Racer Sessions

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

Ivan Arteaga - April 4th, 2010


Chops, why do we need ‘em?

(referring to Woodle, of course)


Every note or sound that escapes from your instrument is arguably the sound of music in your head – the instrument being the medium for it to flow through.  As Jared commented on last week, one step further is the idea that we are simply the medium by which Music (note capitalization) is allowed to escape. We spend so much of our time practicing our skills, and honing techniques but at the end of the day, the moment in which we express our music (which in actuality, is simply allowing Music to flow through us) is the ultimately important moment, and the technique and skills have less to do with the success of that moment then we think. Every decision that made in a given piece of music must be dedicated to that moment and the music being channelled around it. I would much rather here a single, technically unimpressive, yet purely intentional and dedicated note, than an automated response, filled with as much technical flair and complexity as possible. The challenge I have for everyone this Sunday is to be 100% committed to the moment in which our musical contribution exists. Don’t let anything that has been practiced over the last week be played simply because of it’s ease at the hands of your technically adept skill. So literally, dont think about ANYTHING you’ve practiced over the last week.

For the purposes of our free jams that happen at Cafe Racer, it may seem like we already succesfully do this, but just because we can’t necessarily hear the use of typical "lics" does not mean thatthe act of defaulting to autopilot doesn’t occur. When playing free-improvisations, it’s extremely easy to fall back to a sound/color/shape/harmony/“lic” that comes easy to us. Since it’s not so immediately obvious in the abstract, it’s difficult at times to recognize in oneself when this defaulting occurs. Letting go of typical tendencies is challenging but also paramount in the creation of free-improvised pieces, and all music for that matter! I am not submitting that we all try to leave the characteristics and sounds sounds that are unique to each musician, but simply that all our contributions be rooted in response to the central energy of Music that exists at the core of any group of musicians.

        However “Hippie-esque” and cheezy this may sound, I believe the image the Jared and I shared one night at QFC, purchasing the beverage known as Kambucha, is extremely potent in terms of musical energy. We envisioned a massive ball of energy (perhaps like the sun) that exists on another dimension (no, kambucha is not acid). We, as musicians that night, were feeling the power of this energy knocking against our own dimension, and our individual bodies. Our purpose as performers was to open up a rift….. just a tiny one. But by doing so, the power of this energy ball just comes screaming through and opens the rift wider and wider, pouring out into our world to be experienced by you.

The Music

I will be presenting a recent composition project which explores the the use of making static some of the elements which typically create motion and interest in a piece. It will be minimalist and static in terms of rythmn. This calls for a certain set of performance practice in order to successfully present the piece and as a listener, to be invested in that energy primarily. The compositional constructs become secondary.

·   Energy: Since the rhythmic natures is static and non-shifting the progression and motion for the piece relies heavily on the energy and intention of the players. To be focused and attach a sense of urgency is crucial 100% of the time.

  • In the free sections this can translate directly as another kind of tool at our disposal for creating motion and direction in simple and non-complex ideas. The goal is of course to simply be aware and take advantage of all musical attributes that can push a piece forward when improvising
  • Entrance/Exits: The way in which an idea/sound enters the ever moving piece is the most salient feature of change in this minimalist kind of sound. Utilizing different kinds of entrances and exists in the piece will shape the direction and emotion.
    • In the free improvisations, it is crucial to be confident and intentional with how one introduces an idea to the piece, and also takes it away. Any feeling of uncertainty is perceived and can detract greatly.
      • **Entrances and Exists will be a primary focus for the improvisations on Sunday. I will have a set of explorations for the first few pieces which will utilize how particular ideas should be presented. In this way, I hope to explore how strongly the WAY you play something can affect the overall piece. I will have a set of explorations to guide this concept for the first few improvisations and then we will proceed with out any. Hopefully they will help focus the way in which we create the pieces.
        • ***Note,  the most successful improvisations we’ve had at Racersessions are identifiably committed to the entrance and exit of ideas creating a powerful musical coherency which can be heard on the recordings.

To close, I’d like to share an experience I had recently. It was a mundane everyday moment. I was walking down to rehearsal from the 3rd floor of the music building. The Sub basement is 6 floors down. It was like a semi-truck crashing into me when all of a sudden, every sound around me was working together as a musical expression. The sound of people footsteps; voices down the stairwell; the whooshing of passers by; and the sounds of crowds outside filtering through open windows. It may sound cliche but they really came together like an orchestrated symphony. Many people claim to experience things like this, or to simply TRY to hear everyday sounds in this manner but when it happened, I was not looking for it. The most bizarre element was a distinct beginning and end. From the top of the staiwell, to the very last step. When I walked in to the room I found myself in a strong state of Euphoria from the experience. To me, this is the best piece of personal evidence to the imagery of Music as an energy existing wholely beside the people who create it. Let yourself experience music, and allow music to flow through you this sunday instead of coming by to create it.