Ghost Songs for Cell Phones (Liner Notes)

Telecommunications have a history of being haunted. When Samuel B. Morse’s telegraph connected distant cities by transmitting electrical signals over wires – bringing people “together in spirit – in communication, and yet in body seven hundred miles apart!” (as a commentator remarked in 1857) – the technology was quickly taken up by those who sought to be “together in spirit” in another sense. Through a kind of “celestial telegraph,” it was believed, the dead could communicate with the living. With the introduction of radio, household objects became accidental antennae for the wireless transmissions; to the people who heard these objects suddenly start to speak, it seemed the voices must be coming from the beyond. The very term “media,” singular “medium,” reflects the ghosts in our communications technologies – “a medium” being a person who channels communications to and from the dead, “the media” being what channel telecommunications among the living.

It is no longer so common to listen for the dead – to explain our new or unaccountable experiences in terms of visitants from the beyond. There is an opportunity to recover such listening here, however, with “Ghost Songs for Cell Phones.” For who is to say that noise in the signal – that sshhh, click or whisper – is not a ghost on the line?

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