Cellphonia: Rhizome 2007

Steve Bull and Scot Gresham-Lancaster


Cellphonia: San Jose

People like you sing into the cellphone responding to the song lyrics provided by a robot voice prompt.

Add your voice now!
Dial 408-228-5848 or 408-CAT JUG 8

Sing the five songs in Cellphonia: Local News,
Hi-Technology, Sports, Religion and Classified Advertising.
The song lyrics are taken from today's RSS
newsfeed provided by the San Jose Mercury News.

New York State Council for the Arts and Harvestworks
provided first support of this project
Experimental Television Center provided finishing funds for the San Jose performance

See: Introductory Video

as reviewed in theNY Times
Published: August 6, 2006

Some projects take audience participation one step further, allowing people to add voice, text or images to an artwork in progress. By dialing up another project, Cellphonia, a caller (presumably but not necessarily from the area) can join the chorus of a current-affairs opera. The libretto for that day, based on news feeds from The San Jose Mercury News, is voiced one line at a time; all the caller has to do is echo it back into the phone. The performance is recorded and automatically mixed with other voices. Later a caller can download an MP3 file of the song for playback on his own phone.

"So often people with cellphones to their ears are in their own world, cut off from reality," said Steve Bull, a New York artist-programmer who developed the opera with California composers Scot Gresham-Lancaster and Tim Perkis. "This will pull people back into the community, as they sing the community story and hear their voice in the community chorus."

Technical Advice - If you make a call to the server after listening to this page and you want to hear your addition to the scene right away, you may need to reload the page and bypass the local cache to flush out the old version of the opera that loaded when you first opened this page. This article from the Wikipedia gives tips for how to do this on the various browsers you are probably using to view this webpage.
Questions? Email: bull [at] el.net

Cellphonia: Rhizome (2007)

Cellphonia: Rhizome is an autonomic Do-It-Yourself (DIY) post-modern opera where visitors sing, karaoke style, into a VoIP or cell or any telephone and the resultant recording of all singers is mixed realtime as an ongoing public performance streamcast to the Internet.

Cellphonia: Rhizome differs from the installation version shown at ISEA/ZeroOne Festival last August, and the NIME Festival this June because it is a web-only version where visitors can either sing their own lyrics or choose lyrics from an automatically created libretto of RSS newsfeeds generated from worldwide news sources. Scot will reprogram the back tracks to reflect world music and Steve will reprogram the libretto so visitors will be able to choose an RSS Newsfeed, sing along to the words on the screen, and publish podcasts of the latest mix.


Artist fees (2)800/each1,600
VOIP Server100/month/6600
VOIP Number30/month/6180
Postcards 400
TOTAL$ 2,780

June - Planning
July - Build and refine
October - Start
February - End
March - Wrap up and post best songs

Steve Bull (New York, NY) is a multi media locative artist. In 2006 his Hot-n-Cold was a NAVTEQ LBS Challenge finalist, he launched his New-York Historical Society Slavery Tour on vodcast, podcast and VOIP, and the New York Times reviewed the premiere of his Cellphonia: San Jose, a cellphone opera at the ISEA ZeroOne festival. After completing NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, he worked as a senior user experience and prototype designer/developer for Interval Research. He is founder of Cutlass, a company which specializes in mobile applications running on 02, Verizon Wireless, TELUS Mobility, and Orange. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America and he has also won many awards for his independent media productions both national and international.

Scot Gresham-Lancaster (Oakland, CA) is a composer, performer, instrument builder and educator with over three decades of professional experience. He is dedicated to research and performance using the expanding capabilities of computer networks to create new environments for musical and cross discipline expression. As a member of the HUB, he is one of the early pioneers of "computer network" music which uses the behavior of interconnected music machines to create innovative ways for performers and computers to interact. He has recently performed in a series of "co-located" performances collaborating in real time with live and distant dancers, video artists and musicians in network based performances. For over two decades, he has worked with multimedia prototyping and user interface theory and its relationship to new markets as an independent consultant and at Interval Research, SEGA-USA, and Muse Communications.