Katie Jacobson - December 2, 2012
For this upcoming Racer Session I will be presenting two pieces incorporating two symbiotic themes: vulnerability and intimacy. They aren’t the best words in the world, but deal with it! By vulnerability I mean the necessity for the improviser to assert his or her own voice within the improvisation. By intimacy I mean the necessity for the improviser to listen and involve him or herself with the other musicians present within the piece at hand.
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My first piece will be a solo vocal improvisation. I feel that singing is an intensely vulnerable experience. You use your own body, and only your own body, to create sound. The bones in your face vibrate, your ribs, back muscles and abdominals flex, and your heart moves up and down with your diaphragm. You use your whole self to make sound as a singer. Your bones are yours alone and as they vibrate in their individual way they make what you have to sing solely your own. It is you, using yourself, to express yourself. What could be more terrifying?
All this to say, singing is frightening even when you have a pianist or band behind you. I chose to make it an even more vulnerable and lonely experience for myself through a solo piece, which is literally just me standing before you. Improvisation needs vulnerability because, even in a group setting, one has to be comfortable enough with him or herself to participate.
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My second piece will be a duo vocal performance with the lovely Carol Weber. It is loosely based on a field recording that I heard in college during an ethnomusicology class. The recording is a short excerpt of two sisters performing a bosnian style of singing called ganga. I have been haunted by this recording since I heard it and, upon finding it again recently, was inspired to try to incorporate it into my racer performance. The song is called “Sister Hold Your Chastity” and is only sung by two siblings. It is mountain music and has a “yodelling” quality for this reason. The sisters also sing a whole step apart from each other when they are not in unison, which indicates kinship and a close relationship. It is powerful, intimate and uninhibited sound.
The intimacy that is present between these two girls listening to each other and singing together inspired me to try to really connect with the other improvisers I perform with. That is what I seek to do in this piece with Carol.
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My only guidance for the Jam is this: the first hour will consist of only duo improvisations. After that groups can be whatever size seems appropriate. This will help the individuals involved feel the more vulnerable lonely experience of the singer and experiment with the intimacy of ganga, a style of singing based on close proximity genetically, relationally and sonically.