On Hold is a series of pieces completely derived from recordings of “on hold” or “call waiting” music.
The original audio has been greatly manipulated to achieve a wider enveloping soundscape to ease, inspire and loosen our grip. Being placed on hold is so often anxiety inducing. A moment when we lose our sense of power and control. We’re #forced to #wait. To stand still. To stay idle, until a voice finally returns on the other end of a seemingly infinite telephone network. On Hold is a way of challenging this idea by finding peace in moments of stillness and unknown. These pieces are perhaps as heartwarming as they are desolate. Hopefully one can find comfort in this space to slow down and feel what it really means to #disconnect. Or rather... #connect.
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Back Story: One morning back in Spring of 2018, my friend Sam barges into the room full of excitement after begrudgingly #waiting on hold for an hour to report a lost credit card. He activates speaker #phone and a solo flute shimmers through the air in a fidelity so weak yet so familiar. This hold #music is better than most but still dry, sterile and bound to drive you insane after 1 hour of repetitions. I grab Sam’s phone out of excitement and plug directly into my #mixer. I start processing the signal through various reverbs, echoes and pitch modulation. Suddenly we're among floating landscapes and infinite horizons. We’re hooked and we live in this world for 30 minutes until abrupt silence fills the air. A customer service rep soberly greets us “umm … sir hello … are you still there”? Sam picks up where he left off but this time with a positive shift in his voice. 3 days later I'm in San Fransisco to perform and during some down time I stroll through Golden Gate Park. I listen back on this 30 minute “On Hold” experiment. It fills me with wonder and magic. The park is lush and so is the #soundscape. I’m inspired by the transformation of this dry monotonous waiting #music into something so otherworldly. The following Monday morning I'm back in NYC. I find myself feeling particularly anxious with a lot on my plate and the city buzzing at full speed. I have a phone #call to make and before I know it i’m placed back on #hold. By default, I feel frustrated and anxious to get on with my day. One moment later, I’m joyful and out of my seat again, grabbing cables and plugging my phone back into the mixer. 10 seconds later I’m locked in, recording some particularly tacky hold music. I load up a similar effect chain and boom! … everything is transported once again, as cosmic as ever. This time the receptionist voice returns in 3 minutes flat but i’ve got all I need. I play around with the recorded segment until I’ve created a small #looped phrase. I start telling various friends about the project. My cousin knows of a bike shop that has “the #BEST on hold music”. I find myself #calling numbers just to be put on hold. The request is strange and the receptionists laugh but sure enough they place me on hold and i’m on my way, happy go lucky. These pieces were all conceived minutes after recording each phone call. The whole process was cathartic, especially as it always took place in the middle of the day. A time when I feel the most pressure to be productive and “#busy”. However, the slow, expansive nature of this music continually stopped me in my tracks and helped me become grounded amongst the noise.
released March 16, 2020 Mastered by Phil Moffa at Butcha Sound Studios, NYC Artwork & Photography by Evan Shornstein
more music by Photay on Bandcamp: https://photay.bandcamp.com/music