Firstly – this is not a ‘ringtone’! It’s a brand identifier for the Wallace company. If you look closely, the three bars form a W logo. The best real-life example I can think of is Intel. Whenever you see an ad for a computer with an Intel chip inside you hear a little 5 note refrain as the logo is displayed. So Peter and the Wolf does not directly relate to K and Joi but to Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his tech company.
Once that’s clear, so too is the meaning behind the music. Peter and the Wolf is a ‘symphonic fairytale for children’, telling its story through the clever use of characterised instrumentation. The particular piece used in Bladerunner is ‘Peter’s Theme’. Not the wolf's, the grandfather's or any of the other characters. So Niander Wallace is branding himself as Peter.
Here’s the story when interpreted through the paradigm of Blade Runner 2049: A young boy, Peter (Wallace), is warned by his Grandfather (Eldon Tyrell) not to stray from the fenced garden (Tyrell’s view of how replicant technology should be used) lest he encounter the Wolf (more of a concept than a direct character, the ‘wolf’ represents replicants acting outside their slave-like parameters). Peter (Wallace) ignores this warning, goes exploring (experimenting) and encounters a cat, a duck (replicant) and a bird (human). There’s a whole conversation between the duck and the bird about what makes a bird a bird (or what makes a real human a real human). On a supplementary visit outside the garden, a wolf (the replicant with free will) does indeed appear and eats the duck (the submissive replicant). Peter responds by capturing the wolf with the aid of the bird. Hunters (Bladerunners) who were pursuing the wolf arrive to kill it but Peter instead persuades them to harness the wolf and parade it through the town (showing the dangerous can be tamed without killing).
The story is a parable of humans triumphing over nature (or Wallace triumphing over the replicant technology and harnessing it for his own desired world domination). He takes the known threat and proves it can be used for good (or at least that’s what he believes he is doing by improving the replicants so they can reproduce). There’s also a little thing at the end of the Peter and the Wolf story about how the duck was actually swallowed alive and if you listen closely you can here it fluttering it’s wings in the stomach of the wolf. Not sure I need to explain that one…!
So all that makes it a very clever theatrical device. But add to it these interesting overlays: in the composition, instruments are chosen to represent each character in the story, like replicants replace the roles of humans; it’s a children’s piece, which Wallace likely heard as a child, bringing up memories of the past (and we all know how important memories are in this movie franchise).
And here’s the most compelling reason why I love this whole Peter and the Wolf thing: in 1978, an album was released with David Bowie narrating the story over the symphony. Apparently, Director Denis Villeneuve originally wanted Bowie to play the role of Wallace, but he sadly passed in January of 2016, ahead of the filming which seems to have started later that year. Boom!
When searching for Bowie’s version of Peter and the Wolf online, you can also find a reference to lyrics from the symphony. Here’s a section – interpret it as you will:
How to avoid a damage?
Or how to survive one?
His thoughts burn my fucking mind
Don't lose the hope!
Please don't lose,
I never understood the life!
Do not be like them
I can help you to see the light,
Or perhaps I will try!