The Car Music Project: garage band with instruments made from an old Honda
The Car Music Project is a very different kind of garage band, with instruments made from an old Honda.
It isn't quite paradox, the way Bill Milbrodt speaks. Not quite contradiction, either. The words are English, but that's as far as conventional structure goes. It's as if he speaks like... well, music. Which fits, since that's actually what we're talking about here. It's just not conventional.
"I'm not sure what you call it," he says. "It's not experimental. It's all been worked out. It's as if you took the music and smashed it on the cement floor and then played it."
See? This is Mr. Milbrodt on his music, which is born of the same lineage as that of Gil Evans and, more importantly, Frank Zappa. It comes from somewhere on the fringe, where styles like rock and jazz and classical flutter in the same blue sky but remain, despite the evolution around them, something unclassifiable. Something... perfectly imperfect.
So what, then, does any of this have to do with cars? I mean, just because Zappa once made music from a bicycle doesn't mean anybody would make an entire band worth of instruments from a 1982 Honda Accord, right?
In fact, that's the whole reason the Car Music Project exists. The project, at least as a concept, has been around for 14 years. Back in 1991, Mr. Milbrodt had a car — "a good car" — that carried him 200,000 miles, but no farther. It belched, it smoked like a barfly. Mr. Milbrodt loved that car, but he knew he couldn't sell it. And he couldn't bring himself to junk it.
Option C was to take it to a sculptor friend named Ray Fuance III and have him fashion from its parts a very different kind of garage band — a process Mr. Milbrodt realizes has definitively Frankensteinian overtones. By 1994, the work of the Doctors Frankenstein yielded instruments that look quite a bit like their more standard cousins, but are absolutely unique.
There's Mr. Milbrodt's air guitar, which looks like a banjo, sounds like a guitar and is built from his old Accord's air cleaner. There's the strutbone and exhaustaphone, instruments akin to the brass family and made, as might be obvious from the names, from the struts and exhaust section of the car. James Spotto handles those.
There's the tube flute, and the alto and tenor convertibles are the domain of Dave Homan. Convertibles are both brass and reed — depending on which end you blow into will dictate whether you get a sax or a flute — and are made from saxophone parts and assorted metal pipes pulled directly from Mr. Milbrodt's Accord.
Tank bass belongs to Wilbo Wright, who strums and plucks strings tuned firmly into the acoustic (and physical) frontiers of the gas tank that carried Mr. Milbrodt as far as it would take to drive to China and back.
Rhythm? That's for William Trigg on rercarsion — an entire percussion section made from floor boards, windows, gears and pretty much anything that carries a good beat.
The 52-year-old Mr. Milbrodt, a composer/producer/film school graduate from Howell, says it took nearly a decade to put together a band comfortable enough to tackle instruments in need of a hefty dose of finesse and old-fashioned practice. After all, these are hand-crafted instruments that don't have the precise shapes and vents and pieces that instruments straight off the shelves can boast. But now that Mr. Milbrodt has found the right guys for the right parts, the Car Music Project is ready to roll out of (or into, depending on your point of view) the showroom for the first time.
On July 21, the Zappa-influenced, yet fully original, sounds of the Car Music Project will debut at The College of New Jersey's Concert Hall in Ewing. The second, bigger show, at Hamilton's Grounds For Sculpture, is set for July 29.
Regardless of the fact that Mr. Milbrodt has been making music commercially for about 25 years, he says the Car Music Project has taught him to appreciate what it takes to be able to conduct and play in a band at the same time. Basically, it all comes down to outlook.
"It's like a coat rack without the coats," he says. "A framework to hang stuff on. It's all in how you look at music."
The Car Music Project will appear at The College of New Jersey Concert Hall, Music Building, Route 31, Ewing, July 21, 7:30 p.m. Free admission. For information, call (609) 771-3487. The band will play Grounds For Sculpture, 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, July 29, 7 p.m. Tickets cost $8. For information, call (609) 586-0616, ext. 20. Car Music Project on the Web: www.carmusicproject.com
Link to photo and its caption -
Composer/producer/film school grad Bill Milbrodt with his guitar - the body is made from an air cleaner - and drums that were once aluminum wheels
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