Here are the complete collected recordings to date of Monkey Typing Pool, collected under the all-too-apt title Flung.
(Notes: the date of this entry is a complete lie. Also: clicking on the song title will bring you to the entry originally posted about the song. The “direct link” entries lead to the sound files themselves.)
The List of Songs
Fake Brian Eno
He’s not dead yet. A song that somehow arose from a poorly designed concert ad.
A co-write with a four-year-old.
The internet’s a funny place.
Barely a song, but…in compiling collections of covers of every song on every Beatles album, in order, I realized that so far as I can tell, no one covered the fragment between “Cry Baby Cry” and “Revolution 9,” known as “Can You Take Me Back.” So I did.
“Grasses Are Longer Than Hair” (sound collage inspired by “Revolution 9” – credited to Celltab (Celltab: For Abstraction™)
“1 2 RemiXmas U” (Wire cover, more or less – remixed October 2010)
What it says.
“God Bless the Child” (Billie Holiday cover – recorded May/June 2010)
“Commissioned” as part of Rex Broome’s “39-40” covers project: there are two versions. I provided Rex with the tracks for drums, bass, two guitars, and lead vocals, and he added some parts. While he was doing that, I had other ideas and created my own version (mostly by adding an organ solo).
direct link (to my solo version)
“Little Audio Sparkler and the Slightly Scary Gentlemen of Rock” (recorded December 2009/January 2010)
A collaboration (he done the words, mostly, I dud the music) with Brian Block.
“(Here’s One I Bet You Wouldn’t Want to Meet) In the Wild” (recorded January 2009)
Indirectly “commissioned” by a dream reported by a guy on the Robyn Hitchcock mailing list, which featured a song of this title by Mr. Hitchcock. So the song is kindasorta in a Hitchcockian mode.
“Creatures of Light” (Robyn Hitchcock cover; recorded May/June 2008)
“Victorian Photographs (Still Streets Remix)” (February 2008)
I’d always liked the sound of the highly altered guitar track here – I can’t quite remember how I managed to get an acoustic guitar to sound like that – but I wanted to do something with it. What I ended up doing was cutting up the vocal track into syllables and layering them into chords, one chord per phrase, then further messing with those chords using various echoes, reverbs, and filters. Near the end of the track, I built a chord made from every damned syllable I sang in the whole song (uh, except one or two expressive little non-pitched grunts). The ending is partially accidental: to complement the distortion of the voice chords on the second verse, I took the ambient guitar part, doubled it, and raised one by 5 cents and lowered the other by 5 cents from true pitch. What resulted was that curious little whistling part you can hear in the long fade – and the bandpass swoop I added was intended to emphasize that a bit more.
“1 2 Xmas U” (December 2007)
A Christmas version of the Wire classic. Note that it somehow seemed in line with the aesthetics of Wire Mk. III that each distinct musical event in this song – each guitar chord or note, each bass note – is a clone of the same event. That is, every F# chord is the same F# chord, digitally duplicated; every B in the bass is the same B on the keyboard, digitally duplicated, etc. The drum part is from the beginning of Wire’s “Fragile,” sped up to this song’s 240 bpm by the simple expedient of chopping every beat down to scale. If the time between one hit and the next is an eighth note, for example, I simply cut out everything in the first hit after 0.125 seconds (at 240 bpm, conveniently, every 4/4 measure takes exactly 1 second – so “eighth notes” truly are one-eighth of a second). This gives the sound both an organic quality – it’s a real drum hit, after all – and that digital frisson, since it’s cut off electronically. Nearly every sound in the recording (drums included) is massively compressed, then hard-limited, and often overdriven as well. Play loud – it’s Christmas! (Oh – plus…sleighbells!)
Saw you in a mall (asking for sacks), sat on a lap – sat on the fat man
Caught you with a package (wrapper), caught you with a package
1 2 Xmas U
“Victorian Photographs” (December 2007)
If I look at you long enough,
you will disappear
like ghosts in Victorian photographs,
into the light
of still streets.
Retracing names of prior occupants
on a pad of hotel stationery,
engraved, laid paper memorial,
note to no one, signed, someone’s sincerely…
The kitchen clock had stopped again –
or time had stopped instead,
and all my moments were second-hand,
Would I restart,
or stay here, now?
Musical turbogeekery: at one point, I was considering chopping up and reversing the solo to use as chaotic backdrop near the ending (I decided I didn’t need it) – but I wanted the notes to be in key with the backdrop. Since other parts of the solo are on different chords, I went through the solo and determined what scale I was using at any given point. And I discovered that, quite unconsciously, the song had a “secret” circle-of-fifths chord structure (a classic example of the way composition should precede analysis, not the other way around). The first part of the solo uses an A major scale, until the introduction of a G major chord introduces a G natural – and from that point until the C major chord a few meausures later, the solo uses a D major scale. That C major chord, though, isn’t the tonic, as the associated scale retains an F#: in fact, the actual modulation is to G major (actually E minor). Finally, the odd suspended chord that the song rests on for several bars builds on an F major chord – but again, it’s not the tonic (if I were going to say anything is at that point, it’d be A minor). The scale here is C major. So, the following sequence of scales is used: A, D, G, and C…moving downwards by a fifth each time. When I put the chord sequence together, I did it by dead reckoning: what sound do I want here? There are some parallelisms: the A major to F# minor is echoed in reverse by the movement from G major to B minor, and the half-step move from F# minor to G major is mirrored by the half-step move from B minor to C major in the next phrase (giving us two similar phrases: A-F#m-G, G-Bm-C. That half-step gambit is reprised in the movement from E minor to F major, in the last sequence of the verse.
Even curioser: that movement of progressive flattening occurs in this song’s earlier counterpart (I’ve always sort of thought of them as a pair – a pair of opposites, perhaps…), “Oslo Also” (see below). In that song, the progressive flattening occurs first in the introduction of the D major chord at the end of the chorus’s second phrase (we’re in E major), second by the introduction of the alternate voicing of that D chord (a C-shaped chord that leaves the G and E strings open; thus: D-F#-G-D-E). The first time, with a more standard voicing of the D chord, the “string” part passes through a G sharp (native to E major); I realized that I had to change that to a G natural the second time through because of the C-shaped D polychord. (By the way: I haven’t been able to find a name for the somewhat common chord voicing involving the simultaneous sounding of usually adjacent major third and fourth. This chord is organic on a guitar: there are many versions of it, but the basic idea involves moving a common chord shape but leaving surrounding strings open rather than barre-ing them. I don’t think I’ve heard the chord much prior to music from the late sixties or so. Steely Dan fans follow the band’s joking cue to refer to a chord with an added second as a “mu” chord; but I haven’t been able to find a name for this added-fourth chord. And “added-fourth chord” is boring.)
“Are ‘Higsons’ Electric?” (Segway Army) (November 2007)
A mashup of Robyn Hitchcock’s “Listening to the Higsons” (studio version) and Gary Numan and Tubeway Army’s “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”…with some chatter taken from Hitchcock’s November 2004 appearance at Shank Hall.
“Oslo Also” (September 2007)
You sent me recipes for water:
take ice, just add time
Slower midnight, polar daylight
longitudes converge to rhyme
Sea mist ice floe
blue becalmed confine
calving ice shelf
tilt ecliptic line
It begins with itself.
Oslo also arctic time zone
frozen solstice moments by
cold-war border, white night spring light
flow and thaw clear sky
Watched kettles, bought umbrellas
steam whistles, rainfall pelts –
No something could be one thing
as something as your something else.
Underneath a setting sun
belong wherever you are missing
It begins with itself
(and it also ends).
“Beyond the Valley of Lolita Nation” (July 2006)
A collage of sounds entirely from Game Theory and Loud Family recordings, in the style of the Residents’ “Beyond the Valley of a Day in the Life.”
Another match is burnt to ash,
another weakened cocktail drunk,
another jukebox echo lost in smoke and haze.
A pen erasing, tracing lines,
a silhouetted window strung
with lights from outside; blocks away a stray dog bays.
Even where it’s night, some lovers long to shout for June –
Stephin Merritt writes another song about the moon.
A flight of stairs, a broken clock,
teacups, Chinese gongs,
a ukulele on the wall, a strand of rope.
An empty glass, an ashtray full…
another hundred songs…
a rhyming dictionary, and an old brown coat.
Leaving there, it’s light, and others throng about too soon –
Stephin Merritt writes another song about the moon.
“Lance Crocker, Almanac Cracker” (June 2006)
He rides a donkey
through the city –
He wears trousers
’cause his knees aren’t so pretty –
in swerving traffic,
past oil derricks,
to his Uncle Eric’s (yeah!).
He carries compasses
in leather satchels,
in canvas, corduroy…
and smells of burning matches –
a switchblade ego,
a turnpike mind,
an appled oranger
spilling coffee grounds and rinds.
“Tinsnip Idol Mandate” (July 2004)
“Breakfast” (3217 BCE)
All music composed and arranged by Jeff Norman and licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License except for noted covers and collages, which should also be credited to the original composers and probably shouldn’t be spread around every which where. Note also that some songs feature uncleared samples, which I believe fall into a fair-use, creative-adaptation scenario, but I’m not a lawyer and hope never to meet one in regards to this matter. So if you hear a sample you think you have rights to and don’t think it belongs here, let me know so I can harangue you and throw copies of Lawrence Lessig at you.