Racer Sessions

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

Luke Bergman - August 22nd, 2010


How are we inspired by our natural surroundings?

My piece is dedicated to the Pacific Northwest, and all of the extreme energy, both creative and destructive, that it inspires in its inhabitants.

The Northwest is known for thick forests, dismal winters, magnificently beautiful mountains, serial killers, strong beers, fog, vibrant communities, coffee, atheism, passive aggression, giant octopi, moss, suicidal pop stars, fungus, other stuff. It is like other places, but in some ways seems more dramatic, more fertile, wilder, creepier, etc.

There are the times when I experience the beauty and magnitude of being perched on top of a mountain, and feel inspired and debilitated at the same time realizing that I am a minuscule part of an overwhelmingly large cycle that is in perpetual motion, a force that is indifferent to my hopes and dreams, and will go on destroying and creating whether I like it or not. These experiences make me feel like I need to create something cause there is so much being created around me. A lot of the ideas for music that I write come in one flash at times when I am very open to my environment.

There is also the the mood I get into in the fourth or fifth month of winter where I begin to feel buried by the atmosphere. Everything lingers too long in miserable purgatory to the point where it would almost be nice to have a tropical storm or a tornado just to feel the rejuvenation that comes afterwards. Instead, the winters in Seattle are devastatingly almost-cruel, never quite cold enough to be crisp, never quite dark enough to reset, never hard enough rain to feel like a storm. I notice this pattern being reflected by the social climate in that people seem to linger in passivity and bottle up destructive emotions barely ever releasing them. In the winter, I try to focus on ways to release bad feelings in a way that doesn’t perpetuate them, trying to convert them into creative energy.

I believe the extreme fluctuation of energy in my environment causes me to seek out extremes in the music I create and the art that I am drawn to. I have been particularly interested lately in artists who seek their inspiration from their physical environment and acknowledge it’s influence on the temperament of its dwellers. 

The television show, Twin Peaks, depicts the citizens of a small town in the wooded Cascade foothills trying to solve the mystery of the brutal murder of the Highschool homecoming queen. Some of the people of Twin Peaks acknowledge that there is an intangible evil presence that lurks in the woods surrounding the town, and that this presence has the ability to manifest itself in them. As the series progresses, it is revealed that the characters are all carrying some secret that causes them to lead two separate lives. On one hand, it is a pretty campy soap opera and on the other hand, it is a very honest journey into the most potent source of fear. The creators of this series must have strongly felt how I feel, that the influence of ones surroundings are inescapable. Twin peaks goes so far as to personify this force as an alien named Bob who is trying to lure people into his extra-dimensional world of condemned souls. This is a little more fantastical than I would tend to go, but it is an excellent show and i HIGHLY recommend it!

The image of twin peaks I believe signifies two moments of extreme clarity in life, birth and death. They are always looming overhead while everyone dwells below in the fog and the woods, bumbling through life all the while feeling pulled towards both. Certain emotions or motivations may seem to radiate from either the “birth peak” or the “death peak” but everything is so convoluted in the middle that everyone is mostly occupied with trying to find a balance and feel around for what’s immediately in front of them. The deeper philosophical statement here is that we may tend to view these two phenomena as poles or opposites, but they are actually twins, one in the same. Even though they are the most prominent things in sight, they are just two small nodes on a much larger spinning ball.

A word of admiration: Similar to how the subconscious constantly fires thoughts and images into your head as a result of whatever stimuli, David Lynch (a native Northwesterner) is able to abstractly juxtapose characters and themes, motifs, that are connected on a deeply intuitive level. Although I’m told he is a realist, he uses his subconscious to guide his directing and writing and leaves some things disturbingly unexplained. Lynch’s distorted, highly saturated perception of reality allows deeper, more abstract associations to rise to the surface. This is reflected, in the series, by FBI Agent Dale Cooper’s use of unconventional detective methods, and reliance on dreams to solve the mystery of the town.

Another artist whose work embodies the spirit of the Northwest is Anacortes Native, Phil Elverum of The Microphones and Mount Eerie.

One Track off Mount Eerie’s second newest recording, “Wind’s Poem" is actually a tribute to Twin Peaks: Between Two Mysteries

I fear I may have already exhausted you in this post so I won’t get into why I love Phil Elverum’s music , but would just like to strongly recommend listening to these two albums (both state what I am trying to communicate with this post with much more eloquence and beauty):

The Microphones - Mt. Eerie (sample track: Universe)

Mount Eerie - Wind’s Poem (sample track: Wind Speaks)

This Sunday, I will be presenting a new piece with a brand new group which I call Fungal Rose. The inspiration for this piece comes from spending the entire summer in my basement wishing that I could be out hiking. It is supposed to reflect my meditative process for when I am out hiking or running, where I try to slow down my thoughts by focusing on slowness and very small details in motion and breathing, or to visualize an endless straight line. I find that after doing this for a while, distractions begin to melt away and perception opens up. I call the piece "Troglodyte Summer” and it features:

Mitch Bell (aka Thunder Grey Pilgrim) - vocals/electronics

Jess Alldredge - drums

Cuong Vu - trumpet/electronics

Natalie Hall - cello

David Balatero - cello

Myself - guitar

I am very excited for Sunday and hope to see you all there!