An Interactive NetBall Game
TEAM MUSIC AT THE NOWnow FESTIVAL 2010, WENTWORTHFALLS, NSW.
As finale to The NOWnow festival of spontaneous music, TEAM MUSIC made a special appearance and a thoroughly enjoyable continuing experiment it turned out to be. For one thing it was fun, stimulating - and definitely music. Secondly the technology still worked! Supporting the teams were Eivind Lønning - trumpet and Mike Majkowski - double bass; and on the opposing side, Matthias Muche - trombone and Clayton Thomas - double bass. Tania Smith of the Springwood Netball Club organised the two netball teams who had no idea what they were letting themselves in for, but took it all in their stride. The NOWnow team thanks them for their time and commitment.
So what is it about the ball?
TEAM MUSIC AT MOUNT MAGNET,WA.
Some in the international new music community might not have picked Mount Magnet Anzac Memorial Hall as the site for a world premiere, but to me it seemed perfect. The hall is off main street next to the dilapidated open air cinema complete with deck chairs flapping in the wind. When not a netball court, here is the town hall and the town theatre. Entertainment central you might say.
In the State of Western Australia most towns are booming, China's insatiable appetite for minerals means the place is covered with countless freshly dug holes. But not here in Mount Magnet, due to some old fashioned corruption the gold mine and town employer just shut. Magnet's population has shrunk by half to 400 rather depressed and confused citizens.
Alice Kavanagh runs the recreation centre at Mount Magnet and without her help no game would have been possible. Slowly some shy and non-vocal youth assembled. The age span is wide - probably from four to fourteen and the teenagers are reluctant to play ball with the youngsters. Alice jumps in her car to muster some more from the town park. With a quick explanation, a few hand gestures, the teams are organized, rules are improvised, play is under way. The atmosphere is transformed.
The ball is thrown around, outback sounds are manipulated through the loudspeakers - flies, wind, sticks, stones - but the most convincing, connected and reactive appear to be the sounds sampled from an old un-equal tempered upright piano - the kind that may well have been in use in such a mining town hall until 30 years ago. (the sound on this page, also recorded at Mount Magnet, is ball propelled supersonic fly and click sticks). A quick survey of some of the older Aboriginal kids demonstrates a small success: 'It was Ace', 'Better than regular Netball, definitely'. They came to play more the next day, bringing with them a referee and even a few parents.
The 3 second rule was extended to a 5 second rule (holding the ball without passing) - to allow more time for musical development. Bounce passing was banned, as it was not known what level of g-force the accelerometers in the ball could withstand; instead rolling ball passes were encouraged. (Netball was chosen over basketball, soccer, rugby, Australian rules, because of the fragility of the hacked electronics). In the event, the kids really went for it as the virtual piano ivories raged - sometimes verging on Cecil Taylor complexity. The faster and more complex the music, the more energy was applied by the netballers to the task in hand. Ball and play produced a clear symbiotic and often synchronous counterpoint.
Due to a frugality of resources, the original concept for the game had to be thrown out. It had included four trombone players standing at each corner of the court, improvising extended 'bone' techniques on conducted cues. In principle two players would have played in support of one team and the other two in support of the opposition. On the scoring of a goal, all four 'bones' would have gone into a whirling Dervisher routine - spinning around while holding down an Eb major 7th chord, etc. (a week later I work shopped this piece in an improvisation class at WAAPA, we had saxophones, trumpets, guitars, but sadly no 'bones').
Loud speakers were set up on stands behind the two goals and I sat to the side of the court with USB Ariel, computer and amplifier. The score was kept on a scratch pad opposite. In this balanced and mixed race game I can't remember if the Greens or the Reds won...
So what is it about the ball?