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BRITISH CITIES ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF SINGING BENCHES

Residents of a number of British towns will be getting a surprise in the coming months: park benches that play music. The benches are being built as a promotional effort for cellphone maker Nokia's "Comes With Music" service, which will allow cellphone buyers to pay a flat fee when they get a new phone and have unlimited streaming of more than two million songs to their mobile device. Each bench will have three Nokia handsets embedded in it, and headphones available for multiple listeners.

Nokia is apparently building the benches in cities such as Liverpool and Manchester and will place them in secret locations (though they are unlikely to remain a secret for long, knowing the Internet). The company surveyed music fans in each town and came up with customized playlists, NME reports. Liverpool's top pick was Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones while Manchester's was Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

As odd as it sounds, the "musical park bench" idea isn't that new: As a tribute to British rocker Ian Dury, who died of cancer in 2000, a solar-powered bench that plays music was set up in a corner of the singer's favourite park in London. Fans can plug in headphones and listen to a number of songs by Dury and his band and can also listen to an interview with the singer. The designer of the bench also created a number of other benches with embedded iPods where people can sit and listen to audio versions of short stories about the area.

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