Racer Sessions

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

Kristian Garrard - September 26th, 2010


Sept. 26: Embracing The Element Of Surprise / Jamming With God

hosted by Kristian Garrard

I work a lot with am audio programming environment called Max/MSP. I use it to create sound worlds that react to my playing, reinterpret the sounds of the instrument, and spit it back to me in ways that I cannot always predict. I enjoy working with this element of surprise, where even though I am a solo performer, I can’t fully control what’s coming out of the speakers. For this session, I am going to be expanding this idea into a group setting with two different pieces.

The first will be a sort of pop-ballad song with a set melody and chord progression, but the rhythmic component will be entirely guided by chance. Notes fixed to a timing grid, but chaotic and non-repetitive in their patterns. The only control I will have over this is to tell the computer which chord we’re currently on, and how dense and/or fast to play. Joining me in this adventure will be guitarist Jared Borkowski and saxophonist Andrew Swanson. Their challenge will be to fit into the non-measured cadence of the tune, and fit the melody to a form that they can’t accurately predict.  I’ll post a link to download the patch I made for this piece soon, if there are any budding max-heads out there who want to check it out (It’s a fairly simple probability-based midi generator, operating on a bunch of midi channels at once).

The second piece will be performed by Neil Welch and myself. I’ve been watching Neil’s progress as a solo performer for a while now, and I find myself amazed at the way he reforms tones on the fly, a single note will take on many different microtonal and timbral variations during its duration.  I will be performing alongside Neil on drumset and feedback-loops, moving through a series of overtone rich sustained tones. The surprise element will be caused on my part by the unpredictability of feedback based synthesis, and on Neil’s part by my instruction to “blow first, ask questions later.” He will attempt to play without forethought, while maintaining control over the timbral changes in his sound. We will be conducting one another through this piece without a score, attempting to unify our attacks and releases solely through body language.

The inspiration for the structure and sound of the second piece comes from a tune called “Intimidator” by Oren Ambarchi (one of my all-time faves). Unfortunately I only own this song on vinyl, otherwise I’d post an MP3. It’s performed on prepared piano and electronics, and the sustained sections are frighteningly controlled. A single sine wave will sit untouched for long periods of time before a jarring strike of the piano changes the whole tonal quality of the drone. It’s disgusting.

I will present specific ideas for the jam during the session, and if you think of any good surprise-based improv games you want to bring, make your voice heard.

I look forward to seeing you all there.


P.S. I played a noise show last Sunday afternoon. After my set, a person from the audience asked me what software I was using. Upon my telling him it was Max/MSP, he lifted his shirtsleeve to show me his [loadbang] tattoo. It was a sick nerd moment. If you know what a loadbang is, you understand.