Racer Sessions

Sundays, 8-10pm - Café Racer - Seattle, WA

Evan Woodle - June 26th, 2011


For this session, I have composed a small series of concise and disparate musical ideas that are to be bridged by extended stretches of improvisation. The inspiration for this idea has a couple sources in particular. The first has to do with my recent encounters with similar forms of improvisation. A concert of music by Tim Berne I performed in this last Spring quarter contained several open improv sections, most of which were bookended by incredibly dense and intricate composed material. The reason why the improv sections existed in the first place was because the bits of composition at each end often occupied very different musical territories, and thus wouldn’t sound right if played immediately following/preceding one another. Berne himself said of this music that the improvisations were much more critical to the piece’s identity than the composed material. Another recent and relevant performance experience of mine was a friend’s recital (also this last Spring quarter), which involved a series of contrasting jazz standards connected by open improvisation. Since the open improvisations were juxtaposed with complex songs that embodied specific idioms of music, it was very difficult to make them sound intentional, appropriate, and natural, as if they need to be there. And on a related note, I found out recently that one of the most inspiring local musicians I know, Kristian Garrard, used to compose songs by finding “two of the most unrelated chords, and then figuring out how to connect them through a melody.”

The second source of inspiration for this session has to do with my feeling of needing to practice composing more efficiently. Previous Racer Sessions curators (i.e. Andrew Swanson and Jared Borkowski) have written in some of their posts about this – about how composing often brings out certain fears and feelings of self-consciousness that can greatly hinder the compositional process and keep a lot of good (or at least harmless) ideas from manifesting themselves. I definitely feel all of these things more often than not when I sit down to compose, partly because I am still a novice composer and partly because I believe I have a tendency to think about things too much in general. So, I kept the composing to a minimum for this session, and instead of trying to come up with a larger, through-composed piece of great complexity, I tried composing a series of concise ideas in a relatively short amount of time – a method that turned out to be, in my mind, successful.

Performing with me will be Ryan Beckley (guitar) and Andrew Morrill (saxophones), two great musicians and friends that I initially connected with in high school and that I don’t get to play with nearly enough because they go to school out of state.