Shakespeare Cuisinart (2001), interactive telephone work

Try it out

All good things must come to an end. Shakespeare Cuisinart's hosting was discontinued in 2012.

Special thanks to, Shakespeare Cuisinart's host from 2003 through 2012, as well as Tellme Networks, which hosted the work from 2001 through 2003.


Audio Sample

Telephone Etude #1: Shakespeare Cuisinart is an interactive musical work accessible by telephone. Callers are asked to say their favorite quotation from a Shakespeare play or poem. Moments later, they hear a short piece of music generated from slicing, dicing, and layering their voice. Callers may also later visit the Shakespeare Cuisinart web site to download their musical creations to disk or e-mail them to friends.

Computer software generates a 60-90 second piece of music based entirely on the caller’s voice, using a hierarchy of random decisions. The caller’s voice is not subjected to any digital signal processing; it is only spliced and layered in a manner similar to classic musique concrete of the 1950s.

I was attracted to using the telephone because it is the most ubiquitous, easiest-to-use device for sending and receiving audio. There is no software to install, no minimum RAM or CPU requirements to meet, no broadband Internet connection to get — just a handset and a toll-free number to dial. Though telephone audio quality is low-fi, I was happy to work with it in order to create an interactive piece with such a low barrier to entry.


"It’s a gas to do, but it’s also thought provoking, and hugely democratic — considering that it lets non musical, non technical, unwired people use regular phones to access some of the internet’s most sophisticated features." — David Giddens, MediaTV

"The results sound both familiar and strange. Although the voice is recognizably your own, it has been looped, layered and rearranged so that randomly selected passages recur and overlap in a fuguelike counterpoint reminiscent of vocal works by the composer Steve Reich." — Matthew Mirapaul, New York Times


Siegel, R. “Phones and Music” (interview). All Things Considered (National Public Radio), June 25, 2001.

Mirapaul, M. “Coaxing On-Hold Melodies (Your Own) From a Phone.” The New York Times, June 25, 2001.

Giddens, D. MediaTV (Toronto), 2001.

Nisbet, J. AGOOnline. The American Organist Magazine, September 2001.

Transmediale.02 jury statement. (This work received an honorable mention from Transmediale.), 2001.

WFUV (New York) radio, 2001.

CNET (San Francisco) radio, 2001.

Lectures, Exhibitions, and Performances

Serial Underground (live performance version), May 2005, Cornelia Street Cafe, New York City.

World Turning Festival (live performance version), August 2003, Medicine Show Theater, New York City.

Heavy Music for Light People (live performance version), May 2001, Flea Theater, New York City.

Dorkbot (lecture-demonstration), September 2001, New York City.

American Composers Orchestra "Orchestra Tech" Conference (lecture-demonstration as part of "Music and the Internet" panel), October 2001, New York City.

transmediale.02 Media Lounge (exhibition), February 2002, Berlin
[this work received an Honorable Mention for the transmediale.02 award].

Over 35,000 callers have interacted with Shakespeare Cuisinart since its inception.