Racer Sessions

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

Carmen Rothwell - September 29, 2013


This Sunday, I will present three short pieces for solo bass. When I come across a sound on the bass that is new to my ears, I like to explore that sound by finding ways to isolate the technique that I’m using to create it. Each of these pieces came from finding a sound and exploring the technique that yields it. These pieces don’t require great virtuosity—my goal here was to come up with simple pieces that delve into a sound and technique that I find compelling. The forms are composed, but they each leave a lot of room for variation. The first two pieces are very new, and the third piece was first formed last spring but has since gone through some changes. So you can get an idea of what I’m going to be doing, I’ll briefly describe the techniques:

1. Tuning with harmonics

Bassists often tune their strings by using harmonics. The idea for this piece came out of my routine of tuning in this manner. In this piece, I capitalize on the fact that the the same pitch is available in multiple places/on multiple strings, making it possible to keep sort of a drone going while having a number of options of what to play against it.

2. Double duty in both hands

Typically, we finger with the left hand and pluck or bow with the right. In this piece, I finger and pluck with both hands. For this to work for my hands, I am using almost entirely harmonics. This technique yields a unique sound, very different from the sounds that come from using my hands in a more conventional way. It also makes it possible to play more notes simultaneously!

3. Bow sound

I enjoy experimenting with the continuum that runs between the pitchless sounds of the bow hairs and the clearly pitched sound of the strings. This piece is centered around just a few pitches (all harmonics), but the interest, for me, lies primarily in the bow sounds.

For the jams, I think it would be cool if each player put a premium on hearing the sound of their own instrument as if they had never heard it before, listening to the small variations that might typically go unnoticed. And then, of course, paying equal attention to the interactions between the sounds of each player in the group.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you on Sunday!