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Carom Billiard - 3-Cushion - Bert's column (NED)

Should we turn the music down? Or turn it up?

Posted by on April 18, 2016

Should we turn the music down? Or turn it up?

© Kozoom

You don't have to be an expert in politics to see that the best and brightest minds will not be found on the extreme right or extreme left. Both ignore valid arguments made by the other camp, which makes them part of the problem, not the solution. To think in black and white is easy, it takes an effort to see nuances.  

It's no different in the age-old debate about music at billiard tournaments. The simple souls are far left and far right. We'll call one flank Church Memorial Service, the other will be known as Carnival in Rio. 

The worshippers of silence are upset about ever candy wrapper, every word not whispered and every chair leg that scratches the parquet. Players' concentration is sacred, the audience needs to make itself unseen and unheard. If you have a cold, stay at home. If your phone rings, we will shoot you. We want full, solemn attention on our difficult, serious game of three-cushion.

The party-crowd thinks silence at billiard matches harms the sport, scares away the customers. Players should not act like sissies, concentration is inside of you. Some festive music during the matches will improve the atmosphere, and if it is loud enough, you will no longer be bothered by people who talk. Win-win, right? We want a room full of people talking and laughing and especially drinking, because the cash register has the last word.   

The truth is somewhere in the middle, as it usually is. Solemn silence, for two hours, you can't ask that anymore in 2016. The younger generation has the attention span of a squirrel. But loud music still is in conflict with the essence of billiards, as it has always been.   

The type of concentration that is required of a 3-cushion player is different from a dart player's, or a chess player's. The first thrives in a cauldron, the second in dead silence. One has an almost exclusively physical task, the other an intellectual one. We, billiard players, are hybrids: we need to make a series of smart decisions and then execute those with great precision, within 40 seconds.  It is tough to keep both engines running in sync, and the last thing we need is a distraction. 

Music (if all goes well) can be a great tool to help avoid distractions. It can drown out the conversations going on in the crowd, the staff can bring drinks and collect glasses without disturbing play. A mild "buzz" is like a carpet, and it's a much better  subsurface for billiards than a hardwood floor. Or silence.  

Music (if used clumsily) can be a major distraction. The wrong music, or music that is too loud can make it impossibly difficult for a player to focus.

- How loud should background music be played, during billiard matches?

No two rooms are the same, acoustics play their part, so trial and error will help. A good rule of thumb is: low enough that the referees remain heard by the audience, and high enough that the conversations in the crowd can't be followed by the players. The volume control of the music, in a way, is also the volume control of the spectators. The more quiet you make the room, the more quiet you demand the audience to be. The louder the music, the more freedom you give them. And they will always take it.

- Which music is unfit as background for billiard matches?

A lot, actually. Rule of thumb: everything that demands instant attention is unfit. It has nothing to do with the "quality" of the music. You don't look for a Salvador Dali in sharp colors. You want wallpaper. So: jazz, heavy classical music, house, rap, heavy metal, hiphop, reggae, it is all too specific, too aimed at a small portion of the audience. You will please 12 people and annoy 88. What does work? Easy listening, middle of the road, not too recent hits. That can easily be ignored or forgotten by everyone, and in the meantime do its job.      

- Any other pitfalls?

Yes. Rooms often have a very limited catalogue of (digital) music, and even the nicest song becomes annoying if you hear it for the sixth time that day. So if you have a four-day tournament, don't try to make do with a three-hour loop of music. 

- Is radio a good alternative, if you can find an easy-listening channel?

No. News bulletins (twice or four times an hour) are a bad distraction. The spoken word always is. But more importantly: radio commercials - eight times an hour - are annoying to the n-th degree, a crime against humanity.    

Times have changed, and the top players of today have thicker skins than they did thirty years ago. The recent LG-Cup in Korea was played in the middle of a busy mall in Seoul. It was noisy, crowds came and went,  but DKK, Caudron, Jaspers and Blomdahl dealt with it and played well.    

Athletics teaches us that the winner of the marathon usually crosses the line with a smile on his face, and the numbers 2 and 3 are more dead than alive when they finish. World Cup winners who make 40 points in 18 innings were never bothered by the music. There you have it: it's one more skill for them, one more weakness for us.    


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My Comments

Background music is a must
I think that music in the background helps a lot to avoid very disturbing noises for the players. Of course spectators should keep a certain degree of quiteness, specially during the time lapse of the shot.

The only heavy disturbing thing, my opinion, are cellphones. Keeping them not silenced means not respecting the game and the players.

The important thing is tolerance and respect from both sides. No audience means sterile ambiance.

Message 1/6 - Publish at April 18, 2016 11:29 AM

pleasing all people?

Let me start with stating that I think that music contributes nothing.
That s why I have the volume turned off when I watch Kozoom. That s why I loved it that at my former club in Groningen, The Society (Sociëteit), there was no music.
Was it silent, or quiet? Not really. There s the buzz of other players. The clicking of the balls (with 12 table there s always that, and lovely, too).

You finished, Bert, with the main contention.
When you don't win, when you play (way) below par, when you feel unlucky (usually a result from the first two elements) things tend to bother more. Anything at all. Even the shoes of the referee.

When you win, there is no problem at all. When you play well, but your opponent plays better, it usually depends on the player (laid back, realistic) less reasons for losing will be sought than with agressive individuals.

Message 2/6 - Publish at April 18, 2016 11:42 AM

No music brings more tension
As media officer of Austrians Billiard Union I had a long discussion with a sports editor form ORF - our main television partner about this topic. For me as player, I like to have music as it increases the ground noise level and covers sounds, which eventually can harm your concentration.

He told me, that background music for him, regardless of what it is, tendentially leads to a loss of tension, which comes with the silence! Furthermore it also has to be clarified, if the organizer of a billiard event is allowed to play the music (e.g. has a license to do so!!)

I have to admit, that he is right and I think, if we want to develop our sport, we have to also consider and learn from completely alternative views on how we do run the sport today.

It would be very interesting Bert, if your column would also bring in these views in the future, additionally to your excellenct insider perspective.

Kind regards

Message 3/6 - Publish at April 18, 2016 6:45 PM

Vittorio Paternostro
Vittorio Paternostro
Turn music off
Music is just distracting. I want to hear the limage and the balls hitting the cushions. Spectators should be super quiet but applaud loudly :)

Message 4/6 - Publish at April 19, 2016 5:01 AM

Internet Soft Music Stations
I like very much your analysis, Bert.
And agree with your point of view. Some music is right, without disturbing peaks.
I think about "soft music", perhaps instrumental only, like soft Jazz, Lounge, Ambience, etc..
Today, there are a lot of Internet radio stations with a big variety of styles. Good quality sound and permanently running. It only needs a PC, a mp3 Soft Player and select the right station.
In my humble opinion, could be an easy way to have a large repertoire.
Other point to consider is how the music, and several other ambien sounds and noises affects the experience of the Kozoom Live watchers.
The microphones are very sensitive and trasnmits ambient sound or noises or music too loud, and sometimes can't hear the refferee voice.
I don't know, perhaps kozoom can use directional mics and put it together with the senital cam.
This is only an idea, because there is much more audience thru Kozoom.
Best regards
Horacio Di Guglielmo

Message 5/6 - Publish at April 20, 2016 8:15 AM

my music will not be loved by others
For official matches like World-Cup, I don't care. Simply I can not go there.

What I concern is in club.
Basically I agree on HenkM that music contributes nothing.

And as the title says, there are variety of favor for musics.
No music can please everyone.
Help one person, bother everyone else.

So, I will vote to turn off music.
Music is not a part of our game.

Quietness must be achieved by other way.


Message 6/6 - Publish at April 21, 2016 2:46 AM

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