Racer Sessions

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

Michael Owcharuk and PLY - January 6, 2013


Hello, my name is Michael Owcharuk and I am very happy to be curating the Racer Session for the first time! Performing with me will be my good friends and frequent collaborators Beth Fleenor-clarinet and Paul Kemmish-bass. Together we are known as PLY. PLY was born out of my 2011-2012 Tune A Day Project. I wrote a tune every single day in 2011 as an exercise in artistic discipline and a way to further de-mystify the compositional process.

As a composer a lot of my music combines composed and improvised components and I strive to bridge those as seamless as possible. As an improviser my top priority is spontaneous organization: the on-the-spot creation of some kind of form.

My musical journey has shown me two general categories that improvisation falls into. I call these Exploratory and Directed.

Exploratory Improvisation has no expectations, rules, or instructions and utilizes different musical languages and processes freely. The music is determined moment to moment by its participants. The best example is whenever you get a group of musicians together and simply say: “Let’s just play.”

Directed Improvisation is led by an idiom, person, concept, aesthetic, and/or informed by another discipline it is supporting or collaborating with. For example, I improvise often when I accompany ballet classes. My mission is to spontaneously create a “song” made up of 8 bar phrases with a cadence at the end and the appropriate rhythmic scheme to suit the movement.

For this Racer Session, PLY will perform three short Directed Improvisations focusing on different ways to develop or hold on to form as one improvises:

  • No. 1 will be the “ballet accompaniment” style I mentioned above: 8 bar phrases with a cadence at the end, more or less tonal.
  • No. 2 will utilize an “event map” that provides a skeleton of form. Kind of like connect the dots except the same dots yield a different picture every time. This is largely influenced by my participation in Beth Fleenor’s Workshop Ensemble which utilize “road maps” for improvisation and focus on intent, directed energy, and deep listening.
  • No. 3 will be one of my compositions that uses written material to inform the improvisation and provides a bit more of a fleshed out form.

As a direction for the session, I would like to ask folks to think of some techniques that you use or might use to help create form as you improvise. Share these with your improvising group and with the audience and then embark on your adventure. Thank you!