite to perform at this year’s Megapolis (audio art) Festival in Baltimore, Md (May 14-16, 2010). Woo-hoo! Click here to read more about the festival.

Leave a comment

Filed under Locally Toned (all posts), Project Updates