© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
TECHNOTE: 90.5 FM and AM870 reception

From Waltz To '90s Icon: The Unforgettable Life Of The Nokia Ringtone

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

There was a time when cell phones were used to make calls and many of the calls were defined by this.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOKIA RINGTONE)

SIEGEL: The Nokia ringtone, it was introduced in 1994. Last Friday, Nokia - once the world's cell phone leader - sold its dwindling phone business to Microsoft for a lot of money, seven and a half billion dollars.

Until today, no one had said what becomes of that ringtone, a tune Nokia says is played about 20,000 times a second worldwide.

SACHA FRERE-JONES: I'm pretty sure it's the first ringtone I ever heard.

SIEGEL: Sasha Frere-Jones is pop critic for The New Yorker magazine and he's written about ringtones.

FRERE-JONES: Francisco Tarrega wrote this in 1902. It's a waltz in three. And the figure that we know comes about 15 seconds into the piece.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOKIA AD)

SIEGEL: The composition "Gran Vals" was first used by Nokia in 1992 in that commercial, its first-ever TV commercial for mobile phones. A couple of years later, it was adopted as a ringtone.

The New Yorker's Shasa Frere-Jones predicts it will serve a purpose in future TV shows and movies.

FRERE-JONES: This now will be a signifier for a phone in the '90s.

SIEGEL: And if you're feeling a little nostalgic for the '90s, Microsoft tells us the ringtone will continue to be an option on Nokia-branded devices.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "GRAN VALS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.
To help strengthen our local reporting as WKAR's fiscal year ends, we need 75 new or upgraded sustainers by June 30th. Become a new monthly donor or increase your donation to support the trustworthy journalism you'll rely on before Election Day. Donate now.