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FreeSessions v. 26 Sunday, January 5

Open session. We will be improvising the whole time with varying group sizes. There will be a sign up sheet when you arrive that you can sign up to participate.

Introduce yourself to your collaborators.

Take a moment of breath and silence before you play.

Can you be playful and hold this as a place of growth – a space to create something new?

Remember this session is about collaboration and experimentation. It’s about serving the piece through sound, movement, silence. It’s about listening with your whole body, through your pores. It’s about honoring everyone’s innate ability to create. It’s about being kind. Silence is a super worthy contribution. It’s about committing to the piece.

It can feel intimate, vulnerable, and uncomfortable.

Our aim is to make it as safe a place as possible for as many folks as possible. Try not to let your discomfort cause others to feel unsafe. Discomfort is different than pain. Discomfort is to be expected when being experimental and creating something brand new. Please be conscious of personal space and volume in this space.

Always feel free to pass if your name is called and you don’t want to participate. You can also step out of an improvisation if necessary.

Here’s to being playful, having fun, expressing, listening, collaborating, making new sounds, connecting with community, and doing so in a way that is mutually supportive.

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Love,

The FreeSessions Crewa

FreeSessions Showcase at First Night (12.31.19) at The Dana Gallery

The Dana Gallery 
246 N Higgins Ave
6-9pm
 
6-6:30-Tricia Opstad’s All You Can Eat Life
6:30-6:45-Transition
6:45-7:15-Heidi J’s Sistema Libre
7:15-7:30-Transition
7:30-8pm Missoula Conduction Orchestra led by Naomi Siegel
8-8:15-Transition for Jams
8:15-9-Jams
Tricia Opstad’s All You Can Eat Life
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat -‘Perhaps the World Ends Here’ by Joy Harjo
A dance improvisation performance by Holly Biehl, Jessica Goodburn and Tricia Opstad with live experimental sounds by Bill Kautz and Lauren Norby centered around a dinner table.

Heidi J’s Sistema Libre features:
Madeline Rose Finley, Nathan Zavalney, Raleigh Charbonneau, Jordan Demander, Will Adams, Courtney Sowa, Omaur Keita, Peter Schaefgen, Molly Buchanan, Duane Raider

Missoula Conduction Orchestra:
Bill Kautz, Jenni Long, Mayana Kantor, Leslie Burgess, Nathan Zavalney, Molly Liu Buchanan, Lindsey Stormo, Nancy Seldin, Tommy Sciple, Tom Berich

First Night Info: https://artsmissoula.org/first-night/

Michael Musick, Bill Kautz & Naomi Siegel present Sunday, December 1

It’s our 2 year anniversary!

We improvise because….

 

Bill Kautz:

 

I improvise to be grounded.

 

Improvisation is the most effective way for me to understand myself in a given moment, and to accept my position in that moment. It is spiritual, meditative and when conducted with others who understand and foster a similar sensitivity during improvisation, deeply embracing.

 

Improvisation has opened opportunities that nothing else could have. It continues to be a regular driving force in who I am becoming. A constant teacher. My life is unimaginable without its presence.

 

 

Michael Musick:

 

I improvise because, to me, it is the most authentic form of creation. I improvise to connect to the immediacy of the moment with a force larger than myself. I improvise with others for the art of the journey.

 

 

Naomi Siegel:

 

I improvise to

ride the edge of the moment

practice

commit

and create in real time

I improvise to

breath and be mindful

be delightfully playful and creative

have fun and stretch the limit of possibilities

in devotion of the present

I improvise to

“value sound/silence as an infinitely flexible tool”*

serve the music, the piece, the collective creation

deeply listen

and love

I improvise to

be vulnerable, take risks and make way for authentic creation

listen with my whole body and being

connect to the moment, myself, my surroundings, my community

I improvise to

be adaptable and fluid

appreciate and learn

collaborate and smile

give and receive

I improvise to

be open

stretch the possibilities of music-making

and transcend boundaries

as a spiritual practice

 

* quote by Neil Welch

 

 

 

Lauren Norby presents Sunday, November 3

The Amateur

For this session, I ask that performers embody the concept of “The Amateur.” An amateur is “one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession,” or “one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science.” Amateur encompasses both a naiveté and a passion. In your participation, think about ways you can chanel the amateur; perhaps by using an unfamiliar instrument, or deliberately using the instrument “incorrectly,” or abandoning tonality. Keep in mind the collaborative nature of the improvisation, and the importance of listening to and learning from your fellow performers. Try to abandon yourself to the music. Be open to surprises and discoveries.

 

The Season

This session falls on November 3rd, one day after All Souls Day, two days after Hallowmas, three days after Halloween, and just as we begin seeing flurries of Christmas spirit. In this spirit, each group of performers may decide amongst themselves if their improvised work is a funeral dirge or a Christmas tune.

Nathan Zavalney presents Sunday, October 6

What makes a meaningful group musical improvisation?

Is it a sense of connection and interaction? A cohesive musical output? Conversation? Expression? Groove? Interesting, unexpected ideas emerging? Group playfulness?

I would like to propose a framework for exploring this question through identifying the musical, emotional, and relational elements that are the building blocks of a group music improvisation. This can also apply to improvisation through movement, spoken word, theater, and other forms of expression.

 Examples of musical elements:

Major, Minor, Repetition, Harmonic Progression, Free Form, Atonal, Ambient, Discordant

Rhythmic Elements: Polyrhythmic, Unified, Fast, Medium, Slow, Unpredictable, Spacious, Dense

Examples of emotional/relational elements:

Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear

Curious, Avoidant, Playful, Serious,

 I believe that a musical improvisation between two or more people will inevitably involve several or more of these elements to varying degrees. Whether or not there is an intentional agreement on particular uses of the elements, or a pre-defined structure for the improvisation, it is guaranteed that musical, emotional, and relational aspects will emerge. The more conscious awareness and agreement a group of has around the emerging elements and themes, the deeper the improvisation is likely to go.

To focus on a playful, conscious, and intentional exploration of this concept, the Free Sessions evening will be structured around 3 specific elements for each improvisation, using spinner game boards that I have created to randomly choose from the sub-set of elements within the larger categories of musical/ emotional/relational. Participants will be randomly matched with a goal of making sure that all attendees have an opportunity to play at least one time during the event, and that the number of players for each improvisation will vary.

My intent is to facilitate an evening exploring creativity within structure, and to encourage a safe container that supports participants of all levels of experience in meeting on a common ground and going deeper with their personal understanding of the possibilities of group improvisation.

 

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 (www.larryellingson.com).

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.

COLLABORATION: SCORE
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.

GRAPHIC LANGUAGE OF MUSIC
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

Vision
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.

“Free”
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.

“System”
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.

Mia

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

Friends,

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
neilwelch.com