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skywhopper last won the day on August 24 2013

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  1. I guess that explains why so many of the synth parts use painfully slow-attack patches.
  2. I definitely agree that many synth parts are challenging. My own example of the button-press being next to no achievement related to triggering sampled voice, for which the timing is rarely as critical as musical tones. And certainly the Bluecoats' use of electronics is extremely effective, and likely require special techniques on the part of the synth player that go well beyond the norm. That said, I'm skeptical that synth players face timing issues any more challenging than what any other corps members confront (especially the guard who are literally waving a flag to emphasize their timing or lack thereof), except probably in the Bluecoats' show. And the technique they are asked to display--in my observation of many, not all corps--generally pales in comparison to other members of the pit. #notallcorps of course. This is no diss on the synth players, who are clearly very talented. Just that the designers are not featuring their skills in the same way they do more traditional instruments. Teal Sound's guitar player is another good example of an electronic instrument being used well. That guy was very talented and I felt the guitar was extremely well utilized for a large portion of the show in their last full year IIRC.
  3. The first piece of the Cavaliers' encore at Murfreesboro was to play a dance track over the PAs and have the battery play along with it. You could hear that the battery was tapping along, but certainly couldn't make out any detail of what they were playing. Mainly it felt like the Cavs saying "hey, check out this sick tune!" as part of their encore, which was really disappointing.
  4. It does seem the judges feel that way, but Crown's show is certainly *clearer* if not cleaner.
  5. Better yet, what if all the members had on fire-resistant stunt suits and were ON FIRE?
  6. What you say is true-- corps staff decides the drill, choreography, uniforms, guard equipment, music arrangement, etc. Completely non-corps-related adults manufacture the costumes, the equipment, the instrumetns, etc. Those things make up one part of the product that's judged on the field. But the larger part of the product is the execution of that design by the members. And whatever points you get from having good drill or nice uniforms pales in comparison to the points you get from members executing the drill and choreography. After all, if the execution is poor, then the design scores fall as well. But electronics lets designers intrude into the performance of the design as well. A five second voice clip can be recorded by a non-member, loaded into a synth by a non-member, played through PAs set up by non-members and mixed live by non-members. The only thing a member is required to do is to press a button on a MIDI controller at the right moment. That amounts to a lot of impact on the performance with next to zero actual achievement on the part of a corps member. Compare that to the achievement of a corps member performing that voice section live. There are many moments when the synth sound generated by a single member holding down a handful of keys on a keyboard generates more sound than the other ~100 musical-instrument-performing members on the field. And that sound was professionally designed ahead of time etc etc. As long as the keys are hit at the right time, there is no way to make a mistake or play out of tune. Even playing too loud or soft is out of the question, since the volume is controlled by a staff member off the field. It's sort of like if you had robots out there doing the rifle tosses, and "controlled" by corps members pressing buttons on remote controls at the right moment. Sure you could get some really impressive and perfectly executed tosses going, and it might be more beautiful and better in every way than humans could ever achieve. But... what exactly would be gained? Would the show be better? Would the corps' missions be enhanced? Would the members learn something more? To me, a synthesizer is no different than a rifle-tossing robot. It just happens to be cheaper and more widely available at the moment. To be sure, incredible member achievement can be made using a synthesizer (see Crown 2011), but making synth and other electronics such a large part of the tonal landscape and pre-recorded material in particular seems to be pretty antithetical to the ideals of DCI.
  7. This is the seventh year since electronics were introduced to drum corps and I feel like show designers and arrangers are starting to get a footing for how they want to use the tools electronic instrumentation affords to them. I'm curious what good and bad aspects fans (especially those who've only been following the activity for the past few years) see in this year's shows. A few thoughts to kick off conversation (note, I've not been following all the corps since I used to rely on the Fan Network VOD, but I did see the Murfreesboro show live): * Of the current top 8, the corps using electronics the best this year are Blue Devils, Bluecoats, and Crown: Blue Devils have always been the best at blending the hornline sound with the electronics since electronics were introduced. Bluecoats have been pushing the limits of what we expect to hear from the field. And Crown has the most restraint while still making effective use of electronics when it makes sense. * Enough with the whistling wind sound effects. * Recorded/sampled speech and singing almost never adds to a show, IMO. The PR speech samples this year seem particularly out of place and poorly integrated. I much prefer the corps members do the narration or singing (kudos to the Cavs singer this year who's a great showman) and be judged on their achievement. The Mandarins show in 2013 is a notable exception for me, but I'd like to hear when you think a recorded voice sample was better than if a corps member had been doing the singing or speaking. (I'm also curious about the legality of using sampled singing, which is clearly against the 2009 electronics rules, and I've never heard of any updates to those rules.) * The synth patches designers are choosing to use are often terrible. This is an area where Blue Devils, Bluecoats, Crown, and Cadets are doing noticeably better than the other corps. SCV and Phantom in particular stood out to me as leaning heavily on really bad-sounding string patches to fill out their sound throughout their programs. * In the Bluecoats show, are the loops from Electric Counterpoint sampled live, or are they just triggered by the synth players at the right time? If they are sampling the corps live, that would be truly impressive. * Silence is golden. Blue Devils, Cadets, and Crown all made use of actual silence during their shows. Other corps seem allergic to the idea that silence or even quiet sections can add value to a show. Bluecoats are the worst about this of the top 8, with what felt like 12 minutes of aural assault. Well done aural assault, but exhausting in the end. * In general, I feel like the vast majority of electronics usage represents design achievement and not member achivement. Pre-sampled voice, Bluecoats-style surround-sound effects, huge chords to give the brass a break, and soundscapes that require nothing more than a few keypresses seem like a devaluation of individual member achievement and numb the audience to the experience and sound of actual instruments. That's not to say electronics can't be and aren't used well, but they too often aren't and I wonder what the designers and judges are thinking sometimes. I'm seriously curious what everyone thinks about the current state of the art in this regard. Some of the worst offenses of the early electronics years have been gotten past, but I feel like more and more of the sound coming from the field is coming direct from the designers via the speakers and less and less from the members themselves and I hope that trend doesn't go too much further.
  8. Indeed. In Dante's Inferno, the way they escape from Hell is via Satan's ########. So...
  9. I've been out of the loop and not following the corps this year until the last week or so, and the lack of the Fan Network hasn't helped, since I can't massage my schedule around the live streams. But anyway, after some Youtube prep, I saw the show at Murfreesboro accompanied by four adults (one new to drum corps) and four kids (three new to drum corps). All but one person said Crown was their favorite. One kid preferred the Blue Devils show. I was mainly impressed by the clarity and focus of Crown's show. Sitting relatively low, the drill and formations weren't clear for any of the corps, and the guard work for most corps was often visually muddy and hard to follow, but Crown had a LOT of fantastic guard hits that felt crystal clear to me. Maybe it's the contrast of the uniforms with the field and the equipment. I don't know, but it was incredibly satisfying and felt like a different style of visual design than most of the other corps were pursuing. The props are a major force out there, and from down low they often made the field feel extremely cluttered. So Crown's lack of props was very refreshing. I don't have time to talk about all the things I liked and the things I think they need to polish before Indy, but I just want to say the two best moments in the show were the release followed by a second or two of silence followed by the snap of the unison rifle catch, and of course the giant banner/flag after the opening statement. I'd seen that on Youtube, but in person that's just an amazingly effective visual effect.
  10. Congratulations to all the Crown members, staff, and volunteers who have made this season possible so far. It's a fantastic achievement to win any major regional and Crown has come a long way since early in the season. This is a fantastic show and it can totally win this year, but the competition is fierce, so keep striving!
  11. It's all of a piece with amplifying the pit, adding synths, upping the corps sizes, and amplifying soloists. I wonder if we can correlate the average volume of the corps to the average age (and implied hearing loss) of the corps staff and judges.
  12. Don't confuse assertions of rights with actual rights. Copyright holders regularly assert all sorts of rights they are not entitled to. The rule against recording a live performance is enforced by the venue's right to throw you out, not by the copyright holder's right to prevent you from recording the event. However, even when copyright holders have a legal right to prevent something, that doesn't mean we should accept it unthinkingly. Copyright law is entirely created by governments, and changes to copyright law tend to take away rights we currently have, or are promised to have. Such as the repeated retroactive extension of existing copyrights. There's currently a debate going on in Europe over whether architects hold the copyright to any images of the buildings they designed. In other words, they assert that tourists taking pictures of a city skyline should be considered to be violating copyright and forbidden from doing so. This is not currently law, but it's been proposed. So beware of copyright holders and their assertions. DCI has made a pragmatic decision to avoid trouble in the form of a lawsuit, but that doesn't mean the rights-holders are in the right either legally or ethically.
  13. My question is: surely this does not affect shows containing only public domain music, or shows consisting of only music composed specifically for the corps (eg, most of the Cavaliers' 2000s shows) (at least, assuming the corps bought full rights to the work when they commissioned it, which may not be the case)? I suppose such shows comprise a very small percentage of all shows, and thus would probably not be worth preserving on Fan Network in the absence of all the rest.
  14. I think it all depends on how it's executed and how it affects musical development of the end product. Crown 2009 was mentioned and it's a great example of both letting the source material follow it's own development (the Puck sequence is brilliant) and one of the most successful chop and bop sequences ever (the ballad mashup of Somewhere and Somewhere over the Rainbow). The 2009 ballad (along with 2008 and 2011 as well) is brilliant in the way it leaps seamlessly between the melodies without the jarring feeling you often get from chop and bop arranging. Typically the worst case is when a musical climax is dropped in inappropriately for effect without appropriate buildup. The buildup doesn't necessarily have to be from the same piece but without a buildup of tension there's no payoff to the climactic moment. Dropping in quotes of other pieces for color (like the Jetsons theme by BK) is always a nice touch, and it's not really the same thing at all.
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