Racer Sessions

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

Ivan Arteaga - October 6, 2013


What I’ve discovered since finishing at school is an enjoyment, and desire for practicing, and exploring the fundamentals of a craft. 

In June of this year, I finished what was in essence, my seventh year as a student at the University of Washington Music Program. I dove into summer with far too much time on my hands. This time period has been a bit tumultuous in terms learning how to be motivated musically in the real world, and learning to be self-reflective with what I want to get out of music outside of school. Apart from music, there are two things which I’ve taken quite a liking to. One, is the movement and spiritual art of taijiquan, or tai chi. The second, is the video game Starcraft. For those who may initially wonder at what Starcraft has to do with a discussion about music, first realize that this is a very complex, and deep, strategy game. Because of this, there is a serious level of professional Starcraft playing, and the reality is that the mechanics involved in getting that deep into Starcraft, require a very serious practice and study. 

What I’ve discovered since finishing at school is an enjoyment, and desire for practicing, and exploring the fundamentals of a craft. I have found that diving into the deep and powerful practice of silk reeling, the fundamental movement building blocks for tai chi, has been tremendously rewarding, and fun! In the same way, I have found that not only playing starcraft like a normal video game, but diving into the depth that is available, practicing the mechanics, and fundamentals of the game and strategy, has been extremely fun. In both of these situations, there is a real sensation of improvement, and this can be a very satisfying feeling. It’s not important for one to become the best in the world through practice, but rather for the learning itself to be enjoyable, fulfilling, and meaningful. 

In my own saxophone practice, I have gone back to the etude book, and have been looking for challenging etudes that get to the heart of technical saxophone things which are challenging for me, and I have had a lot of fun focusing on this kind of work over the past few months, and for the same reasons described above, I have found this to be the door through which I enjoy music study at this temporary point in my life. 

I believe that free-improvisation is a truly deep art form, and I think it’s a very special thing to have Racer Sessions provide a community-based platform for musicians to come and explore free-improvisation. To think that we as a community should become the best free-improvisors in the world is naive, and not the point. At the same time however, I think that Racer provides a platform for musicians and even non-musicians to communally enjoy the process of improving on, studying, and practicing the art of free improvisation. So, for my Racer sessions, we will be spending the first 30-40 minutes in an organized exploration of improvisation etudes. These will be small size groups, doing 3-5 minutes studies focusing on the exploration of 1 or 2 specific musical elements to use in the development of music. We’ll be stripping out the idea of form for most of these exercises, and focusing on content, and give improvisors open environments to work on specific tools in free-improvisation. A couple examples would be a study on the use of non-tonal/pitch sounds in improvisation. Or a study on articulation variations as the central form of development. I’ll be guiding these for the opening of the session, and encourage everyone to share ideas that fall in the same vein. I look forward to seeing everyone and practicing free-improvisation with you all!