Written and performed by Andy Ingamells and Ludwig Abraham
This piece was my contribution to a large-scale hour-long show made in collaboration with German theatre artists Ludwig Abraham and Daniel Verasson. It was conceived as a theatre piece specifically for the empty art museum in Marburg, Germany. It is about how talking about music can be made into a musical experience. I achieve this through the real-life percussive accompaniment of a squash game, emphasising how this leaves the players out of breath, thus breaking up their speech. An explanatory text highlights this point at the end of the piece, taking the maxim “talking about music is like dancing about architecture” as a point of departure. This line has been attributed to many different people including Laurie Anderson, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Clara Schumann, Elvis Costello, Steve Martin and Thelonious Monk. However blogger Garson O’Toole concludes on Quote Investigator that American comedian Martin Mull probably came up with it first (O’Toole, 2010).
Squashing is antagonistic towards the audience in order to challenge their passive spectatorship. This is achieved by not providing seating, and moving the action around the room so that the audience are unable to find a place to comfortably lean and observe the performance for very long without putting themselves directly in the way of the squash game.
Ludwig and I begin by playing the highly repetitive children’s alphabet game ‘Grandmother went to the market’ whilst playing squash. This was done in order to establish the situation and get the audience used to listening to us speaking and playing squash simultaneously. We prepared and memorised a list of words so that the game would run smoothly with no interruptions other than the gradual change in our voices as we became out of breath, and the lapses of concentration caused by our attempts to strike the ball.
This piece demonstrates the character of composer-as-athlete, displaying the virtuosity of combining squash with speech and thus equating the physical spectacle of instrumental virtuosity with that of spectator sports.
An explanatory text forms the ending of the piece. This text is introduced before the end of ‘Grandmother went to the market’ is reached, which serves to break the expectation that has been established by the game. The explanatory text was translated into German and during the performance we alternate the lines between English and German, with the text performed twice through to allow both versions of each sentence to be heard. This explanatory text justifies the piece to the audience and allows them to see the thinking behind the activity.
Later I developed Squashing into an episode for a radio broadcast entitled Locational Aesthetics. In this recording I discuss the idea behind the original piece, saying “the sounds of the voice when you’re out of breath; I think it really changes it and it really gives it a different character. And it, it’s that character that sounds like music”.
9 December 2014, Kunstmuseum, Marburg