Friday, 9 March 2012

As Slow As Possible

Fantasy Bob is sure we need to slow down.  He quite like things slow.  Slow cooking.  Mahler's slow movements.  As a fan of Test cricket, he likes slow cricket.  He is therefore attracted by the Arts Festival taking place in Newcastle this month - As Slow As Possible.

But there are different kinds of slow.  Can something that is purposefully slow be too slow?  As cricketers who grace the lower leagues in the company of Fantasy Bob know, the most penetrating bowling is often the slowest.  Things - ie wickets - can go fast when the slowness is on.

So is cricket really a slow game?  The cliché is of the American who asks with a haunted wide eyed look ‘You mean it goes on for 5 days and it’s still a draw?’  The modern world is not sympathetic to such languor, however purposeful.  Every nano-second has to be filled with action and clamour.  Shorter and shorter forms of the game have been developed to give us  action, action and action; movement, movement and movement.  Even the presentation of Test Matches fills the space in between balls is filled with replays from every angle.  We forget that the spaces in between action are as important as the actions themselves, it in those spaces that possibilities exist, that dreams happen. We do not reflect.  Our lives pass in a blur.  Stillness is not allowed - until the final stillness. 

But there are different kinds of slow.  Fantasy Bob has got all metaphysical because he wonders whether there be place for cricket at the Festival of Art Video and Technology taking place this week in Newcastle? The As Slow As Possible Festival has lots of slow motion video installation, lots of long held shots of time passing in places and then passing some more and then some. In one performance, members of the public are invited to read aloud from the book One Million Years which is a listing of dates going a million years forward and a million years back. Gripping stuff.

The Festival takes its name from a musical work by John Cage, Organ ASLSP which bears the instruction to be played as slowly as possible. On one occasion it was performed over 14 hours and 56 minutes. But even this is too quick for the purist, and a more leisurely performance is now underway on an automated organ in Halberstadt Germany. This performance commenced in the St Burchardi church on 5 September 2001- with a pause lasting until 5 February 2003. The first chord was played from then until 5 July 2005 and changes occur in accordance with a strict (if very slow) tempo. The most recent sound change was on 5 August last year and the next is scheduled for 5 July this year. A big audience is expected. The piece will reach its triumphant conclusion in 2640.

Cricket, if it is considered a slow sport could take its place in this Festival.  While there are lots of competing claims for the fastest bowler in the world, there are none for the slowest bowler.  The obsession with speed corrupts even here.

By contrast, many innings have been celebrated for their slowness – and it is Trevor Bailey who takes the biscuit - in the first Test in Brisbane in 1958 his 50 took 357 minutes he eventually crawled to 68 off 425 balls. This makes the slowest Test century seem a sprint - Mudassar Nazar’s ton against England in Lahore in December 1997 took a mere 557 minutes.  He then sprinted in 34 minutes to 114 when he was caught and bowled by Geoff Miller after 591 minutes and 449 balls. Another snail's paced innings was Sunjil Gavaskar’s 36* off 60 overs in the first world cup match in 1975. Another slow record is the 60 matches it required Chris Martin to score his 100th run in Test Cricket.

But perhaps even these exhibits may all be too fast for this Festival. On the other hand, film of Fantasy Bob chasing the ball to the boundary may well be too slow. There are, after all, different kinds of slowness.


  1. The last paragraph reminds me of a player in a Glasgow clubs third XI who was known as "corvette" since he regularly escorted the ball to the boundary.

  2. Does FB see himself as a corvette I wonder? Perhaps there is a case here for the speeded-up replay, as opposed to the slo-mo one. Groucho Marks famously commented, after watching the first half hour of an English cricket match, "It's great but when does it start?" Of course, if we didn't have the pauses we would never have enjoyed the musings of Blowers, Johnners and the rest on Test Match Special, and think what a loss that would be.

  3. Corvettes are now classed as fast attack craft - FB leaves it to others determine whether this is an appropriate designation for him or whether clapped out tramp steamer is closer to the mark.