Racer Sessions

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

Carol Weber - July 24th, 2011


Creating a Space for Voice

(And Deconstructing the Voice/Instrument Binary)

When people used to ask me in musician-type settings what I play, I used to say “I just sing”.  I just sing.  As if I merely sing, or as if I barely do music.  I just sing.  How and when did my conception of voice as primary instrument become a shameful thing?  The voice is where humans make their first utterance, their original creations of sounds, communication, song.  Why did I feel unqualified, marginalized, unworthy of participating, and contributing by having just my voice?

In these questions, there is so much to say about a history of various forms of marginalization of various groups of voiced people throughout the history of music and the world but I will turn our eyes more locally; to a university school of music where there seemed to be a mild ice age cast upon the land of scholarship for human voices regarding new music and innovation.  

The jazz and non-jazz (i.e. classical departments) at this particular institution seemed to be doing new and innovative work regarding non-voice instruments.  It was exciting.  However, when I was involved with this institution, there felt to be an egregious lack of space for new, innovative, and experimental work for scholars of the voice.  In my experience taking classical voice lessons, I was told that a piece by one composer, (Oliver Messiaen) was not an appropriate choice for my repertoire and was rerouted to the old stand-by Italian Arias book.  In vocal jazz, (oh vocal jazz…) my hopes to bring forward that genre with a graphic score was laughed at by the director.  No, we would have more Watermelon Man– no offense Herbie.  Furthermore, there is no longer space for voices in jazz at that institution.  They cancelled the program shortly after my time there.     

When I first started attending the Racer Sessions over a year ago, it seemed to be another space where new and innovative creations in music were taking place, but not for voices.  There were no people getting up and jamming with their (human) voices when the Racer Sessions started.  Thanks to a few brave souls, that has started to change.

In this session I will play with the integrative space of voice as instrument, instrument as voice– the unification of these sometimes considered binary, but I think actually unified entities.  

The first piece is going to be comprised of 6 human voices, double bass, vibraphone, and trumpet.  In it, you will hear the sometimes conflict, and sometimes unification of human voices and humans through instrument voices.  The bowed vibraphone sounds so reminiscent of a human voice for me, it will be the chimera texture that underlies this magnetic affair of sometimes joining, sometimes repelling.

The second piece will be comprised of human voice, trumpet, and keyboard.  This piece begins with keyboard creating the space that represents the history of music (possibly jazz), and trumpet and human voice will again engage in a clash of binaries that are in the process of realizing they may indeed (             ).  

[Image of a Chimera]

(Chimera: Greek myth a fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, body of a goat, and tail of a serpent)


(Chimera: a fabulous beast made up of parts taken from various animals)


(Chimera: a wild and unrealistic dream or notion)

For the rest of the jam, let us all be chimeras of our human voices, and other instruments.  Please integrate your human voice, your body, your breath with your instrument as you play.  Perhaps, you will even find yourself using your human voice with your other instruments.  Perhaps, you will hear other instruments, and sounds coming out of your human voice.  Let us dismantle the voice/instrument binary for once and for all.  (Or at least start with one night at Cafe Racer.)  Let them know not where human voice stops, and other instruments begin!  At the end of the night, we shall have a hoopla; (bustling excitement of activity) of all human and instrumental voices on stage at once creating what will I hope be the next era of the unification of all voices.  

Thank you Racer Sessions for my continuing education!  Thank you so much to all the voices that have been instrumental in making this happen!  You know who you are.  This could not have happened without you.  For those of you who are not sure if you can curate a Racer Session, I can tell you first hand:  jump in!  The water is deep but warm and waiting for you and the community is here to catch you!  

On the Pieces!

Piece One:

Human Voice: Ivan Arteaga
Double Bass Voice/Human Voice:  Abbey Blackwell    
Human Voice:  Nina Alden
Vibraphone Voice:  Steven Bell
Human Voice:  Carol Weber
Trumpet Voice:  Ray Larsen 
Human Voice:  Lauren Imbrock
Human Voice:  Evan Woodle
Human Voice:  Jared Borkowski  

Piece Two:

Keyboard Voice:  Andrew Olmstead
Human Voice:  Carol Weber
Trumpet Voice:  Ray Larsen

I leave you with a treat to inspire from Meridith Monk–  (Thank you Brandon!)