Racer Sessions

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

Tari Nelson-Zagar - January 1st, 2012


Hi Racers - tonight I’m working with transportation, cycles, and pitch layers. Here’s some background:

I was 10 or 11 when my father (a piano tuner) taught me how to hear beats when he was tuning, and how the lowest strings on a spinet lacked a fundamental (they’re too short to create one!), but they project the sense of a fundamental through the presence of certain parts of the harmonic series. I wasn’t much older when my brother showed me how to tune a violin using difference tones. When I was 12, my violin teacher taught me a tone-production technique that she learned - it involved deeply overdriven vertical string movement combined with slow lateral string movement. The product was an intense sound that often generated some unusual resultant pitches. 

So these became some of the prominent features of my lexicon. My concern with pitch, the qualities of a sound, the desire to experience a more perceptual part of hearing (not the actual sound), along with the “happy accidents”, or emergent qualities, of cycles of sound. 

I should probably also tell you that I struggle with my instrument a lot - the violin. It is small, and there is a very high and annoying string that I have never been comfortable with, that I’m always trying to figure out how to use properly. (The “E” string.)  

So, transportation: seeking a transportative experience. (Ecstasis is a part of this - to stand outside oneself, it’s definitely transportative) cycles & pitch layers: hopefully the means to said transportation! Specifically, I’m working perceptions generated by pitch manipulations. 


Penderecki - Polymorphia for 44 strings - cycles and pitch layers. did this guy write the book or what? There is an eternity in this piece, and it teaches me to listen all over again at each hearing. A phenomenal experience as a live performance.

Istrian singing (women) - emergent ecstatic qualities don’t get any clearer than when you hear this stuff live.

Messaien - Louange a l'Immortalite de Jesus - the internal sound of the string is really intense, the interplay between the ringing of the piano chords and the amplitude shifts of the violin pitch (vibrato) is interesting to me.


I’ll be in good company with Tom Swafford and Byron Au Yong. They will help me to work through some compositions that I have prepared for Racer.