An observation at In-Between Spaces: A Symphony of Play
Updated: Jun 21, 2021
The third session of the morning was with a family group of two children, one a toddler (T) and the other possibly 6-8 months (B) they were accompanied by their mum and grandma.
Part One - The opening movement
At the entrance to the space one artist was playing with paper plates, wafting the hanging diaphanous fabric, The toddler turned away when the interaction was too intense. There is slight hesitancy and uncertainty but already their voice is emerging and can be heard.
The family group progress to the large expanse of wall with projected images gently shifting and moving and their shadows add to the bricolage scene.
Mum points out the shadow and the toddler asks ‘What’s that?’ As they look at the slowly swirling shadow of a 6-legged object – ‘spider’ says mum.
They stayed engrossed in the projections on the screens until suddenly the toddler cries out:
Second Movement - ‘run’
This signals the start of the second movement. The child and mum begin running in the expansive space whilst Grandma and Baby move to the large gathering drums. One artist joins them with pitter pattering on the drum. This draws the runners over to join the group. The toddler starts to play the drums, as he does he begins to laugh, mum responds with ooh (rising gliss.) Baby is lying on the drum absorbing the pitter pattering as vibrations through their body.
Another artist turns one drum on its side and begins to roll it. The toddler bangs loudly on baby’s drum and Grandma picks baby up. The toddler continues to play with the drumming artist an episode of inventive improvisatory drumming of refrains and responses. All the time chatty and laughing. The child’s movements and sounds are explosive. This drumming piece reaches a climax with the toddler’s final explosive rendition. turning to mum they say ‘You do it’. Mum is much quieter and more tentative in her playing. ‘Roll it mummy’ laughing.
They start to roll the large drum on its side and the artist team match the drum’s movements. The drumming Artist moves towards the sound wall.
Third Movement - ‘Floaty’
The toddler runs over to the sound corner, looks for a bit and then goes to fetch mum and brings her over. Baby meanwhile is making sounds with the contact wall, mum and Grannie.
The toddler had to gain confidence to touch the artist in order to make the sound. They run back to the drums.
Grandma is making large movements in the ‘floaty space’ (which no other families had explored in the previous sessions). The toddler joins and wafts the floaty fabric. Two Artists begin to move with the large floaty pieces of fabric on hoops, The toddler plays in amongst this floating. Mum wafts the fabric that hangs from the ceiling over her child …lots of giggles, sense of liberation and freedom.
The toddler takes a small drum walking all the way across the space back to the moment of drum improv. He begins a repetitive pattern of throwing a small round drum which the artists react to with movements. He loves this. There is so much speech: “Let me do a big one”. Mum was part of this play game. The small drum seemed to lead the child around and through every inch of the floor space, seemingly retracing and revisiting the various elements and experiences, Laughter, “we were funny”, “you were really loud.” ”Ping pong balls, throwing ping balls”, “running.”
The artists, as if in geese formation crossing the sky, with singing and movements, swept the family along towards the exit and a final farewell.
This 45-minute musical episode contained inventiveness, movements and interactions with the space, with the objects in the space, with the light, with the sounds and with the artists. The musicality could be observed in the movements of every family member. There was play with voices, with instruments, with objects. It was rich, deep, profound in the emotional releases that could be seen, heard and felt.
The separation that this ‘other’, this ‘in-between space’ afforded demarcated time and space differently. Movements, sounds, and actions were rituals that changed the quality of the time, constructing a cultural reality that was ‘out of time’. In such a time and space Victor Turner suggests that we are liberated from societal obligations (1982), Brian Sutton-Smith (1972) would refer to this time and space as ‘anti-structure’ where the dissolution of normative social structures allow for playing, in an atmosphere that Turner called ‘communitas’ (1982), a flow state that transcends time and place.
The word symphony has its origins in the Greek word (symphonia), meaning "agreement or concord of sound", or consonance, and was used in medieval times as a name for instruments that play more than one sound at once. E.g., Hurdy Gurdy. The instrument effectively ‘Playing together’. Easily, the term came to be known for composed works of music for large numbers of instruments playing together.
For me, this episode took on the mantle of a symphony, there was a tangible sense of concord, the participants played together in a piece of several different ‘movements’ that had shade, light, dynamics, virtuosic improvisation, with climax, resolution and a recapitulation, before a final closing.
It was an experience of concordant, symphonic communitas.