The Utility Project: About Untitled © 2010


The Utility Project Untitled (2010) was created using coin tosses and by referring to the Chinese Book of Changes (the I Ching). The I Ching consists of 64 chapters. A chapter is chosen for one consulting the book by using various methods. The most common modern method is by tossing three coins six different times. One meditates and then tosses coins. Six lines are drawn, broken or unbroken, (yin or yang) based on the results of each coin toss. The 17 chapters on this record were chosen by tossing coins in this way. The songs appear in the order in which they appear in the I Ching. Each song is named after and based on the I Ching chapter that it represents.

The next step in the process was to determine the rhythmic information for each song. I referred to the information above for that. If the bottom line (first coin toss) was a "yin" line I played a slow drumbeat, if it was "yang" I played fast, and if it was a "moving" line (ie: all heads or all tails) I played medium tempo. Likewise the beginning drumbeat was determined this way. If the fourth line was yin I started on the hi-hats, if the fourth line was yang I started on the ride cymbal, and if it was a moving line I started on the toms. I consulted the 5th line (second from the top) to determine which percussive element to emphasize on the following part of the song and so on until each song had three potential drumming elements ready.

I realize that as much as I try to break with convention I am a slave to it. In order to create the kind of music that I like to hear I use repetition. There is certainly merit in breaking with this but with this project, given the many possibilities that chance methods presented to me, I thought it best to stick with a pop/rock formula. I used mostly 4/4 time, repeated elements, and generally adhered to a verse, chorus, bridge song structure.

The next concern was to determine the chords to be played. I tossed coins to produce a number between 1 and 8 so that every song has between 1 and 8 chords in it. Eight is an arbitrary number, a manageable number of chords for the purposes of my playing. Once I knew the number of chords to be played I had to determine which chords they would be.

I took a chart of the I Ching and arbitrarily assigned chords to each of the 64 chapters. I then set about rolling coins to build the chapter structures (or gua) having the chapters reveal themselves to me as they came forward with solid or broken lines depending on each coin toss. I tossed a lot of coins.

After creating a spreadsheet with information dictating the rhythmic information, the tempo, the subject matter, the title, and the chords to be played it was time to set about recording it all. I recorded the drums first. Then the guitars and bass. Lastly the lyrics were written and vocals were recorded.

I was taken aback by the soul searching that some of the assigned chapters required me to do. I am used to writing lyrics about objects, events, or historical figures. This was a real challenge for me. I had to write about hopes, dreams, humility, and power. I was truly out of my comfort zone, which is the purpose of working this way in the first place. I had to consult some chord charts to come up with 64 chords and chose to use diminished chords this time. This also proved to be a challenge. They never sound quite right. This gives a nice twist to some of the progressions but singing over a diminished chord is not the easiest thing to do (even for people who CAN they tell me....)

The disc is available on CdBaby and thru for a limited time. 1,000 individually numbered copies are in print. Most of these will be left in public and passed on from person to person. The music goes out into the world the same way it came into it, by chance.

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