Larry Ellingson presents Sunday, September 8

*please note this FreeSessions is the 2nd Sunday due to Labor Day weekend.

Larry Ellingson  –  Graphic Scores September 8, 2019

Larry ELLINGSON is a lifetime native of Spokane who composes music with analog and digital recording tools and creates additive sculpture from found objects (

He performs tonal and atonal music combining improvisational and structured composition, live looping, analog and virtual synthesis, signal processing, and random access of a personal sound collection. Using the same approach as his creation of visual art, his goal is to create layers of sound and music that are interesting enough to keep you listening.  Listeners often feel that they are moving through an unfamiliar or dreamlike landscape with with features and details appearing, lingering, then fading away.

GRAPHIC SCORES – A little background
Through the centuries composers and artists have collaborated.  One of the earliest examples I heard when I was younger was Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” where he interpreted images at a friend’s exhibition of paintings.  After WWII there was a renewed interest and many composers started using non-traditional notation to communicate ideas they felt could not be accomplished through conventional means.  This ranged from using some aspect of standard notation in non-traditional ways, to scores consisting entirely of abstract imagery.  It can be said of the more abstract works that if one gave a single score to 100 different musicians/creators, one would hear 100 different interpretations.  Composers in the genre include John Cage, Krzysztof Penderecki, Steve Reich and Brian Eno, to name a few.  It was interest in this kind of composition that resulted in a unique collaboration between two artists in Eastern Washington.

Larry Ellingson shared in a unique collaboration with Timothy C Ely toward the end of 2018.  Ely, an internationally known creator of one-of-a-kind books, is an illustrator and master bookbinder.  He also plays electric guitar.  During a road trip together they decided to collaborate on graphic music project.  Ely would draw six graphic scores bound in to a one-of-a-kind book, like those for which he is known, and Ellingson would create music inspired by those graphic scores.  Today the resulting book and CD are part of the Lilly Library’s rare book collection at Indiana University.

Using both found and synthesized sound, Ellingson composed music that realized the visual compositions created by Ely.  Reflecting the nature of Ely’s drawing, the compositions are dense and intricate soundscapes.  Ann Marra, graphic designer and artist, then created a CD and booklet that captures the essence of the project.  The resulting package is the music, along with small images of the graphic scores that inspired it.

Ellingson says, I spent about three months of 2018 creating sonic realizations of Ely’s SCOREs, becoming familiar and fluent in the idea of visual illustration to organize and arrange his graphical/musical ideas.  This caused a significant transformation of the way I hear, create and “see” music.

Here was my challenge.  My tools for creating a performance are wide ranging and conceptually diverse.
Sound Generation: digital, analog and acoustic
Note Playing: totally self-generating, modifiable screen-based sequencing, and strictly manual physicality
Signal Routing: hardwired MIDI and audio, virtual connections within software

Composing and arranging for this kind of ensemble is quite different from writing for traditional instruments.  When composing work for live performance, I’ve been confounded by my usual method of rigid standard musical notation colliding with the plasticity and non-static nature of the technology/medium I’m using to create the music.  Once I’ve researched and gathered the various sources of sound generation and determined the controlling technology, the process bogs down. I want to lay it all out conceptually so I can have an idea of how it will work together.  Standard notation doesn’t work well because so much of the performance is left to chance and improvisation.  Many musicians who compose and perform this way hold the whole thing in their mind, keeping all of those virtual plates in the air as they adjust and experiment.  My brain doesn’t work that way; I often end up with a lot of broken plates and never know how my plan will come together.

So how can I represent these ideas?  Graphically.  Starting from Tim’s “language” of lines, shapes, clouds, and more, I’ve developed my own symbols that I draw as I improvise the arrangement.  This has really set me free from my own limitations.  These scores come together intuitively and much more quickly.  Less time is spent floating in indecision and more time flying.

Interpreting a graphic score combines imagination and improvisation.  Interpreting as a group requires that each artist also listens carefully to what the others are doing while keeping an eye on the score.  Both silence, cacophony and anything in between are acceptable outcomes.

First, we need artists to create the scores.  So the facilitator will select 1 artist and 3 or 4 musicians for each ensemble.  In each ensemble the musicians might decide in advance how long the piece will be and who will interpret particular sections of the score, but it’s not required.  Once there’s some kind of agreement, let ‘er rip!

SCORE CD packages will be available for purchase at the FreeSessions event.


Heidi J & Friends present Sunday, August 4

Free Sessions August 2019

The curation of August Free Sessions will be a collaboration with Dawn McGee, Madeline Rose, Sarah Anderson, Brendan Casey, Courtney Sowa and Steve Kalling. All musicians have an equal voice in the creation of the song arrangements. The excerpts from the 4 songs played at the August Free Sessions have been, or will be recorded in Missoula. The songs are part of a multimedia project: Free System – Sistema Libre, which will be posted online in late fall, 2019. (See below) Thus far there are approximately 25 artists involved in the project.

Following our 30 minute curation, we will ask all Free Sessions participants to write words for the following 3 categories: dark, light and x-factor. We will put the words into corresponding vessels, then group people into trios or quartets and have them pick 3 words, which will guide their improvisation. We request that people listen deeply to each other and HAVE FUN! All participants have an equal voice.

After facing my own darkness for a few years and coming out of it, Free Sessions was the first community space I came to where I felt safe enough to express my voice again. I am very grateful for Lakebottom Sound, Wave and Circuit, Homegrown and Revival Comedy, the ISCSM drag community and the dance scene at the Badlander for helping me. I appreciate the beautiful diversity of artists and people here.

Learning to listen to ourselves, each other and the earth is a mysterious process. I am currently attempting to listen openly to others and take accountability for my own crap. I am also intentionally creating relationships with equal power and equal voice. I view power as an energy and intelligence we harness within ourselves, not gained by dominating or shaming others or ourselves. I use these approaches as inspiration in all my creative collaborations.

Free System – Sistema Libre

A new system, that unfolds organically, functions healthfully, and is honest, loving, fun, intelligent, wild, creative and conscious. This system supports individuals on their path of growth, self-empowerment and healing irrespective of age, race, gender identification, economic status and spiritual affiliation. This new system cares deeply for the Earth, our home, and prioritizes its regeneration.

Not subject to the control, domination or manipulation of oneself or another. Unconstrained by timidity or distrust. Free to express oneself without causing harm to self or others. Free from unconscious suffering. Free to listen. Free from shame. Free to discover who we are.

Working together as parts of an interconnecting and interdependent network. Delineated by boundaries. Forming a unified whole. A social organization with a common purpose.
A harmonious arrangement or pattern.

I am human. I have fear, courage, sadness, joy, doubts and hope.
I am dark. I am light. I am in process.
For all my relations.

Mia Soza presents Sunday, July 7

Dear Sarah,

I know I haven’t been good about keeping you in the loop with what I’m up to, and I’m sorry. You forget how quickly life can pass you by when you’re focused on reaching that next point just beyond your grasp. I will do my best to get you up to speed in the most succinct way possible, and hope months don’t pass us by between our next correspondence.

You know better than most that I have lived behind walls I built myself and guard them with a sharpened tongue… But is that so wrong? Really, who can be trusted more than myself? I’ll take this moment to apologize to you right now, because I know being my sister has not always been the best relationship of mutual expression or sharing, but I am working to change this. I am abandoning my old ways and calling upon myself to cast a spell: OPEN GATE.

Next Sunday I’ll be performing a piece that will combine aspects of performance I have always acknowledged but never fully explored, partially due to fear of vulnerability and partially because I wasn’t ready to look at the ways hurt flows to and from me. I have used performance as a form of protection, and now I intend to use it to heal.

As we grow older we seem to near in age, and I am excited to connect with you in ways we haven’t been able to prior. I’ll record this performance for you so you can watch it later, I’ll be blindfolded so I won’t have to watch the audience see me… Even after all the performing I’ve done I still get bad stage fright. Remember when we’d hide behind those heavy velvet curtains at Westminster and chug dime store lemonade before our solos? Hands sweaty and shaking?

You were always the better performer than I so maybe you don’t, but I do.

Talk soon, see you eventually.


Photos courtesy of Walt Pfau

Bill Kautz presents Sunday, June 2

Duke Ellington said that “simplicity is a most complex form”.

The true nature of our ideas are not inherently complex, but we sometimes make them so. Trying to codify our thoughts and feelings into a specific language can sometimes result in the essence of the feeling getting diminished, lost, confused or transformed. This is a significant reason why I embrace improvisational music because I find that myself, and others, are much more in tune to themselves through this method of communication. However, I can still find myself “talking” too much as I search for a focal point or a sense of meaning with my playing. I can then lose or miss the true meaning of the improvisation at that given moment.

The curation tonight will focus on reflecting on our individual roots and history through the aid of film and images. Family, childhood, home, history, an awareness of how things have changed and more will be explored. Musicians will be improvising to film clips never before seen with a cache of graphic notation prompts and prompts to just encounter and improvise. All are at each individual’s discretion. The aim is to score these film clips in real time with complete presence and simplicity. As each of us has very different backgrounds we will place our own reaction into the collective. There may be synergy. There may be conflict and opposition. There may be confusion. We will allow the opportunity for any of those ideas to form during our time.

Following the curation, I want all of us to focus on the true nature of what we are trying to communicate and aim to be simple. Every improvisation will have a unique image projected as your prompt. Please study it before you begin. Please get to know one another before you begin. Then proceed with simple ideas and explore how they can be stretched and altered during the time you have together.

Even if we present opposing views, we can create a space where we can listen, reflect and get in touch with the true nature surrounding each message.

I look forward to seeing you on June 2nd.

Neil Welch presents Sunday, May 5


I am thrilled to perform for you and alongside you at the FreeSessions tonight. Thank you for welcoming me to Missoula.

My solo, acoustic works are impermanent auditory constellations—particulate structures, strata, monoliths, and dust—resonance imaginations on tenor, c soprano, alto and bass saxophones. I aim to cast light into my own notion of abstract sound/silences through various means:

multiphonics, screaming into the horn, phases of conical tone undulations, graphic notations, key clacking, tempered pitches, semitones, wind

In our collective improvisations to follow, I ask that each performer consider the role of their physical and artistic presence while on stage. Can we capture the inherent qualities of our performance space at Imagine Nation through our audience’s participation? Can we value sound/silence as an infinitely flexible tool? How might our longing for momentary expressivity impact our improvisations to follow? To begin our open session, I suggest that we approach these questions and more through a physically additive method. I ask that we begin by slowly increasing our performers in number—a solo performance followed by a duo, a trio, a quartet.

I am deeply thankful to play the FreeSessions, and I look forward to our evening together

-Neil Welch

Noelle Huser and Koby Silverman present Sunday, April 7

Koby and Noelle’s Sunday Postal Service

7th, 2019

US postal service does not deliver on Sunday. Oh NOOO!!! How will you communicate with your loved ones?

with us on Sunday, meet your new pen pal and exchange your inner messages with an instrument.


expression can describe emotions that can be expressed no other way. This Sunday, we exercise our empathy, absorbing and articulating nonverbal energy and finding fluid conversation.

in touch with your emotions…

Brian West presents Sunday March 3rd

The vast majority of the universe is empty space. The diameter of the Earth is just under 8000 miles, while the distance to Venus, our nearest planetary neighbor is at least 23 million miles. The scale of emptiness dwarfs the space occupied by solid ground by a factor of almost 3000. When considering the 3 dimensional volume that they occupy instead of just the linear distance, this disparity balloons to a factor of 50,000,000,000,000. That’s 50 trillion. In a cube-shaped space defined by the minimum distance from Earth to Venus, there is 50 trillion times as much empty space as the volume of the Earth. The distance between the sun and its nearest stellar neighbor is much larger, even in relations to the sun’s much greater size. The distance to Alpha Centauri is 30,000 times greater than the diameter of the sun. This vast emptiness repeats itself on every scale throughout the universe, the distances between planets, then between stars, then between galaxies rapidly growing so large that they can only be understood through metaphors. Everything we’ve ever experienced, everything we’ve ever heard or touched, every idea we’ve ever contemplated has all taken place on this one tiny island in an incomprehensibly vast sea. It is no wonder our minds are entirely unequipped to comprehend the distances between the stars, let alone between distant galaxies. We can try to grapple with this unnatural understanding by thinking that the light reaching us now from our nearest galactic neighbor left there two and a half million years ago. That light has been traveling across an empty void for more than ten times as long as the human race has existed. But even this metaphorical crutch suffers from the fatal weakness that light already travels so fast that it strains our ability to even conceive it.

The overwhelming emptiness of the universe even exists at the micro level. Not only are planets and stars and galaxies isolated islands in a sea of empty space, but even so called “solid matter” is composed almost entirely of empty space. Atoms are composed of a core of protons and neutrons, orbited by a cloud of electrons. Protons and neutrons occupy a tiny fraction of the space of the atom, while most of the space of the atom is filled by the fast moving cloud of electrons. But electrons make up almost none of the mass of the atom. They are so tiny they practically don’t exist, and certainly not as “solid matter”. It is only the repulsive force of negative against negative that keeps the atoms of your body from phasing through the atoms of the object you carry, the person you embrace or the very earth you stand on.

In such a universe, dominated on every scale by empty space, it’s no wonder that so many of us so often feel an overwhelming sense of emptiness. The human spirit is a vessel, and fulfilling experiences are called such precisely because they fill that vessel. But our cup has a hole in it, no matter how many fulfilling activities you’ve pursued in the past, they must be periodically pursued. Music, dance, poetry and other such activities must periodically refill the vessel, otherwise we feel ourselves returning to the emptiness from which we all come and to which we all return.

Photo cred Donal Lakatua

Caroline Keys presents Sunday, February 3

FreeSessions: SoupHerBowl Sunday AKA SuperbHole Sunday
February 3rd, 2019
Curated by Caroline Keys

Caroline Keys curates Lakebottom Sound’s February 2019 FreeSessions. The event will take place during Superbowl LII. The theme of the evening will be SoupHerBowl Sunday AKA SuperbHole Sunday.

During the presentation portion of the evening I will ask for group participation in order to brainstorm elements of the championship football game, it’s rules, equipment, traditions, and emotions. Any respectful, compassionate term “in the key of Superbowl” will be fair game to be included in the brainstorming session. Ie: anything from scrimmage lines to referees, from Janet Jackson to nacho cheese works.

Out of the group’s brainstorming session I will assemble as many sets of constraints as we have sets of improv duos in the room. Each duo will receive a group-generated prompt/constraint that will inform their improvisation. Brainstorm session takes place at 6pm, improv begins at 6:30. Duos may consist of participants working with sound, movement, visual media, words, light, flavor, vibration.

SoupHerBowl Sunday
SuperbHole Sunday
will deconstruct, reorganize, and perhaps feminize your Superbowl experience.

Tricia Opstad presents Sunday, January 6

My work is an essential desire for creating experiences in my life that have significance, meaning, depth, clear listening, communication through alternate means, entering into a shared space and time where we don’t know what will happen, an experiment, and an adventure with each other that has possibility and results in change, connection and trust.

Dance Improvisation involves paying attention to a somatic state. Somatics is defined as a dancer’s close attention to proprioceptive information about the position and motion of each part of the body and techniques whose primary focus is the dancer’s personal, physical experience, rather than the audience’s visual one.

Dance Improvisation also includes making work in front of an audience in performance. The Six Viewpoints as described and developed by Mary Overlie are a guide or map for making material that consider audience perspective. The components of The Six Viewpoints are as follows: Shape, Space, Time, Emotion, Movement and Story (SSTEMS). My work falls under a postmodern umbrella where the stage is there to enact microscopic interrogation of our physical, mental and emotional world.

The project created for LakeBottom’s FreeSessions, titled ‘Bubbla: How to Animal’, involves a three part dynamic. ‘Bubbla’ is a self declared and created search engine platform for asking ‘How To’ questions from the work.

1) I want to develop, practice and use The Six Viewpoints with collaborating dancers and musicians to inform improvisation performance.

2) When I create something, I sometimes experience hesitation and question myself. I worry that I don’t know how to do something even though I do. So, I took this act of ‘questioning’ and put it into the work by asking ‘How To’ questions of an unusual nature. And through these questions, I allow for answers to come through the body in the dance improvisation work. This unknown space is alive in improvisation.

3) Finally, I want to propose and consider that our bodies are the most sophisticated and advanced technology to date. With the information and technological age, came more state of the art computers, phones and devices, not to mention more ways to connect and find out anything we wanted to know. I often find myself caught up in this wave and seduced by its wonder. I want to continue to alter the paradigm and experience this same if not a pure taste of wonder with improvisation dance and performance with other artists. I want to remember to ask myself, ask within and ask my body the questions rather than search for it outside of myself.

FreeSessions at First Night (12.31.18) at The Dana Gallery

Schedule of events:
7-7:30 – Missoula Conduction Orchestra directed by Naomi Siegel
7:40-8:20 – Improvised Jam Session
8:25-8:55 – Michael Musick Presentation
9:00-9:30 – Improvised Jam Session
9:30-10pm – natalita Presentation