at 8, play !

At 8 play... is a musical piece that confronts written score with free improvisation. It was created for students in the percussion class of the Royal Birmingham Conservatory in 2018, and was also played by percussion students at the Haute Ecole de Musique de Genève the same year. The workshops and rehearsals of these two ensembles resulted in two concerts.


At eight, play... is a musical improvisation game, designed for about 6-10 players and a game leader. Each player will be dealt animated cards on digital tablets by the leader as the performance progresses.

Each player has a digital tablet as a partition. The tablets are independent of each other, which means that several different informations can be sent to the performers at the same time. Everything is synchronized and the rhythm of the piece is the same for everyone.

The leader decides how long each event lasts for before sending players the next card. Each card starts with ‘At eight, play...’ followed by an 8 beat countdown after which the next action can begin. The musician always continues his/her action until the end of the next countdown.

Each musician only knows her/his own indications and does not know what her/his partners will play at the next countdown. For example, she/he may unknowingly enter into a duet with a partner. Or mimic the rhythm played by her/his neighbour. Or...

The sound actions proposed by the leader can be of the order of imagination, play or listening. They are always in interaction between the physical sound environment and the sound imagination specific to each performer.

The encounter between the performers and the leader is always interactive; each one triggers an event based on impulses and/or proposals from others.

The piece need as many iPad as the number of performers.

Tempo :

Tempo for the piece is crochet = 120

A metronome shows the beat on each score.

Duration :

The piece is 10-15 minutes maximum.

Instruments :

As far as possible, balance melodic and rhythmic instruments. Each percussionist choose few instruments.

In general, try to be inventive with little material.

People who don't play, always stay connected with other musicians and the audience.

There are several types of game cards :

A. Context cards

To be read as states or game proposals

Example: At 8, I will play in a threatening way; or : At 8, I will echo my sound environment

B. Pauses (silences) cards

Example : At 8, I play in the air, without sound (like air-guitar)

C. Scores

There are 3 types of written material :

1. Graphic scores (drawings by Benoît Jacques) Exemple :

2. Melody/rhythm cards

Exemple :

Or :

3. Ostinato

One or more musicien(s) play a rhythmic pattern (ostinato). He/she/they can play in the air (like air-guitar) if the leader requests it - in which case the pulse will be felt and seen, but not heard. The pattern may change during the piece. The musicien(s) can also change but they are always chosen by the leader.

Exemple :

D. Joker

1 Joker card : ‘Play what you want’

more informations here