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Hrothgar15

Some thoughts on 2017

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Hrothgar15    907

I don't really know what changed, and I've always found post-2000 drum corps mostly incredible (even if there's stuff I've hated), but four days after finals I can safely say 2017 has been my favorite year in a while from an entertainment standpoint. Some observations:

  • Designs and concepts have been largely mature, and pieced together maturely, rather than insipidly as has happened in the past. Gone are the preachy, one-dimensional, kindergartener-esque themes I remember from some shows not too long ago. Enigma, Wicked Games, It Is and Ouroborous were all refined themes with integrity of meaning that could stand up to artistic scrutiny. There is even flexibility for essentially "themeless" drum corps shows like Jagged Line, diversity that should be more than welcome again. The closest to missing the mark were Phantom Regiment (and only because of the repeated voiceover and its implementation) and perhaps Blue Stars, in its cliche and limited depth.
  • Musical design is more mature as well, flows much better and seems much more listenable. Source music across the board was the most substantial as I can remember it being recently, and same goes with the integrity of the arrangements. Corps are doing a much better job presenting music, rather than "using" it to support a theme, and there is more seamlessness and less chop-and-bop as a result. One corps even played a good minute or two of music with almost identical arrangements as their 1983 and 1990 shows, which is the true test. I'm not really sure what changed, since arrangers remain mostly the same, but I do feel the pendulum has swung back in the right direction.
  • Hornlines are starting the emphasize volume again. I'm talking sustained, full-out ensemble moments featured meaningfully throughout every show as a default mode of musical presentation, reminiscent of the characteristic shows of the '90s. Tone quality hasn't been sacrificed per se, but 15 years after Frameworks, corps don't seem to be focusing on it at the expense of volume anymore. Even younger corps like the Crossmen, who would sound tiny (think their 2008 Planets show) as a result of pedagogical concerns, sounded big this year. Could just be that I was sitting on the 50 on row 9, but there a ton of moments I can remember of just pure sustained power, or HUGE successive stabs of brass and percussion that were actually somewhat visceral, especially from corps like Boston, Bluecoats, Crown and SCV. Possibly the season during wish I barely even wished for what I was hearing to be played on G bugles, which was surprising to me.
  • Pacing of when the full ensemble plays, and thus of shows in generally musically, is night and day even from last year. In 2016 virtually every show would start with a full corps buildup to a hit, followed by *only the percussion* playing for the next minute or two. It would basically set the stage for the brass not really being an integral part of the show. This year seemed to eschew that construction completely. Not sure how this changed so quickly, and this year could've been a fluke. (SCV still had issues with this this year, my literal only gripe about this show.)
  • At many of the outdoor venues I was at, especially Chester, amplification was overbearing. But being in Lucas Oil for three days made it clear that the balance and volume are intended for the acoustics of that stadium. Somehow the amplified elements seems less piercing, and more willing to blend. Even the thunderous goo wasn't as egregious as I can remember in recent years when I sat even higher up.

What other observations have you noticed after this season, and what have you noticed about these in particular?

Edited by Hrothgar15
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On 8/16/2017 at 3:28 PM, Hrothgar15 said:

I don't really know what changed, and I've always found post-2000 drum corps mostly incredible (even if there's stuff I've hated), but four days after finals I can safely say 2017 has been my favorite year in a while from an entertainment standpoint. Some observations:

  • Designs and concepts have been largely mature, and pieced together maturely, rather than insipidly as has happened in the past. Gone are the preachy, one-dimensional, kindergartener-esque themes I remember from some shows not too long ago. Enigma, Wicked Games, It Is and Ouroborous were all refined themes with integrity of meaning that could stand up to artistic scrutiny. There is even flexibility for essentially "themeless" drum corps shows like Jagged Line, diversity that should be more than welcome again. The closest to missing the mark were Phantom Regiment (and only because of the repeated voiceover and its implementation) and perhaps Blue Stars, in its cliche and limited depth.
  •  
  • I don't see it that way at all.  From my point of view, they have all doubled down on the preachiness and the horseplay on the field.
  •  
  • Musical design is more mature as well, flows much better and seems much more listenable. Source music across the board was the most substantial as I can remember it being recently, and same goes with the integrity of the arrangements. Corps are doing a much better job presenting music, rather than "using" it to support a theme, and there is more seamlessness and less chop-and-bop as a result. One corps even played a good minute or two of music with almost identical arrangements as their 1983 and 1990 shows, which is the true test. I'm not really sure what changed, since arrangers remain mostly the same, but I do feel the pendulum has swung back in the right direction.
  •  
  • It has a long way to swing before it becomes tolerable to my ears and eyes.  It's not a coincidence that the most well-received portion of Blue Devils' production this year was when they were doing the thing that put them on the map.  Playing a jazz chart without a dance committee chopping it up into pieces.  It's sort of unfortunate they were stationary throughout, but it's something.
  •  
  • Hornlines are starting the emphasize volume again. I'm talking sustained, full-out ensemble moments featured meaningfully throughout every show as a default mode of musical presentation, reminiscent of the characteristic shows of the '90s. Tone quality hasn't been sacrificed per se, but 15 years after Frameworks, corps don't seem to be focusing on it at the expense of volume anymore. Even younger corps like the Crossmen, who would sound tiny (think their 2008 Planets show) as a result of pedagogical concerns, sounded big this year. Could just be that I was sitting on the 50 on row 9, but there a ton of moments I can remember of just pure sustained power, or HUGE successive stabs of brass and percussion that were actually somewhat visceral, especially from corps like Boston, Bluecoats, Crown and SCV. Possibly the season during wish I barely even wished for what I was hearing to be played on G bugles, which was surprising to me.
  •  
  • Hardly anyone out there is playing at all.  Most of what you're hearing is coming from the speakers, and a disturbing amount of that is pre-recorded or synthesized.
  •  
  • Pacing of when the full ensemble plays, and thus of shows in generally musically, is night and day even from last year. In 2016 virtually every show would start with a full corps buildup to a hit, followed by *only the percussion* playing for the next minute or two. It would basically set the stage for the brass not really being an integral part of the show. This year seemed to eschew that construction completely. Not sure how this changed so quickly, and this year could've been a fluke. (SCV still had issues with this this year, my literal only gripe about this show.)
  •  
  • Full ensembles play so very rarely anymore, I don't care if it happens at the beginning, ending, middle, or even in the middle of a dance feature.  Just do it.
  •  
  • At many of the outdoor venues I was at, especially Chester, amplification was overbearing. But being in Lucas Oil for three days made it clear that the balance and volume are intended for the acoustics of that stadium. Somehow the amplified elements seems less piercing, and more willing to blend. Even the thunderous goo wasn't as egregious as I can remember in recent years when I sat even higher up.
  • The consensus now is that it's intolerable in the 1st 15 rows between the 35s.  Gone are the days of dudes cupping their hands over their ears to receive the full power of hornlines.  Now they're wearing earplugs.

What other observations have you noticed after this season, and what have you noticed about these in particular?

 

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Ediker    245

Regarding 2017, Flo was imperfect, but it was great to have something available to watch corps and competitions throughout the summer. It made a huge difference toward helping me feel engaged with the activity. 

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Cappybara    6,734

Unfortunate that such a positive and insightful post went largely ignored except for one poster who hates anything and everything about modern drum corps. 

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3 minutes ago, Cappybara said:

Unfortunate that such a positive and insightful post went largely ignored except for one poster who hates anything and everything about modern drum corps. 

I agree, it is extremely unfortunate.  But that's where we are.

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Cappybara    6,734
Just now, Bobby L. Collins said:

I agree, it is extremely unfortunate.  But that's where we are.

That's where you are. 

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Just now, Cappybara said:

That's where you are. 

Yeah, don't act like I'm the only one out there who feels the way I do.  I'm just the only one here at this moment willing to put up with the trolls in this community who don't want to talk about it.  There have been many before me, and there will be many after me.

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I first discovered drum corps in the 70’s, became a fan, then moved to Arizona and lost contact with the art form until I rediscovered it in 2016, so I can only compare the two seasons.  Last year, by the time I had seen corps’ shows 4 or 5 times, there were quite a few shows that I wasn’t that interested in watching again until finals.

This year, I was so pleased with the greatness coming out of corps whose 2016 shows were unremarkable to me.  Remember that I only have 2 seasons to compare and in 2016 I couldn’t tell you anything about the shows of Crossmen, Blue Knights, Blue Stars, Colts and Boston Crusaders.  This season, I remember all their shows and especially enjoyed Crossmen and Blue Knights out of that group.

Across the board, starting with Southwind in Open Class, there was some pretty amazing musicianship being displayed.  Open Class was a real surprise and quite a treat – nothing 2nd class going on there especially in the top 10 corps.  And as a new drum corps fan, I didn’t really go into this season with a World Class favorite who I wanted to win, so I could just sit back and enjoy the fantastic shows.

To give it to all you vets on here who want to go back to what was great 20 years ago, I have to admit that when Blue Devils came out with the huge full-across-the-field power line and the guard spinning all their rifles in full-body unison, it reminded me of the first competition I saw in the 70’s in the Philadelphia area – it was an adrenaline rush.  And when Crown opened up with that unison trumpet opener of Bach’s Little Fugue and the rest of the horns came in so cleanly, so beautifully, with the guards pulling out their best ballet moves, I was ecstatic.  So much beautiful music, so much entrancing drill, just great entertainment from corps after corps after corps. 

I was surprised by the egregious over use of amplification and I hope that issue will be addressed next season.  I enjoyed the judicious use of samples and effects and also enjoyed several of the vocalists – but not all of them.  Another thing that I hope is addressed.  But it was not enough of a drag to disappoint me, just reminded me that while 2017 was wonderful, maybe 2018 will be even more so.

Kudos and blessings to everyone who participated in a corps this season.  You made me happy.

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FTNK    795

I'm with Hrothgar, mostly. I went to a show and thought it was good. High level of entertainment and performance quality.

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