Game Poem 23: Accord

You will need at least three or four players to play this game, but more is better. Try playing with up to a dozen or so, and see what happens.

The players begin by getting into a circle. Choose one person to be the starting player. They will take a deep breath, and start humming or singing a single steady note, holding it as long as possible. It doesn’t matter what the pitch or tone of the note is, as long as you can keep it going steadily for a little while. As the first player begins to sound their note, the next player to the starting player’s left will start to breathe in deeply, and when they have inhaled fully, begin to sing or hum a second note. This second note may be the exact same note as the first one, it may be shifted up or down an octave, it may be a note that is in harmony with the first one, or something totally not in harmony at all. Again, it doesn’t matter what the second note is, as long as it is steady, and can be maintained for a good while. When the second person begins to sing or hum their note, the next person in the circle should begin to breathe in deeply, and when they have taken in all the breath they can, begin another note, in the same way as above.

Listen to the chord that you have created. It may not be part of a scale, or in harmony, or whether it is beautiful or ugly, but it is your chord nonetheless. Do not stop. As the third player makes their sound, the next person should begin to breathe in, and then sing their own note, adding to the chord. And when they begin, the next person will breathe in and sing, and the next, and so on.

Hold your notes as long as you can, but if you run out of breath, that is totally fine. Just sit and listen until your turn comes around again. As the chord progresses around the circle, there may be more people singing at some times, and fewer people singing at others. Maybe the chord dwindles to just one or two singers. Maybe everyone is sounding their note at once, forming an impromptu orchestra of voices. All of these things are perfect.

So, as each person begins their sound, singing or humming or whistling or whatever they can do to use their breath to make a note, the next person in the circle to their left will breathe in as deeply as possible, and when they have filled their lungs completely, they will begin to form their sound as well, each person adding to the group’s chord. And as players run out of breath, their sound drops from the chord, changing it once again. Around the circle, all the way around, until it becomes the starting player’s turn again.

When the chord reaches the first player once more, instead of singing a note now, they should listen to the music that the group has created, draw in a deep breath, and begin telling a story, in first person, that the sounds inspire in them. It doesn’t matter what it is about, just let the group’s chord enter your mind, let go, and say the first thing that comes to you. What is the music like? Can you think of an adjective that describes what you are hearing? Does it remind you of the notes from a popular song, or the score from a movie? Doe it make you think of a group of animals, or machines? Just open your mouth, and begin with “I was…” or “I am…” or “I always…” or “I never” or “Once, I…” and let the rest of the words just flow from there. Your story should be short, just a few sentences, not more than the duration of a few breaths. Maybe you can even tell it in one long breath. When you have finished, just wait and listen to the chord.

As soon as the first player begins telling their story, the next person in the circle, on their left, they should begin breathing in again, and continue by singing a new note, maybe a different note than they were singing before, or maybe the same one, with a different tone to it, or perhaps the exact same thing. Whatever feels right. They will continue singing over and along with the storyteller, holding their note as long as they can, and letting it end when it needs to. Again, as before, as one person begins their note, the next person breathes in, and when they have taken the deepest breath they are able to, begin their new note as well, and so on, around the circle as before. The chord continues and changes and grows and shrinks and evolves as the storyteller finishes their tale, and when they have finished, they may join in the chord again, as well.

When the storyteller ends their story, let the chord continue to live and change for a while, breathing and singing around the circle, until someone else feels like it is time to begin a short story of their own. They will breathe in and begin their brief first-person narrative, as the next person breathes in and continues the chord with their own note, and around again, until they have finished and rejoin the chord again, as the first player did before. This may happen any number of times. Hopefully, every player will have an opportunity to add to the story at least once, and if they feel like it, a player may be the storyteller more than once, but you should take care to make sure that everyone who would like to narrate has a chance to do so.

Once everyone who fells like they would like to tell their story inspired by the music has done so, the game will begin to end. When everyone is done telling their story, the chord will progress around the circle at least once more by itself, and then someone – perhaps the first player, the initial storyteller – may signal the end of the game by simply breathing in and letting their breath out in silence. Pay attention to the person on your right as they end, and when they finish their role in the group’s chord, breathe in and do the same, exhaling silently instead of singing a note. Eventually, the next player in the circle will do the same, until the last person finishes their sound, and everyone is silent. At this point, all the players should take in a deep breath together, and release it, and the game has ended.

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