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Image by: Amtrak image from Shutterstock 

Julie the Amtrak God

From: Jenny Asarnow
Length: 03:00

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Conversations with Julie, the voice on the Amtrak telephone line Read the full description.

Shutterstock_136027958_small These are dialogues that actually took place between me and Julie, the automated voice of Amtrak. I let her direct our conversation and allowed myself to be (mostly) passive. I was feeling lost, and I felt she could give me direction. A slightly longer version of this piece was featured in Chaise DVD Magazine (Issue 1). A remixed version (involving dance beats) was featured in Free Matter for the Blind (an audiozine), volume 6. That version of the piece aired on WFMU in June 2004. You can listen to it here: http://www.wfmu.org/playlists/shows/11845 This version has not been aired

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Piece Description

These are dialogues that actually took place between me and Julie, the automated voice of Amtrak. I let her direct our conversation and allowed myself to be (mostly) passive. I was feeling lost, and I felt she could give me direction. A slightly longer version of this piece was featured in Chaise DVD Magazine (Issue 1). A remixed version (involving dance beats) was featured in Free Matter for the Blind (an audiozine), volume 6. That version of the piece aired on WFMU in June 2004. You can listen to it here: http://www.wfmu.org/playlists/shows/11845 This version has not been aired

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Review of Julie the Amtrak God

"Julie the Amtrak God" puts together flesh and steel and comes out with a haunting gem of a radio story. We are sucked into the dialog between a robot who's just doing her job and a girl who barely swallows her pain. At just three minutes, the piece is as lean and well-packaged as a pop song. But Arsarnow delivers a bittersweet, intimate performance that stirs in you long after the piece finishes. Her concept is genius in its simplicity and nearly flawless in its execution.

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Review of Julie the Amtrak God

This radio experiment is unlike anything else you'll hear on the airwaves. It's a refreshing example of what can be accomplished when someone with an artistic mind (and a penchant for abstraction) approaches the radio medium as a blank canvas. Producer Jenny Asarnow manages to evoke a wide range of emotional responses from us, ranging from melancholy to hilarity, by simply attempting to conduct a philosophical conversation with a computerized voice-recognition system.

Some listeners might be put off by the non-linearity of this piece, but a patient listen will restore your faith in the power of the abstract in radio.

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Review of Julie the Amtrak God

Like most of the other 8 million young people into public radio, I was inspired in large part by This American Life. Everyone has their own reasons for liking it, but mine has to do with a very specific moment that TAL is supremely good at creating. It's that moment of sedate humor-tinged sadness--not the sounds and stories of deep emotion, but those an ironic smile.

"Julie" is that moment in spades, and it's one of the first pieces I genuinely became obsessed with on PRX. I could listen to it hundreds of times and never get sick of it. On one level, the dichotomy between Jenny's lonliness and Julie's digitized voice is hysterical. The pregnant pause before each of Julie's responses is especially weird and entertaining. But the whole time you're struck by the ridiculousness of it all, it never takes away from relating to the intimation of pain in Jenny's voice.

There's something so familiar about the tone of this piece, even though I've never heard anything like it.

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Broadcast History

This piece in this form was never broadcast.

A slightly longer version of this piece was featured in Chaise DVD Magazine (Issue 1).

A remixed version (remixed by R. Lyon/Mudboy) was featured in Free Matter for the Blind (an audiozine), volume 6. That version of the piece aired on WFMU in June 2004. You can listen to it here: http://www.wfmu.org/playlists/shows/11845

Timing and Cues

IN CUE: [Dial tone, ring] :03 "Hi, I'm Julie"
OUT CUE: "Your call may be recorded to ensure quality. Hold on." 2:54 [music]

Related Website

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/24/nyregion/24voice.html?oref=login