Music by VICE

This Sound Sculpture Makes Algorithmic Prank Calls

::vtol::'s 'Prankophone' calls people up, then plays them a melody generated from their phone number.

by Kevin Holmes
Nov 3 2015, 2:30pm

Images © Dmitry Morozov 

Russian artist and instrument hacker ::vtol:: (Dmitry Morozov) has merged synthesizer, telephone, and a logic module controller to create a hybrid sound art piece that randomly calls people's phone numbers then plays them back algorithmically-generated electronic music based on their digits.

Essentially, it seems, you're getting prank called by a machine that feeds you back your own telephonic identity as a chirping robotic melody. If you've ever seen British kids TV show the Clangers, it sounds a little bit like what receiving a call from them might be like.

"Nowadays it’s averting to hear in the phone receiver any sound other than human voice—music means that we have to wait for the answer of the operator, strange electronic noises imply some mistake in decoding," says ::vtol::. "Thus the sound from Prankophone would be perceived as some kind of mistake, though in reality it is an individual and anonymous sound message, a micro-noise piece which is unique for each number it managed to reach."

The piece operates in four different modes, including keyboard mode where you dial a number on the one-octave keyboard with 10 keys correspond to 10 digits. Manual mode, where you dial a number on standard phone keys, autonomous mode, where the device randomly generates a number itself, and live mode, where you, rather than the device, generate the sounds heard by the recipient using the keyboard, are the other options.

::vtol:: explains the piece, while providing electronic music, albeit abstract, also makes reference to the genre's debt to the telephone and the telegraph—both the sounds associated with the devices and the hardware developed for them.

"Even now the most common format of connector in the musical industry is called phone jack," notes the artist. "Such contacts were used on the manual phone stations, and later through laboratory equipment were introduced into the musical devices."

You can find out more about the piece here.

Click here to check out more work from ::vtol::


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Sound Art
Sound object
hacked instruments
computer algorithm