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Classical Notes


Posted at 6:18 PM on March 21, 2006 by John Birge
Filed under: The blog

BBC Radio 3 broadcast an unscheduled premiere last week. During a live interview with Steve Reich, listeners unexpectedly heard one of his new pieces, which turned out to be the ringtone on his cel phone. It took several moments for the embarassed composer to fetch the phone from his coat pocket.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported on how the ring tone phenomenon is branching out. Joining the hip-hop stars are some less likely names -- like Sibelius. Orchestras and classical-music publishers want a piece of the $600 million dollar ringtone business.

Boosey & Hawkes, a major classical music publisher, offers more than 300 songs from its catalog as $3 ringtone downloads on its Web site, www.booseytones.com, and the London Symphony sells ringtone versions of its recordings at www.lsoringtones.co.uk In addition to Steve Reich, downloads include:

-Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze; good if you’re a shepherd with a cel phone
-Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, for those on-the-go Russian Pagans
-And the top ten downloads include classics for SciFi enthusiasts (Star Wars), and for fans of the cult TV hit, Thunderbirds

Not to be outdone, churches are getting into the act. Saint Petri church in Hamburg has a website, www.petriklingel.de to sell hymn tune ringtones. You can choose from

Wachet auf, the ever-popular Oh dass ich tausend Zungen hätte, or the old standby Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. Proceeds go toward a quarter million dollar fund to restore the church’s pipe organ.