“Telephono:” The Game of Telephone Goes Global

Some people argue that great art is inspired by
simplicity. Did you know that Beethoven’s Fifth
might have been inspired by three notes of a local bird’s song?
Well, David Matysiak is following suit by taking the kid’s game of telephone
and creating a series of musical anthologies in his Telephono project.

Telephono is a fun, collaborative, creative mash-up concept:
Matysiak writes an initial piece of music and sends it to a fellow musician,
who then has the freedom to change “anything or everything” about the original
version. The second musician sends it to
a third, and the chain continues. At
each stage, artists send their product back to Matysiak.

Because the process is archived at each step, a listener of
the entire process can hear the specific changes that each musician makes. What’s especially awesome about this project
is that it travels across state lines, country borders and international
oceans, showing that place can contribute to the artistic process.

Place is literally infused in some pieces of Telephono. For example, Italian musician Enrico Molteni
took a pop song sent to him from Chicago musician, Mike Kinsella, and added sounds of an Italian beach to the track. (Check out
each step of this process! From Matysiak’s first repetitive guitar riff called
“There Was No Expiration Date on the Carton of Milk That Wore My Thinning Face”
to Molteni’s re-titled pop-version “Ain’t We Superhuman”).

Sense of place is usually more subtle though. Not only are places a part of us and our
personalities, they often take on personalities of their own. We associate
different symbols, stereotypes and sounds with certain places. Think about how movies introduce you to
cities. The type of music directors
choose has a specific feel depending
on the setting; they normally don’t play bluegrass to an establishing shot of New York City (unless
they’re trying to confuse you!).

Going through the Telephono
music list
, you can occasionally hear how place trickles through the
musicians’ songs. You can almost see the rain on a dreary English street in London with artist
Alessi’s melodic and calming sounds in “Little Ferret’s Fork” (underneath group
four on the music list). Months later and more than five-thousand
miles away in California,
Darin Coelho took Alessi’s song (which had already passed through another
musician, Adrienne Beatty), and added twangy guitar picks and his own musical
vision. He re-titled the piece, “The
Ferret Escapes the Wheel” for a sound that is distinctly American southwestern.

Though critics have yet to deem Telephono “great art”, the project is
gaining popularity with a growing community in Matysiak’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska,
and is attracting national attention. I can’t wait to hear more from this
project! Both place and sound evoke such strong emotions and images, that this
can be a great musical experiment, while being a great geographical one as

 I’d love to hear what you think about place and music. I
always make iTunes playlists for long drives based on where I’m heading and
think it really adds to the experience. Do you have any suggestions of good traveling albums, or particular
songs that remind you of specific places? I’d love to hear from you!

2 thoughts on ““Telephono:” The Game of Telephone Goes Global

  1. Ah, the prodigal son returns 🙂
    I’m just kidding with you Jbone, great to hear from you.
    I heard about this on the radio over the summer and loved the idea because it tied two of my loves, geography and music — so glad you feel the same way! I’ll definitely have to test your Billy Joel theory the next time I travel- it’s hard to find songs that work both in city and country.
    Thanks for the comment (and the music suggestion), hope all is well!

  2. wow wow, great post bethany. That music project sounds really fascinating. It’s so interesting to observe the ways in which geography can impact just about anything. I definitely notice a change in what I want to listen to based on where I am. But no matter where I am, I find that Billy Joel singing ‘we didn’t start the fire’ fits. Maybe that’s just me.
    P.S. great to see the blog is going strong. Keep it up:)

Leave a Reply