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An interview with Jem Finer

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Jem Finer, formerly of the Pogues, more recently the driving force behind Mobile Sinfonia. Mobile Sinfonia, which was launched at the Roman Baths during the recent Digital Festival, is a global composition of ringtones set to compile rings from around the world over coming years.

Jem is also the artist in residence in the Institute of Contemporary Interdisciplinary Arts and Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath.

For more about Jem’s project visit the Mobile Sinfonia website or follow @MobileSinfonia on twitter.

DK: Hi Jem! Tell us a bit about Mobile Sinfonia and let us know what inspired it? 

JF: The fact that mobile phones, all capable of emitting sound, are now virtually ubiquitous creates the potential for both intrusion into and enhancement of the soundscape – the sonic landscape on both a local and global scale.

It also creates the conditions for creating musical composition, either from individual devices, or in the case of Mobile Sinfonia, from the interaction of many.

Inspiration came from thinking about creating ringtones with an ear to enriching the soundscape, and at the same time, through their careful choice, to create a composition of indeterminate duration and score. In effect distributing the elements of a musical composition among a potential global community of “players” / “notes”.


DK: What motivated you to first get involved with the music industry?

JF: I never was. I played music and that happened as a consequence. Most of the time now I make music that is un-commodifiable !


DK: How has your relationship with music changed over the time you’ve been involved? 

JF: It’s got deeper both in the sense that what I consider to be music has broadened, and that I am always learning.


DK: What kind of mobile phone do you have, and why?

JF: I have an iPhone. Why? Because I am an Apple user, so it integrates with everything else I have computer wise, and because even if I wasn’t I prefer its interface. I actually think that as a phone it is not great, but otherwise the most remarkable device.


DK: What music have you been listening to recently?

JF: It depends how you define recent. But generally I listen to all kinds of music. Today, according to my shuffle play log, I’ve listened to Eric Dolphy, The Rolling Stones, Christian Zanessi, yoB, David Toop, Boris Vian, Ramuntcho Matta, Kitty Finer, DM Bob, Sonny and Cher and The Marseille Figs.


DK: Who do you really admire in the music industry at the moment?

JF: 3 of the above: Kitty Finer, J Maizlish Mole and the Marseille Figs and yoB.


DK: What is next for you after Mobile Sinfonia?

JF: Over the next year I’m building a gravity driven 8-bit computer using ball bearings which will calculate simple musical scores and play them. In the shorter term I’m finishing converting a caravan into a space ship, ¡ Arriba ! for the Tatton Park Biennial.


DK: Thanks Jem! Last question, how can our readers contact you with questions?

JF: They can get hold of me at info@mobilesinfonia.net

About David Kelly

Dave is Co-Founder and Managing Director at Storm. He's winner of Young Business Person of the Year at the Bath Business awards, and sits on the organising teams of BathSPARK, Creative Bath and the Bath Digital Festival. You can follow Dave on twitter: @dhkelly


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