Racer Sessions

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

Hamilton Boyce - May 27, 2012


Eraser Sessions

The main concept for this Racer Session is to use variation in lushness and density as a musical tool.

Sometimes I find myself establishing one level of density for a piece and either remaining at that level or adding to the density. I noticed though, when listening to music, that some of the moments that I find most exciting and powerful are when elements of the piece are removed and then later come back in or perhaps replaced with something else all together. Maybe something as simple as a bass line dropping out for a few bars or as drastic as a full orchestra being present for parts of a song and not for others.

One example of this idea is prevalent in the style of Mexican music, banda, where typically the percussionists will play very energetically during brief periods of the song and remain silent for the rest: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3477161/El_Diablo_De_Culiac%C3%A1n.mp3

A more subtle example (and perhaps more relevant to my pieces) can be found in Brian Wilson’s compositions. In the song, “God Only Knows,” before the last big chorus with lush orchestration and lots of vocal layers, they break down the arrangement to just a few of the basic elements. This moment of sparseness is a perfect representation of the effectiveness that this technique can have: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3477161/God_Only_Knows_%28end%29.mp3 (An excerpt of the latter portion of the song. Sparse break comes in at 0:28.) 

For my compositions this week I aimed to use some of the potential of variation in density/lushness in my composing. I have been thinking about this for a while and have been attempting to use while writing songs for my band Song Sparrow Research but this Racer Session gave me the opportunity to concentrate more wholeheartedly on this concept.

I also decided to write instrumental pieces as a change of pace from what I typically do and to allow more focus on the flow of the pieces rather than any particular words.

Another element I was taking into account on these pieces was texture, which is something that I am always thinking about (whether it be in music or other forms of art or life). This relates to the lushness/density idea because there are so many more textures available if you are willing to remove parts of the picture.

Joining me will be:

  • David Balatero - cello
  • Evan Woodle - drums
  • Christopher Icasiano - drums
  • Kendall Becker - upright bass
  • Ivan Arteaga - clarinet
  • Andrew Swanson - clarinet
  • Andrew Olmstead - keyboard