Since Sam Andreae moved back to the country late last year we’ve been working on a duo together. At first it was just straight acoustic improv, but lately we’ve started exploring “Battle Pieces”.
Here is a video of the first one we wrote, called “Yo Momma”.
The idea for Battle Pieces came about when we were thinking of ways to expand what we were doing together, but still retaining improvisation freedom. Essentially each battle piece is a game, but beyond being an improv game, it is also competitive, and generally dealing with an aspect of improvisation that we want to explore further and/or get better at.
Yo Momma is primarily about ‘endings’. During the main section of the piece we are trying to catch/bait/trap each other into an ending. That is to recontextualize what the other performer was doing such that it can be the ‘end’ of a piece. It’s been interesting/challenging exploring this idea as we’ve gotten much better and the ‘game’ part of it, so it’s becoming more chess-like, trying to do moves ahead, setting up false premises, muscling through the other players attempted ending etc… The punctuated endings give the piece an interesting cadence/microstructure, which gives it a depth beyond the less-than-apparent ‘game’ being played. When collaboratively composing these pieces this has been the hardest part. It’s easy enough to come up with a fun game to play, harder to come up with an interesting game to play/listen to, and even harder to have the game/interest extend into the structure of the piece.
We play 2 out of 3, so the first player to get two endings wins that part of the game. A tie (when we both claim an ending) doesn’t count, and we carry on. We can also claim a point when we think the other player has egregiously played through an attempted ending.
After one player wins 2 points, the ‘loser’ has to play a solo, and the winner ‘plays them out’ whenever they want. The loser has to go along with the winner’s ending.
Yo Momma is our first finished piece, we have several more which are works in progress. Here is a video of some of the interaction types/language in one of the works in progress. The game of this one is more complex, and is not present in this video. It basically deals with fast pre-composition, memory, and memory to structure all of which inform what methods of interaction.