Racer Sessions

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

Chris Icasiano - August 15th


improviser as composer .  setting your own parameters.

in previous racer sessions, the idea of using preset parameters or “constraints” for improvisation has been implemented in order to help guide the pieces.  the purpose of using  parameters was to give specified guidelines to the performers to focus each individual’s musical ideas, thus, helping give the improvised pieces more of a compositional form and structure.  one example of a “constraint” might simply be a rule that all the players have to initially stick to a particular rhythm, or maybe tonal center.  then, from this foundation, they can sculpt the improvised piece into a composition that is informed by the initial musical idea.  while this concept has resulted in many successful improvised pieces, I find that it is really just an effective exercise in improvisation.  in a real musical situation, however, I firmly believe that the performers should be able to formulate and implement their own “constraints” on their playing in real-time.

how can this be done?  ultimately, the idea of using constraints has been used so that the improviser is required to think more like a composer.  on a very basic level, a composer might use a single idea as the foundation for an entire piece.  once this initial idea has been established, the piece can then expand and change in a number of ways while still relating to the material that has already been presented.  Similarly, as one method of improvisation, I believe that an improviser should be able to think in these terms while performing.

From the start, each individual involved in the improvisation needs to be 100% aware of what each of the other players are doing.  in these initial moments, the groundwork for the piece is set, and the performers should be sensitive to the mood, motives, textures and vibe that are present, and then be able to formulate their musical ideas and gestures based on this foundation.

For the jam session:

I’d like for all the groups to be pre-formed.  and here are some questions to ponder while performing in a freely-improvised setting…

What is my role?  Am I contributing to the music?…and if not, maybe I shouldn’t be playing anything…  What is the direction of the ideas I’m presenting?  How does it relate to what the others are doing?  If I introduce new material, does it validate, or can it be validated by material that I’ve already played?  How is this piece going to end?

The piece:

For Safe Keeping –

This piece incorporates elements of free-improvisation interspersed with composed material.  There are three improvised sections in this piece, all based on the same fundamental idea, however the mood and texture changes based on what happens throughout the piece.  In this way, I hope to convey the improvisational “parameters” that the improvisers should be aware of while collaborating in a free setting.

Luke Bergman and Abbey Blackwell - bass

David Balatero and Natalie Hall - cello

Ivan Arteaga - flute, voice

Andrew Swanson - voice, saxophone

Me - voice, drums