The Utility Project (132) process


Washrags
Recording method for this one was no drums + tops. I borrowed a friends howling spinning tops and made several overdubs of them spinning on the floor, one was in a small metal can. The guitars ebb and flow trying in vain to find a sense of time. The story is from an interviewee who told a story from her childhood about making washrags in school from strings to be sent to the WW1 troops in France.

iSKORPiTX
A challenge, as the recording method was backwards vocal. I could only do about a second at a time and Im still not sure if its intelligible. An obituary for this woman noted that she was born in Bargersville, Indiana. I went to the towns website and found it had been hacked by iSKORPiTX, a Turkish hacker.

Rule of Thumb
Recording method (randomly assigned) for this was random. So, like the first record, everything was done randomly. It was John Cages song, but the recording method overrides all, so none of his human information is reflected here. Fitting, I think. The title was randomly picked from the dictionary. I asked my daughter to choose letters from the alphabet and then I randomly flipped the dictionary pages to find each word. A vocal reversal precedes each word and digital delay is also used.

Kneecap
A Utility supporter emailed this story from his childhood. He told of growing up in Cairo, Illinois and playing by the train tracks. A fall down the embankment splits open his knee and later he gets a tetanus shot right through the kneecap. Thanks to Erika for the backing vocals. HAM radio added per recording method mandate.

Highdive
I confess, this one is mine. The lyrics pretty much lay it all out. And I was a chubby kid at the time, so it was even more embarrassing. I had some trouble making my voice sound right, so I tried singing with a laundry basket over my head. Later I redid some of the vocals, but I think a few of the laundry tracks remain. I borrowed my daughters tambourine.

The Engine
The subject invented a rotary engine. He never could get it into production. Thanks to my brother, another engineer, for linguistic support. I think the washboard holds it all together. If it is held together, that is. Recording method called for playing with time signatures. With my meager skills, I did what I could.

Chocolate Carnivore
The interviewee was four. These are her words. Cassette overdubs and atonal piano (played by the subject) fill the quota. I added a toy slide whistle and a large coffee can half full of Trader Joes French Roast.

Twin
Recording method dictated that each overdub be performed with no knowledge of the existing material. The headphones were off, and eyes averted from the waveforms. Whispers are the only way to safely vocalize. The subject, unfortunately, a deceased infant twin.

Bassinette
Fastish, meaning, play sorta fastish, was the method here. Thanks to my daughter for adding vocals. The interviewee, actually the youngest of ten (not eleven), barely survived birth. He went on to save lives as a New York City Firefighter.

Hamburgers
Slowish, meaning, play sorta slowish, the method here. The subject owned a Hamburger stand, and the lyrics reflected that, but were scrapped when it became apparent that they did the song a dis-service. Cassette overdub, a youngster at the piano.

Podebrady
Morse code was added by mandate. A fun shuffle about a small town outside of Prague where fine crystal can be found at a discount. At a loss for inspiration, the fact that the subject sold crystal at a dry-goods store sparked this account. Vocals, atonal and awkward, were alas recorded with a tiny pen recorder and edited in.

H5N1
This one called for a :45 flip. The song is actually forty five seconds long, it was reversed and I sing over the last half in the character of a hen. I tried to make vocals work over the first half, but it proved impossible. H5N1 is the name given to a strain of Avian flu.

Rooster
The cicadas of New Harmony Indiana provide the rhythm track here. I feel fortunate that I was able to catch a nice lightning strike with the mic on. The other mandate was that the song segue to the next, so the rain was added to the following track. An interviewee told a story of her daughter who used to walk around town with a rooster on her finger, and as the song states, her daughter would say crow and the rooster would crow.

X-ray
Instrument exchange as a method dictates that the drums be played like a melody instrument, the bass be strummed and the guitar be picked at. The subject was an X-ray technician and softball player who seemingly fell ill to cancer. Again a device was added to the vocals to help deal with Mr. Atonal.

Sawblade
Foreign Words and Phrases was the recording method here. One channel contains directions on how to sharpen a saw blade. Thank you Nick. The other channel contains a translation of the paragraph preceding the instructions mis-translated into Spanish and back. In other words, I took each word, looked it up to find the Spanish translation and then took the English word as translated immediately preceding it. So we get a mis-translation read by a computer. I had to loop the rim rhythm.

Mississippi Comic Book
Two songs in one! The first (Mississippi) deals with an interviewee who grew up in a wooden shack in Mississippi and cut herself a window one hot summer. The second song (Comic Book) was sent in by a Utility supporter who told the story of his mother taking and tearing apart his comic book in front of his friends at a bus stop. Years later he found The Hulk and Missing Link comic on ebay and all is right with the world.

Hole in One
Falling down the stairs at the subjects birthyear 42. So all of the instruments have a calamitous event at the same point in the song. The subject scored four holes in one, but there are no lyrics to reflect this because no suitable vocal melody could be found.

The Farm
Middle of the song time change, was the method at work here. The guitar interplay during the second half was fun. The interviewee told of a rough farm life and I had to imagine there must have been a dream to get away from it all.

Parkinsons
This time the lack of suitable lyrics deem the song an instrumental. Bass and drum song. I think its better off. The subject had Parkinsons Disease and was a Missionary. Plenty to write about, Im sure, but the bass says it all.

935
This entry was found on the (now defunct Utility registration boards): March 15, 2004 2:07PM AMANDA disk 935 u of Charleston wv
I broke down on my way from Arkansas (home) to West Virginia (college) in Griffin, Indiana...
I found this disc at a rest stop coke machine while reaching to get my soda...
Made for an interesting wait while I sat for 5 hours until my boyfriend came and got me from West Virginia...
I'm going to leave it somewhere on the campus of University of Charleston... Cool Idea, but didn't really dig the tunes...
The recording method was natural objects only. Its pretty amazing how many things that surround us are man-made. Almost everything! I used some golden raintree pods and sticks to set a backdrop for the potentially regrettable vocalise.

The Planes
This interviewee was actually at Pearl Harbor in 1941 when it all went down. She (perhaps understandably) wouldnt say anymore to me than Ive said here in the song. The method here called for a one chord song, so I used the first chord in her sequence F.

Attacked by Dogs
This song recounts some unfortunate events experienced by the interviewee. I know it borders on ridicule, but given the awkward song structure, its just what the song wanted to do. Serve the song, not the subject, is the credo. The vocals were recorded on a small audio cassette recorder and therefore the audible tape hiss. A second vocal was pitch shifted to give a harmonic effect. I had a hard time controlling the distortion on the vocal in the mix.

Tell City Chair
Thanks Tom, for clueing me in on Tell City Chair, Inc. The subject worked at the furniture company at one time and the song sort of evolved from there. Ive been to Tell City, Indiana on the way back from Utility, Kentucky on a disc distribution trip. The method here was all instruments same staccato rhythm. We did this on unusual injuries for the first record and I think it was worth repeating.

Tornado
Again, this method was used before on the. I did a vocal edit based on the human numbers at work with this interviewee. I improvised a vocal about the Griffin Tornado and then cut it up into chunks based on birthdate information. The story, that you cannot decipher, is about a boy who lost his mother as she was looking for his baby sister when a tornado came to town. Tragically the boy had the baby safely with him the whole time.

Typesetter
A very unique interviewees name gives life to a very conventional set of chords. The method here was to use a cassette overdub. The material comes from last years county fair. The subject mentioned that she once worked as a typesetter and later as a telephone operator. Two occupations that are all but extinct.

Manhattan Project
The subject was one of the first people on the ground in Nagasaki after the bomb. What must have been going through his head? The method at work: rhymes with orange + cassette. So I was required to make a rhyme with the word orange-mourn? Its pretty close. And the cassette material was randomly chosen and Im not really sure what its from, though it seems to be taken from the roadside.

Bougainville
Again, a subject from the military. This man was one of the liberators of Bougainville. A tiny island nation near Papua New Guinea. The island fell under New Guinean control after the war and was ravaged by Australian and First World mineral interests, a company called Rio Tinto. The native people began to pillage the mining equipment and make their own weapons, some as advanced as M16s. The western world just sort of sat back and paid no notice. Finally in 2002, a referendum was signed that would give Bougainville autonomy, but for ten years, the weapons will be taken away. There is still a great deal of concern over the future of Bougainville. I had to whisper the vocals, everything else just sounded wrong. The method here was alternate or machinery rhythms, so I used my pen recorder to capture my sons heartbeat from a sonogram machine.

Butter P
As discussed in About132, this song tells the story of an interviewees encounter with a druggie who, thinking his family still lived in his old house, proceeded to break in and eat peanut butter by hand. The method, thirty overdubs, was a challenge both to the musicians and to the recording software. Im quite pleased that such a uniquely devised chord progression (spelling out Kathryne) would produce such a nice chorus.

Newt
Water + cassette were the methods at work here. I chose to turn on our bathroom faucet on one channel, and put the cassette on the other channel. By chance, the cassette material (randomly selected) contained water and a radio news report. Thanks to Kjehl for mp3ing the vocal. Sorry Manfred, Tom, and Karol, the multi-vocal phone-in thing didnt work out. I chose to break this one down in the mix to try and feature the vocal a little more. The story is about the subjects pet newt, who unfortunately didnt make it. I got a few details wrong in the story, he was actually caught under some rocks at the bottom, not floating on the water.

HAM
The method here all overdubs answering machine was a tough one to get around. Our mobile phone does not get a cell in town, so I was unable to record drums over the phone. I heard the disconnect sign reverberating through the house one day and realized I could use it as a rhythm track. The guitar and bass were phoned in and then the vocals. It was difficult to avoid rampant buzzing and feedback as the phone got near the amps. The subject for this song was a woman heavily involved in HAM, shortwave, or Auxiliary Amateur Radio.

OneThirtyOne
My daughter and I roamed the kitchen finding things that made sound. The only rule, that they not be musical instruments. I cut in one second of each source. I split the channels and then affected one channel creating some different lengths. The piece repeats itself partway, as the channels are flipped.

(132)
St. Patricks Day, 2005 1:32pm. It was difficult not to pickup the big generator located several blocks away. It was also hard to do anything at EXACTLY 1:32pm.

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