Sound Sculpture and Lawn Sports

Now in its fourth season, Circles is undergoing a type of transformation, as the Denver Public Library has kindly offered me access to its ideaLAB (which is already open to the public – go check it out!) and a stipend in order to develop the game. What is the game Circles?

Circles is a lawn sport centered around a simple concept: hit a target off of a platform with an attack disc (aka Frisbee), and do this without getting nearer than 13 feet to that platform (without, in other words, entering, or violating, the Inner Sanctum). If your team knocks the target off, you get a point – but, if the other team catches the disc or the target after the two make contact, that team steals the original team’s point. Like offensive players, defenders cannot enter the Inner Sanctum, although there are exceptions which I may get into for another blog post.

Unlike its cousin Frisbee Golf, Circles isn’t static. Rather, like Ultimate, each team runs around trying to maneuver as close to the target as possible, seeking to secure eleven points in order to win a match (if you have the disc in hand, though, you cannot move). In all, Circles can be quite exhausting.

I won’t bore you with all of the game’s rules – if you want to learn more, matches take place every Sunday at 4:30 p.m., at different parks around Denver. This Sunday, July 16, the game will be at City Park, south of the playground. (The best way to stay in touch is to follow circlesgameplay on Instagram, or the Circles Gameplay group on Facebook).

With the rules of the game already set, what is there left to “develop” during this residency? The standardization of the game kit is a possibility. Is there a way to make platforms, targets, and sanctum boundaries that I could reproduce limitlessly? In other words, is there a way to circumvent the use of twigs, broken stools, stale loaves of white bread, shorted jumper cables and other items of trash that my friends and I usually depend upon to make the gameplay arena? Could I, in other words, bring Circles to market by designing and copyrighting a standardized product? One that I could iterate endlessly? A lot of people ask me about this sort of thing -- glibly saying that "you could be a millionaire!"

I don't think that is really all that interesting.

Instead, following the suggestion of a friend, I’m hoping to make just one singular Circles game kit. I hope this kit will be as unwieldy and excessive as possible, and difficult to duplicate, by turning it into a sound sculpture which produces a unique composition each time used for a match. So far, I’ve equipped the platform with a slinky which is attached contact mic, so that each time it is struck by the attack disc, it produces what sounds like a cross between the firing of lasers and the clash of thunder. Next is to plump myself down once more at the ideaLAB’s electronics station to create a motion triggered type of synthesizer, which will produce sound once players approach the Inner Sanctum.

By the end of the residency, I hope to create a recording which reflects (in sonic abstraction) the movements and strategies of players as they approach, strike or miss the target. Drawing inspiration from the likes of John Cage, who used the I-Ching to intersect music making with philosophy, I would hope this sonic-sculpture-cum-game-kit would act as the intermediary between two mediums not often put in conversation: music and lawn sports. Come check it out every Sunday at Curtis Park, at 4:30 p.m., or stop by the ideaLAB every Saturday and Monday, 3-5 p.m.

Written by Luke on July 12, 2017


Water BinJAmin on July 13, 2017


Revalue the aura of the sanctum!


Water, I hadn't thought of it like that, but you're spot on. I guess I am aiming to make my product not a reproducible thing, which may enhance its aura, maybe. And what your comment makes me realize is that no matter how complex I make the kit - retrofitting it with sounds gadgets and slinkies - it will still, ultimately, be reproducible, just complexly so. And that is fine. Where broaching the possibility of encountering a unique experience comes in is through playing, where no two matches could ever be the same. In this way, I guess I view the game kit -- and the Inner Sanctum that is a part of it -- as an instrument which facilitates art making, rather than as a work of art itself.

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