Racer Sessions

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

Carmen Rothwell - October 14, 2012


Since the beginning of the summer, I’ve been getting together with Cameron Sharif to play duo improvised music. Sometimes we play tunes, but we mostly play freely improvised music with no predetermined constraints. What I’ve noticed is that often, the pieces I’m most happy with (while playing, as well as when listening back to recordings) are ones in which I stumbled upon sounds that I may never have played before. When something I don’t expect comes out of my instrument, I find that I become very engaged on an intuitive level–at that point, it’s not about playing things that I feel I have control over. It’s more about embracing the unfamiliar and letting go of conscious expectations.

I think that when you let intuition take over, rather than asserting conscious control, you get closer to accessing the core of your musicality. Cameron was recently telling me about his notion that every person has their own internal musical universe. No one will ever know anyone else’s universe, because they don’t really exist outside of each individual. We use our instruments and our bodies to try to communicate to others what exists internally. I think that when we try to maintain total control of our bodies and instruments when improvising, we reinforce the filter that exists between our inner universes and their outer manifestations. If we are able to let go of conscious control and let our instincts take over, I think we are more likely to glimpse our core musical selves and to communicate on a very honest level with fellow musicians. Intent comes across even when technical and theoretical skill do not. For me, improvising feels best when I feel like my body is compelled to make music, but my conscious thoughts are not involved in the process–it’s all intuition, impulse, and reaction. When Cameron and I are both in this kind of state, it feels as though our musical universes are colliding. It’s a great feeling.

For this session, Cameron Sharif and I will play three duo improvised pieces with no constraints. The intent here is to access the mental state described above.

For the jams, I encourage you to see if you can let go of control, to whatever extent you feel is appropriate. When you hear yourself playing something unfamiliar, embrace it and engage with it. Be okay with surprising yourself.