Brian Porter-Szucs

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About Brian Porter-Szucs

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    DCP Rookie

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  • Your Drum Corps Experience
    Devoted fan since the 1980s
  • Your Favorite Corps
  • Your Favorite All Time Corps Performance (Any)
    Tilt (Bluecoats); Kinetic Noise Bluecoats); Cabaret Voltaire (Blue Devils)
  • Your Favorite Drum Corps Season
  • Gender
  • Location
    Ann Arbor, Michigan

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  1. I have three tickets for sale for semifinals on Friday - great seats in section 242, row 5. I'll be in Indy, and can meet up with you at the stadium to deliver the tickets. Best offer. Write to me at
  2. I really appreciate the consensus of the responses so far: let people enjoy the music and the spectacle and the obvious athleticism, without letting the minutia being registered by the judges get in the way. I really do understand that perspective. On the other hand, I will always remember an amazing middle school teacher I had for a class called "musical appreciation" (this was back in the stone age--do that still teach courses like that?) Going in, I had the narrow musical tastes of most teenagers. I knew what I liked, and I knew to scoff at anything I didn't like. The teacher was able to open up vast new worlds for me not just by playing great music, but by giving tips about what to listen for. I remember one example: he explained that nearly all pop music is in 4/4 time, but that some innovative songs did really cool things by mixing this up. I think he played Brubeck's "Take Five" and Pink Floyd's "Money." Then he said that some composers could really go crazy with this, and he played a bit from Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." The memory of that teacher has stuck with me over all these decades because he taught me that informed listening made it possible to like things that I wouldn't appreciate at first hearing. I've had similar experiences as an adult: listening to classical south-Asian drumming in a concert where the musician explained the unfamiliar rhythmic patterns; watching a college wrestling match together with someone who could tell me what was happening (it just looked like a lot of pushing and pouncing to me, at first); watching traditional Chinese theater after first reading up on the genre (try going into that without some background!); or getting an Englishman to take me to a cricket match. OK--that last one didn't take even with the explanations. 🙂 With all this in mind, I think that if I were going to a DCI event for the first time, I'd want someone to explain some of the basic metrics of assessment, so that when they announced the scores I wouldn't respond with "huh?" Let's face it: drum corps is a highly stylized and structured event, with lots of elements that are there because -- and only because -- it is being judged. Just one obvious example: if a composer and a choreographer got together to prepare a show just for the entertainment or artistic value, would anyone write the percussion parts in the way they are written for DCI? I think my reaction if I saw that for the first time would be to think that the drum lines were horribly over-written. Or to use an example already mentioned: I actually have heard "outsiders" say that they wished more of the formations looked like recognizable shapes, but once you point out the incredible difficulty of maneuvering through particular formations, or the artistic challenge of integrating music and geometry, the response is usually "wow--that's actually pretty cool." Maybe I'm just the nerdy type who over-intellectualizes everything, but still: isn't it is true that, overall, informed watching and listening provides a richer experience than going in blind?
  3. In a few weeks I'll be taking several family members to their very first DCI show, and I wanted to give them some tips about what to watch for in order to fully appreciate what they are seeing. I'm sure they will enjoy the performances regardless, but it's nice to be able to recognize the little details that distinguish a good corps from a great corps, and to have some sense of what the judges are looking for. If you were taking newbies to a show, what suggestions would you give them so that they could recognize accomplishments and qualities that might not be obvious to the uninitiated?
  4. The original post is a great question, and I don't think it has been answered yet. In a sport like gymnastics, a good TV broadcast will have an expert who will offer insight on why a particular routine got scored higher or lower than another. We might learn, for example, to watch how a foot gets placed on the bar, or whether a knee bends more than a certain amount on a particular move. Viewers might be told that a particular flip was done with significantly more elevation than another flip, thus making it more impressive. It would be magnificent to have some insight of this nature about what constitutes "excellence" in the various DCI captions. I know that judging is subjective, but it isn't random. The judges are clearly doing more than saying to themselves "that was cool!" Some of the stuff they are looking for is obvious to even a casual fan: a snare line that isn't quite in sync, a dropped flag, a musician who plays a wrong note, a marching line that goes ragged. But very little of that obvious stuff is evident among the really good corps. We sometimes read comments on this forum about a show being "dirty" or a particular night's performance being unusually excellent. Clearly the people who say these things have specific observations in mind. I realize that are probably a thousand small things, so maybe someone knows of a resource online (or even in print--yes, I'm a dinosaur who still sometimes turns to books) that can offer some help. I guess I"m looking for the sorts of specifics that go beyond vague comments like "corps X had a higher level of difficulty" or "corps Z had more innovative design" or "corps Y has a much better sound." Or maybe I'm wrong, and it really does all come down to some judges saying "that was cool!" :)
  5. Last year the Cavaliers pushed the envelope by touching on politics, which in the past has been considered (correctly, I think) inappropriate for an activity like DCI, which draws support from people all around the country and from every ideological orientation. Some people argued that the Cavaliers went too far by implying criticism of building walls, but I think it was clear that they were making an all-purpose attack on propaganda and rhetorical manipulation. Regardless, an interesting question this year will be whether anyone else will follow their lead, and what the fallout will be if they do. It's harder nowadays to be apolitical. Some art and entertainment genres have gained a clear ideological identity and thrived anyway: country music speaks mostly to conservatives, Broadway mostly promotes values that liberals applaud. Even sports have drifted apart, with professional football increasingly seen as a right-wing sport, and professional basketball leaning left. Can DCI remain as nonpartisan and universalistic as it has always been? If someone does a show like the Mandarin’s 2013 “Destination America” (which celebrated immigration and multiculturalism), would they face a backlash in today’s environment? If a corps did a show like the Madison Scouts’ pro-military “Corps of Brothers” (also from 2013), would audiences view it as a political statement? Should that even be a concern? Maybe some will argue that corps should stand up for some basic values at a time when they are being questioned. I don’t intend this question to be itself partisan: instead, I’m interested in what people think about whether DCI should reflect the debates of our time or strive to be a space where everyone can escape those issues. Should we focus on themes like “Tilt” (probably safe!) or should we risk controversy by grappling with topics that we deem relevant and important?
  6. I've been a huge fan of the direction that the Bluecoats have taken with Tilt, Kinetic Noise, and Downside Up (and even the underappreciated To Look for America in 2013). But they have a huge challenge for 2017 and beyond: building their now easily identifiable style without becoming repetitive or cliched. Great artists can create a distinctive style and sustain it without losing that initial spark. I think there's a lot of space for the Bluecoats design team to do this, but this year will be their big test.
  7. Pardon me if this is a naive question, but why couldn't DCI simply require that every participating corps only use music for which they have already obtained rights? I assume that the corps must get the rights for the actual performances; wouldn't it be possible to simultaneously get permission for the recordings and videos? If such a rule were in place, some corps would move towards public domain music, some would compose their own music, and a few richer corps would find the resources to pay for the rights. That would introduce an inequality in the corps, with some fans preferring the richer corps because they recognize the tunes. Some performers might enjoy marching in those corps, too. But I can't imagine that it would really alter the (already unequal) competitive balance, nor do I think the majority of fans or performers would care. Has a rule like this ever been discussed? If so, what objections were raised?
  8. I've received a reply to a query about making it possible to time-shift the shows, so that those of us living outside the US, or those with unconventional work schedules, can participate. The answer is below. This is extremely distressing. I've been a huge DCI fan, but the organization is making it very difficult to remain so. I truly can't think of another institution that gives so little effort to support the needs of its fan base. Since so many other activities with copyrighted material manage to allow delayed viewing, it seems clear to me that there are answers to this problem, if they had the incentives or desire to pursue them. Here's the reply: "As we work through some of our licensing procedures, we must be diligent about staying within the law when it comes to the content that we produce and distribute. We will not have a time-delay feature on our DCI-Live subscription offerings. We make an attempt to leave the shows up for as long as we can but for the most part, once the show is done, we have to take down the video."
  9. Can it really be true that we will still be limited to watching these events live only, with no option for timeshifting? I'm going to be living in Europe for all of 2016, which means that most events will start at 1:00 am for me. Obviously I won't pay $100 for that, but I'd be willing to pay even more if I knew that I'd be able to watch the shows. There must be a resolution for this; how can the DCI administration remain committed to such a self-defeating policy? Is there no limit to how far they will go in the quest to alienate their fan-base?
  10. Thanks! This raises an interesting inconsistency. If the problem with Fan Network has been copyright issues, then these should be just as impermissible as a recording of a full show in uniform. After all, from the owner of the original copyright's perspective, the music is being used whatever the corps is wearing. This suggests that the real issue hasn't been the copyright concerns of the composers, but of DCI itself. From their perspective there certainly is a difference between an official show in competition and a recording of a rehearsal. (Except perhaps for the Cadets, given their uniform issues -- sorry, I couldn't resist.) If DCI has eliminated the Fan Network archives just so they can sell more DVDs, I would be very upset. Or to be more precise, instead of being angry at the pig-headed copyright lawyers at the music publishers, I would be able to target my frustration at the management in Indianapolis.
  11. I've made a photo mosaic of Finals - enjoy! (When my wife saw it, she said I have way too much time on my hands.)
  12. Thanks for sharing these great pictures. I'm happy to return the favor: mine are at
  13. I think DCI needs to recognize that this is an entertainment product that could reach far beyond the built-in base of former corps members, family of present corps members, and the occasional band kids. Every time I introduce DCI to a friend who has never heard of it, they are stunned. I don't know how many times I've heard people ask, "how is it that I didn't even know this existed!?" I recall in particular talking with a colleague who was a bit of a high-culture-snob. She dismissed anything that would happen on a football field as either barbaric or juvenile. I was able to convince her to watch Blue Devils version of Rite of Spring, Blue Knights rendition of Firebird, and Bluecoats "Tilt", and immediately I had won a convert for DCI. This isn't even all that hard. The typical DCI event has something for just about every imaginable demographic, and even if some people will be turned off by some shows, there's always going to be something to like whether you prefer jazz, classical, pop, show-tunes, indie rock, or the most avant-garde new music. Despite this, as an organization DCI seems very inward looking. A few years ago they put out a survey for people who had attended the finals, and the first question asked people to check whether they were A) a current corps member; B) a former corps member; C) a family member of a corps member; or D) a band director. Perhaps I'm forgetting another category, but I know what was not on the list: "fan". When I e-mailed to complain, they fixed the survey so that it included "none of the above." What a great way to emphasize outreach! I think the cinema initiative has been excellent insofar as it brings drum corps to hundreds of new sites, though I've seen very little advertising of these events outside of familiar outlets seen by people already likely to be interested. I don't really have any specific ideas here, but it seems to me that with some of the money that might be earned with increased attendance this year, DCI could hire an advertising agency with experience in the entertainment business. It won't be easy or quick, and it won't lead to massive expansion in the short term, but I'm convinced it could be done.
  14. Are Open Class corps seeded based on their scores at Michigan City, even if that places them above some World Class corps?
  15. The Indiana State Fair starts on August 7 ( I went with my family last year and we had a lot of fun. Every DCI fan will have a great time at the "Rhythm Discovery Center", which is located right next to the DCI offices. You can also visit the offices themselves, but that's about as exciting as...visiting some offices. Still, the waiting room has a display of buttons from just about every corps that has ever existed -- worth looking at since you'll already be right there. And though it seems too obvious to need mentioning, don't miss the tour of the Indianapolis Speedway. Even if you aren't a racing fan (I'm not), it's fascinating.