I’ve used voicemail as a composition tool for many years - if a certain riff or melody would come to me while I was strolling the streets (or the aisles of Star Market), I could dash to a payphone and record these musical notions for only a dime (in the good old days, at least).

My intent with Concerto for Voicemail #1 was to use voicemail not as a means of collaborative composition, but as a means of collaborative performance. I began by changing my voicemail greeting to one which included instructions for callers to accompany a simple bass line (which I then played on the greeting). I openly solicited contacts to contribute (they were only limited by a two-minute limit set by Bell Atlantic Company). By saving certain voicemails and leaving others in the ‘new’ queue, I could crudely manipulate the playlist order.

I connected an external speaker to a phone and dialed into my voicemail to retrieve my messages. As I played each message (a contribution), I accompanied live with my electric bass – resulting in a duet. As the contributors weren’t playing along with anything when they left their messages, there were shifts in tempo, melody, etc that I had to react to and play off of (as one does during any live performance). One of the contributors was of unknown to me and I welcomed the experience of collaborating and performing with an anonymous identity.

This page was selected as a USA Today 'Hot Site' this past January! It was also featured on the Italian site neural.it, which is described as a site on 'new media art, electronic art and hacktivism'. Brush up on your italian and check it out here.

A second piece, DJ Voicemail, incorporating multiple voicemail and performers was developed as part of the Boombox show which was up at the Mills Gallery in Boston in the winter of 2003.

 

Concerto for Voicemail #1
(7.1 MB, requires QuickTime)