This weekend, we are very excited for musician and composer Naomi Siegel to present a new set of solo trombone works to open up our Sunday evening. Naomi is no stranger to the stage - though now a resident of Missoula, Montana, Naomi was a long-time Seattle resident and spent many years frequenting the session when she first moved to town. In the space and time between, Naomi has established herself as a skilled, go-to trombonist of the Pacific Northwest, and returns often to continue her work with collaborators like Wayne Horvitz, Ahamefule Oluo, and Kate Olson, as well as play and travel with her own group (she put out a great record in the Summer of 2016, check it out). We consider her a dear friend, and as no stranger to the Racer stage, we're excited to see what she has prepared for us.
This set starts at the normal time, this Sunday at 8pm. Naomi has written an honest and stunning essay, which you can find and read below. See you at the session!
“When The Air Tastes Only of Snow”
- From Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
"This winter from January 12 until March 16, I had a daily practice of recording the first sounds I made with my trombone. They were always improvised sounds. It felt like a reflection of the stripped down natural world, resting for winter. It felt like a way to honor the quiet, to be with the softer, subtler sounds. To be with the physical and emotional darkness of winter.
I called this practice Missoula Mourning because I mostly recorded in the mornings and because I was mourning and grieving for my Seattle community – the place that feels more like a musical home than any other place I’ve lived. A year and a half ago I moved to Missoula, MT to pursue a slower-paced lifestyle more integrated with nature and community. It has been a rich, challenging journey that feels still very much in the experimental phases as I sculpt and tweak my lifestyle to truly support, nourish, and sustain me.
Recently someone very close to me asked me about my relationship with my trombone. She posed the question as a prompt to inspire a new artistic collaboration. As I heard her question, it surprised me to realize that it was a question that I hadn’t really considered very deeply. That while I have been investigating my physical relationship and approach to the trombone for years, I never really dug into my emotional relationship with trombone. I’d keep it pretty factual, saying things like: “I chose trombone because the slide was fun and the sound resonated with me. It also worked out well because my two older brothers played different instruments and I didn’t want to play what they played.” And while that is true, it barely scratches the surface.
Now, almost 23 years later of mostly continuous trombone playing, I appreciate the opportunity to investigate my relationship with my trombone more. I have always loved trombone, especially when my slide is so smooth and my air is working efficiently and playing feels like an effortless extension of myself. It feels like an access point to a different realm. I often see myself as a professional air-mover and the trombone is the vessel through which I sculpt my air into creative expression.
There is a darker side also. Trombone can be physically cumbersome. I am always learning how to use air more effectively. It can be unpredictably frustrating or delightful. Still at age 33, I can barely reach 7th position, and doing so can often throw my body out of whack. I don’t like to admit that though because my whole life I’ve received external messages that I don’t belong with the trombone, that I shouldn’t have a deep relationship with the instrument. It started with my grandma telling me that I should play something more lady-like, and it has continued throughout my whole life in small ways like “you don’t see many women playing trombone,” “are you the vocalist?,” “we were going to hire you but we wanted to hire a man instead.” I have a deep hurt from the constant messaging that I don’t belong with this instrument that I love so much.
I love playing my trombone: it is slide-y, spit-full, intervallic and smooth with its harmonic overtones and deep, round sound, its warm, blending capabilities and piercing tenor singing voice; the opportunity to make sounds I could never create with just my body; the extension and feeling of vibration, the sharing of sounds with other folks, the always reaching, experimenting, listening, imitating, creating anew.
I am constantly in awe and in love with the practice of listening and putting energy out through my trombone while maintaining a sense of myself – nourishing myself. My trombone is my great teacher.
As I investigate my relationship with my trombone, I’ve also been in a new chapter of my musical life since moving to Missoula. I’ve been questioning myself as a musician when not creating music as much in the music community I’ve come to know and love and be supported and pushed by. I have felt way more isolated and alone.
What does it mean to be a collaborative-minded musician in relative solitude or isolation? I fell in love with music at a young age because of the way I could create in real time with an ensemble and be supported by community to improvise, be expressive, and reach for new sounds. And while practicing has always been a beautiful time for me to be alone, this past winter, I have found myself playing and performing music alone more than ever. What does it mean to create and develop as a musician in that way?
As I listen back to the recordings from my Missoula Mourning practice, I find the quieter sounds to be the most the compelling, the sounds that honor breath, stillness, slowness, darkness. Some point soon, I will post these recordings on SoundCloud.
On Sunday, I bring this solo, acoustic trombone exploration to Café Racer."