The Sound of Sports

Following the success of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad commission Ping! by Joe Cutler with video by artist Tom Dale, Third Ear collaborated with Joe, the Coull Quartet and Fusion Table Tennis, celebrating the legacy of surreal mash-ups of sports and music that follow from Satie through Cage and to the present day by commissioning new works and presenting a series of day-long events for family audiences and participants.

With the support of PRS for Music Foundation’s Crossing Borders programme, we commissioned Glasgow based composer Nick Fells’ ps[c]yched, a new work for bicycles, electronics and string quartet; and also two works from Andy Ingamells: The Highland Games People Play with Ensemble Lös Caballeros; and He that plays the English Gentleman shall be welcome. The programme also featured Ingamells’ Sport Music: Pétanque with Ensemble Lös Caballeros.

Performances took place at: Glasgow University on 14 June 2014 as part of the West End Festival, linked to the Commonwealth Games (and also featuring the Drumchapel Table Tennis Club); in Derry, as part of the Walled City Festival on 19 July 2014; and at the Cheltenham Festival on 9 July 2016.


Ping! (2012)

By Joe Cutler, with video by Tom Dale
For String Quartet, 4 Table Tennis Players and Film

Performed by the Coull Quartet and players from Fusion Table Tennis Club

Have you ever wondered at the amazing sounds coming from a game of table tennis, or marveled at the subtle athleticism displayed in a musical performance? Both music and sport share much in common; not least the years of practice required to reach the highest levels, and the sense of camaraderie and community that come from being part of a team.

Ping! is a piece that combines two teams: on one side we have the Coull String Quartet, representing the world of music. On the other we have four players from Fusion Table Tennis Club, representing the world of sport. Acting as a neutral observer, or even referee, is a film by artist Tom Dale, which commentates, as if in slow motion, on all the ensuing action.

Ping! is a piece in which both teams take turns responding to one another. A plethora of table tennis practise routines have been choreographed to respond to the musical score, whilst at the centre of the piece we have an actual mini-match, complete with musical accompaniment.

Ps[c]yched (2014)

By Nick Fells

Performed by the Coull Quartet with Nick Fells (electronics)

Ps[c]yched is a 17-minute piece exploring the sounds of the mechanisms of bicycles. Using their bows to ‘play’ four different bikes, the players move between their instruments and the wheels, spokes and gears of their bikes. Microphones amplify the sounds, which are layered over one other matching the pitches of the bikes and instruments, in an attempt to seek out some strange fusion of sport and music.

I was thinking about the Commonwealth Games coming to Glasgow for some time and about how the sporting context could be used compositionally. There is obvious precedence with pieces like Kagel’s Eine Brise for 111 cyclists, but I wanted to think about how the physical energy put into musical performing is similar to sporting energy, and try to bring that out in a direct, visual way, but one that’s also sonically interesting for the audience in a concert environment. The bikes for me were a way of bringing a commonplace sound into the concert hall – cycling can be an elite sport, but it’s also something so familiar, something everyone knows. Focusing in detail on everyday sounds is something I like to do in my work. Ps[c]yched is dedicated to the memory of Marie Gibson, who loved to cycle.

Sport Music: Pétanque (2012)

By Ensemble Lös Caballeros.

English composer Bolton Browne will premiere his two-hour orchestral Sport Music Olympia programme in London next year, composed “as a tribute to the UK’s peacekeeping heritage through sport”. To mark the occasion Browne has issued a worldwide challenge to other nations to respond with music inspired by their own sporting traditions. Ensemble Lös Caballeros brought The Netherlands’ response to the British Isles with a piece inspired by Pétanque; a sport ideally suited to the Low Countries due to the flat terrain. The Dutch Pétanque contains many local peculiarities not found in similar sports, and has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among the nation’s youth.

The Highland Games People Play (2014)

By Ensemble Lös Caballeros.

The Highland Games have long been associated with Paris, providing Pierre de Coubertin with the inspiration for the modern revival of the Olympic Games during a display at the Exposition Universelle of 1889. But is there more to the story than meets the eye? Ensemble Lös Caballeros pay tribute to this unlikely coupling by combining the music, dance and heavy events of the games with composer Erik Satie’s Parisian masterpiece ‘Sports et Divertissements’. The lowland Caballeros take the high road, but will they get to Scotland afore ye?

He that plays the English Gentleman shall be welcome (2016)

By Andy Ingamells

Performed by Andy Ingamells with all-comers welcome to join in!

The ‘complete amateur’ was a Victorian term to describe a gentleman who could play several games extremely well without giving the impression of strain. Andy Ingamells is a complete amateur fast bowler. Find out in what sense at this cricketing performance that doesn’t spare the chin music.

“The old sounds of the heavy metal Pétanque balls began to be seen as a traditional Dutch form of indeterminate percussion music, and were re-introduced to the game electronically. Bringing us to the present day, where Pétanque players now act as a visual, ever changing, living musical score.”

Ensemble Lös Caballeros

Joe Cutler

Nick Fells

Andy Ingamells

Coull Quartet

Joe Cutler’s music has been performed in over 30 countries and on 6 continents including performances at venues such as Bang-on-a-Can Music Marathon (New York), Gaudeamus Music Week (Amsterdam), Opera City (Tokyo), Musik Monat (Basle). Since the late 1990s he has spent a considerable amount of time in the Netherlands, working with such groups and performers as Orkest de Ereprijs, Orkest de Volharding, Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Harry Sparnaay, Annelie de Man and Tomoko Mukaiyama, whilst in the UK he has worked particularly closely with Darragh Morgan, Mary Dullea, Robin Michael, Sarah Leonard and Noszferatu (an ensemble which he co-directs). In recent years he has also written a number of orchestral pieces and has worked with the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, The Orchestra of the Swan and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra. His has worked both in the concert hall and outside, working with visual artists such as Tom Dale, Jaap Drupsteen and Gary Ward and has written music for the National Theatre, London. Since 2000 he has taught at Birmingham Conservatoire where he is currently Head of Composition.

Born Kendal, UK 1974. A former Guardian ‘Artist of the Week’, his diverse work has been written about in publications such as Time Out, Dazed & Confused, Flash Art and Art Review. His work has been included in exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery, London, The Getty Museum, LA and the Kunst Museum, Bonn. As likely to shoot a drum kit as he is to fabricate a bouncy castle out of black leather, his witty and unpredictable approach lent itself perfectly to the challenge of collaborating with a composer, a string quartet and a table tennis team to produce Ping! A Graduate of Goldsmiths infamous Fine Art course, he completed his doctoral research at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. In December 2014, a solo exhibition at the John Hansard gallery, Southampton, supported by the Henry Moore foundation, will present an extensive new body of work accompanied by a publication.

Nick Fells is based at the University of Glasgow where he runs programmes in sonic arts. As a composer and performer, he aims to refine ways of improvising with the manipulation of recorded sound, working closely with other performers. His main concern is nurturing a poetic sensitivity or delicacy in technologically mediated sound work, leading to a wide variety of soundworlds and listening experiences. Recent pieces have included Other Islands for ensemble Intégrales, sublimation for Scottish Opera, and rifts, a work using wavefield synthesis surround sound, played at the Sónar Festival in Barecelona in 2012.

Andy Ingamells is an experimental musician working with alternative methods of composition that question the distinction between composer and performer. Examples of his work include a 24-hour performance disseminating brief instructions via the internet to be interpreted in over 30 countries worldwide, expanding the notion of musical indeterminacy to read aspects of everyday life as notation, and a five-day performance-journey across Europe inspired by organ music. He has performed his own and other people’s work in venues such as Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ (Amsterdam), Ikon Gallery (Birmingham), El Niu de la Guatlla (Barcelona), Café Oto (London), Schlosshof (Göppingen) and Kongernes Lapidarium (Copenhagen). He is a graduate of the Master Artistic Research programme at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, and completed his bachelor study at Birmingham Conservatoire, winning the BMus Prize and the Orchestral Composition Prize, in addition to the Composition Department Prize for his destructive Piano Recital.

Coull Quartet have been the Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Warwick since 1977. Having performed and broadcast extensively throughout the UK, the USA and Western Europe, they have also toured China, India, the Far East, South America and Australia. The Quartet has appeared at most of the major music societies and festivals in the UK, and gives an annual series of recitals at Warwick Arts Centre, where it is actively involved in the University of Warwick’s flourishing musical life. The Coull Quartet currently records for Somm Records, and their disc of quartets by Maw and Britten has received universal acclaim. In addition to being featured in ‘Editor’s Choice’ in The Gramophone, it was also described as the ‘Benchmark Recording’ by BBC Music Magazine. Their latest two CDs, of music by Sibelius and Ian Venables have recently received excellent reviews in the major musical publications. In addition to performing most of the standard string quartet repertoire, the Coull Quartet often features modern British repertoire in its programmes. Their impressive list of commissions includes works by Sally Beamish, Edward Cowie, Joe Cutler, David Matthews, Nicholas Maw, and Robert Simpson.

Andy Ingamells, Jeremiah Runnels, Ivan Babinchak Renqvist and Julia Reist make up Ensemble Lös Caballeros. “First we work. We work hard and we work fast under the pressure and contingency of the 21st Century. The old taxonomies of ‘what is your art about?’, ‘what does it look/sound like?’, and ‘for whom is it made?’, sound to us like the soft ramblings of over-funded geriatrics ready to beg artlessly in the street for bread, or run out the clock under florescent lights on squeaky gurneys in places more sterile than the closing museums and galleries that are being abandoned. We trained as dancers, musicians, composers, visual artists, visionaries and publishers/propagandists, but we hesitate to say so; it is our ambition to leave behind almost as much of these histories as we take forward”.