Journalism graduate student Kevin Gotkin has produced a lovely podcast -- "F Is Not For Phreak" -- about phone trips, phone phreaking, and legendary phone phreak Mark Bernay. Kevin's work is part of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenburg School for Communication's "3620" podcast and is well worth a listen. It even includes a little bit of the history behind the origin of the Mark Bernay Society.
Now, the backstory. ElmerCat is a phone phreak who is passionate about the sounds of the long-distance telephone network. He has been working with the audio recordings made by phone phreak Evan Doorbell featured on the Phone Trips web site to collect and isolate various bits of network sounds as individual audio samples. Elmer wrote to me yesterday:
The samples of Evan's recordings I've been putting on SoundCloud are beginning to inspire a new generation of Phone Phreaks. Sound artists in distant places are finding the electromechanical analog sounds to be something new and different that they've never heard before. Over a hundred people around the globe are already following; more people every day, favoriting and commenting about individual clips.
The audio file above is from a musician (in Poland!), 1000 Abstract Machines, who's created a beautiful track called "Phone Lines" by layering many phone sounds. Details here: http://disquiet.com/1000-abstract-machines/
I always say, the only way the old network sounds will survive is if they're found and listened to. It does my heart good to hear that new people not only recognize their value, but are inspired to use them to make something new.
In "tandem" with SoundCloud, I'm trying to make web pages that bring associated tracks together to tell stories about them. I always encourage everyone to listen to Evan's full presentations in their entirety; part of me feels bad that I don't include his narration in the samples I post. But I think younger people (who've never touched a rotary phone) have a different attention signature than older folks, and using the hooks of modern media to pique their interest in these strange old noises is useful in keeping the sounds alive.