Thursday, 5 May 2011

Table Tennis Trio

This is an idea for a short (or long) piece using a game of table tennis as a form and structure. This idea has been used by Dick Raiijmakers and, as Bennett Hogg pointed out, Mauricio Kagel amongst others, but it is still a fertile source of structure for our purposes.

Pingpong by lleapp

The idea is to have three players, each responsible for one physical element in a singles game of table tennis:

First player's bat hitting ball.
Ball hitting table.
Second player's bat hitting ball.


The three players are
Unnamed
Sean Williams
Lauren Hayes

I wanted the form and structure to be strictly governed by the mechanics and dynamics of a table tennis game, but as long as the sounds had a sharp attack (and decay) they could take whatever shape and timbre each player liked.

Rehearsing
To begin with we played using our imagination and memories of playing table tennis, but fairly quickly it was decided that it would be useful to watch some videos on Youtube such as this one:



The clear rhythms in this rally provided a useful basis for rehearsal and Tom noted especially how the rhythm changed in a couple of places, flagging these up as useful things to explore.

Instrumentation
Unnamed (Bat 1) - game controller and Max/MSP
Sean (Table) - 1960s egg slicer with contact mike and analogue synthesizer
Lauren (Bat 2) - game controller and Max/MSP

In rehearsing, Bennett noted that it appeared that I was conducting the piece as the other two players were watching me for cues. Whilst the piece is based on my idea, and I am happy to conduct it in this way, I would prefer the players to be as much in control of the pattern of the game and hence the rhythm of the piece as me. This is something that will come about through practice and the importance of gestural communication in the piece cannot be underestimated.

We stuck to a correct form but struggled a bit with how to end points. So far it has transpired that when a player (usually me) makes a mistake i.e. misses a cue, the point is over and somebody must serve to start a new rally.

To make the piece sound better and to pull apart the motion and gesture aspects we have incorporated a slow-motion sequence where each sound is stretched, spaces are prolonged and movement slows down. This can be cued by any player. In addition, we will play one section where sounds are prolonged but rhythm is kept at the standard pace - this will be a louder and more chaotic section and we will inevitably get a bit lost here. We will recover to finish the game with a couple of short rallies.

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