Racer Sessions

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

Filtering by Tag: Jul2015

Neil Welch & Bill Kautz


We love playing our new music for such a supportive community at The Racer Sessions! We’re looking forward to seeing all of you on Sunday!

Fountain Head 

from Neil Welch:

Bill and I have collaborated a number of times over the past few years. We occasionally exchange compositions, or hang for an afternoon to play our melodies in a pretty informal setting with just the two of us. We’ve recognized that there are many similarities in our compositional approach and final products.  For example, we both tend to compose brief melodies, often without chords but very much within a tonal center. The pieces seem to have strong rhythmic ostinatos and almost a kind of minimalist-melodic quality. For tonight’s session, we decided to each compose a few melodies, and along with bassist Birch Pereira and drummer Dave Abramson, these kindred souls will present our work with you. In the spirit of the frequent collaboration and strong friendship between Bill and myself, we’ve decided to each reflect on our compositional process and provide you with some written thoughts on the subject. We thank you for reading!


from Bill Kautz:

My process in writing music this time has been a closer balance of improvisation while paying keen attention to basic compositional techniques such as duplicating rhythmic patterns, modulations, and various rhythmic and melodic inversions.

When I sit down to write a new piece, it is always on euphonium or trumpet. I’ll openly improvise and gradually narrow in my focus on some specific ideas such as a specific scale, texture, dynamic or rhythmic idea. The initial idea that comes out is generally just a measure long. So I kind of play a game of Legos when I compose. Measure by measure. Constantly replaying the previous blocks to ensure the new block stacks in a way that makes sense in my mind. Or makes sense with how I feel during that moment.

The new ideas that come out are always related to previous material to some degree. I can find ideas for patterns best visually. It is amazing what kind of new material you can create from previously introduced ideas simply by doing the same thing backwards, stretching it out, shoring it up, or flipping around the intervals. I can’t always see these ideas in my mind when I improvise, but they pop out on the paper when I am writing it out. And I know the more I write like this, the more it informs how I improvise.

I am excited to share these new pieces with you tonight and I hope the melodic ideas in each piece show a relationship to the greater whole.

by Neil Welch:

If I sit down with a block of time carved out of my day and tell myself to compose, I am almost always unsuccessful.  If I have a deadline looming and force myself to compose in order to get it done, I am almost always unsuccessful. I’ve come to recognize over the years that I generally get something composed in one of two ways:

The piece is just about finished in my mind when I write in down on paper.

     -With this process, the scribbling of notes or words on staff paper almost feels like a formality and less like a creative process. The salient details have mostly been worked out, and a kind of magical process of mental dictation starts up when I grab my pencil and paper. But it’s not really magic at all. I’ve often gone through revision after revision in my mind already and most of the sounds have been deeply scrutinized and turned over until they’re ready for harvesting. With this process I almost never revise the written, final product. However, other times a piece might offer itself up to the page without my having even known it was created at all! It might just pour out with very minimal effort, but I can recognize that there was something waiting to emerge.

I have no idea what I’m going to write, but I’ve been preparing my mind to compose for months, weeks, days or hours.

-In this achingly slow method the piece is laid out stone by stone. I often compose in bursts of creative flash, or lay the notes one by one until a path emerges or until I need to erase it and wait again. I can force myself to sit and write with this process, but something of quality will generally only come out if my mind is prepared to allow it.  This degree of preparation can involve the “saturation” of my mind in musical thoughts for hours or days on end, or it could include periods when each hour of my day is jammed up with personal commitments, or maybe even periods where my life feels calm and my mind is quietly reflective on anything other than music. Sometimes I will revise the piece again and again, and other times I feel that works is of quality and is acceptable as it is.

I almost always compose on my horn. I don’t play piano well, or the banjo, or any of the other instruments I own and love. I am a saxophonist and my mind is clear and clean with the horn in my hands.

The melodies I composed for tonight spilled out onto the page in little bursts during a practice session. They are very repetitious and tonal, and composing felt like organizing little bits of information put out in front of me. I would play a phrase or two and let the next one take shape as it saw fit. The same playful ideas would want to come up again and again. I would work with these melodies to extend melodic phrases, rhythms, or elaborate on a concept in the present that I wanted to introduce later in the piece.

These pieces were written with Bill in mind. I could sense that right as I began composing. I hope you enjoy them, and thank you for sharing tonight’s session with us!

For the Open Session 

by Bill Kautz

We will have some blank manuscript paper available near the stage to encourage folks to write down ideas that come to mind as you listen to the music. It can be a rhythm, melody, harmony or even a word or image. It can be short or long. Anything that comes to mind as a reaction to the music we will play.

At the end of our set, we hope to have a decent cache of ideas that we can draw on to frame some of the improvisations that follow the curated sets.  In this sense, we’ll keep a relationship to everything that has been played during this session and have documentation for our influences in our playing tonight.

Thank you for coming and participating!