Racer Sessions

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

Bonnie Whiting | August 18

Greetings Racers!

This Sunday we’re so excited to be presenting percussionist Bonnie Whiting on the Racer stage. Bonnie is a powerhouse - she performs, commissions, and composes new experimental music for percussion, seeking out projects involving non-traditional notation, interdisciplinary performance, improvisation, and the speaking percussionist. She has presented solo and small ensemble shows at The Stone in New York, the Brackish Series in Brooklyn, The Lilypad in Boston, and The New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival just to name a few. Bonnie moved to Seattle only a few years ago to take on the role of UW’s Chair of Percussion Studies.

Bonnie Whiting

Bonnie Whiting

Bonnie will be presenting a preview of a new commissioned solo work. Music will start at 8pm, with a jam session to follow. You don’t want to miss this one! Keep reading for some words and additional information from Bonnie herself.

“Hello Racer folx!


Above is a sketch for a current work-in-progress: Recoil Compensator. You’ll be the first to hear bits of it on Sunday night. I’ve been commissioned to create a piece for speaking percussionist, with a few difficult (for me) directives:

1.     The piece must be notated, so that it might be published.

2.     The piece should use a text.

3.     The piece should address the theme set out by my collaborators on this project: “Trigger: Artists Respond to Gun Violence.”

 As a generative artist, I prefer working as an improviser (with at least one other person.) As a performer of experimental notated music -from the most open performer-determined compositions to the thorniest hyper-determined nested tuplets- I prefer collaborating with Composers (capital “C” here!) For tonight’s set I’m gently probing the edges of my comfort zone by improvising around five areas/percussion setups as they relate to this project. I will eventually transcribe some of these improvisations and add text (possibly from the poetry compendium “Bullets into Bells”, or from the grotesque glut of found narration from gun-demo YouTube videos. 

Composer John Cage praised works of art that “while coming from ideas, [were] not about those ideas, but instead produce[d] new ones.” This is a comforting thing for me to consider as I tackle something like our country’s gun violence epidemic in a new piece of music. I’m interested in a way out of purely hierarchical thinking, allowing the mystery of abstract sound to penetrate a devastatingly concrete concept. I’ve done a lot of listening to (and musically translating) the sounds of automatic gunfire in slow-motion, for example.  Cage wrote a lot about subverting one’s own taste and memory as musicians. While he famously derided improvisation and can be a problematic role model, I am interested in how one can modify, subvert, and transform personal taste and memory in the context of improvisation. It’s something that I find pretty easy to do in my studio alone, but harder to do in front of other humans. Thanks for this opportunity to stretch. 

For the jam session, I’ll leave all my percussion instruments out for you to explore. This will be nothing like a traditional drum set, and everything is “on limits”, so that alone can serve to help transform your taste and memory as you make choices. Before you play, consider setting a directive that conflicts with your most comfortable sound and area.