Racer Sessions

Sundays, 8-10pm at Cafe Racer in Seattle, WA

Brennan Carter - December 12th, 2010


Have you ever seen a pairing of visual art and music that makes it impossible to imagine one without the other? Have you been anywhere so awe-inspiring that you felt a soundtrack would complete the experience, and you even knew exactly what the music would sound like?

I would like to start out by explaining what the improvisations this Sunday will be structured around. I have selected a handful of images (pictures, paintings, drawings, graphics etc. both abstract and non abstract). Each group will be shown an image, and create an improvisation based on it. Performers can choose to simply create a sonic environment for the image to occur in, or create a developing story inspired by the image. Either way, the goal is to create a piece where the audience can listen to the music, look at the image, and realize, “those are the same thing.”

For my presentation I will be joined by two of my best musical comrades, Elliot Gray and Jarred Katz. We have a group called Friendly Creature. This summer we had the incredible opportunity to travel to Europe together. We spent one month in France through the UW Jazz in Paris program, and afterwards the three of us ventured to Switzerland and had many awesome experiences.

Whilst in France, we took a day trip to a small country town called Auvers-sur- Oise. It was here that Van Gogh spent the last few months of his life and completed an inconceivable number of paintings, mostly of flowers and the wheat fields only blocks away from the room he rented. It is difficult to describe how I felt strolling through this village. This beautiful place seemingly had not changed in a century (minus cars and traffic signs). The houses were small, built from stone, covered with thick ivy, and dissolved into the backdrop of the landscape. Small footpaths connected cobblestone roads between the houses, ancient curly trees provided shady spots on the ground for neighborhood cats, and everyone bought their baguettes from the local Boulangerie down the road. Everything felt ‘real’ in the way that Justin Beiber, McDonalds, Marketing schemes, and million dollar mansions make me sad about humanity.

This day was particularly emotional for me. We walked through Van Gogh’s empty room (the way he left it), and were told that is where he killed himself. We learned that he spent all day, everyday out in the fields painting for the last three months of his life, despite the fact that he only ever sold one painting. As we walked around the town we would see copies of Van Gogh paintings on plaques in front of the very same image he had painted. This was truly beautiful, because it was as if we were looking at the scene through his eyes. The more paintings I saw presented in front of the original image, the more I felt like I knew and understood him. Eventually we made our way to the edge of town, and emerged from scattered trees into vast golden wheat fields. They were breathtaking in ways you do not expect wheat to be. It was one of the hottest days of the trip, and there was not a cloud in the sky. We knew that we were walking through the fields Van Gogh had painted countless times, and marveled at his ability to interpret scenery and color as he did. I was overwhelmed with a sense of optimism that day; everything about that town felt right and natural. As content as I was at that moment, I was sad at the same time because I knew that as soon as the sun began its descent, we would need to catch the train back to Paris, and I may never see that town again.

As saccharine as this story is, I wanted to tell it to you as accurately to my experience as possible because my presentation will use parts of it. We will be performing two pieces. The first piece is inspired by the perception Elliot, Jarred and I have of Auvers-sur-Oise , with an aim to transmit the overwhelming emotional experiences we all had that day through music. If you can remember my story, please bring with you mental images of how you perceived our experience. The second piece is inspired by one of Van Gogh’s paintings, Wheatfield with Crows, set in the very fields we explored in Auvers-sur-Oise.

If you have read this far, I thank and salute you! I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday!


P.S. Included: Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with Crows, and a video that I consider an excellent example of matching visual images with music.