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KeithHall

Is There A Difference?

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...as opposed to a fully developed, sophisticated, completely musical arrangement which is faithful to the original

Even back in the golden age, corps charts were not necessarily all that faithful to the original works. Listen to Walton's "Crown Imperial," Shostakovitch's "Festive Overture" or Ron Nelson's Rocky Point Holiday."

Peace,

Fred O.

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I don't need to recognize the music, nor do I expect to. Most of my favorite shows contained music that I learned from seeing the corps. What I object to are the arrangements, in which the pieces are chopped up so much to fit the visuals that the musical forms are incomplete and don't get a chance to start, develop, and finish naturally. There also isn't as much groove - as though repetition (essential for a good groove) is believed to reduce demand. As a musician, I know that building a good groove is one of the hardest things to achieve. I hardly ever hear it in drumcorps anymore, although it was a hallmark of corps in the 70s and 80s - a corps could whip a crowd into a frenzy just like a good southern church choir with a groove that would build and build. Sure it wasn't as clean as today, but in that way it was a more intense experience. Just my opinion.

Drum corps is both a visual and music activity. I have no problem with corps arranging the music and creating the visual design to maximize the totality of the presentation.

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Drum corps is both a visual and music activity. I have no problem with corps arranging the music and creating the visual design to maximize the totality of the presentation.

Right with you on that, Mike. One thing that is different though, our Music Director and Instructor and Arranger did not have to negotiate the rights for any of his charts.

That, today is very different from back then when Hy could put his own spin on whichever piece of music he wanted to arrange for whichever corps he was arranging for ... and probably holds back many of even the elite corps from playing many pieces.

Edited by Puppet

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Sadly, I am just not moved by the music these days. The visuals are awesome, no doubt.

But I always went for the music, and I'm not saying that it's "bad" today... it just

doesn't attract me. It's arranged differently - around the visual design rather than

to stand on its own. That's the way it is, which is fine, but unfortunately it doesn't

do it for me. The music today in corps is very, VERY interesting. But it doesn't make

me cry like the music did in the 70s and 80s. I miss that.

This is the crux of the whole style difference issue. Music vs. visual. And how the raw emotional impact of the music side has been tempered w/ the need to synchronize it w/ the visual side. This trend started in the early 90s and resulted in some truly horrendous musical programming, especially in lower ranking corps. I would equate this period w/ the Modern Era following the Romantic Era. Difficult and intellectually interesting, but doesn't hit you in the gut like you want it to.

On the bright side, in the past few years the pendulum has been swinging back to more exciting, emotional, crowd-pleasing music programming. Obviously, we can't go back to less demanding drills, nor would anyone want to. But we can and are going back to the heart of drum corps, music that drives you to your feet in screaming ecstacy like nothing else can. While I greatly credit Michael Cesario for his influence, I think it's bigger than one man. I think corps management is finally getting that drum corps is an entertainment product and shows like 2008 Regiment and 2009 SCV should be the rule, not the exception. When the fans win, everyone wins, financially, artistically, and experientially.

While this overall trend started a few years back, it really hit me when I saw this year's reps start going up. Madison, SCV, Regiment, Crossmen, Troopers. The smile on my face getting bigger w/ every announcement. Still not completely uniform, but a clear trend IMO.

And while the Bb horns aren't as loud as the G horns, the bigger hornlines at least somewhat offset this. I think things are really getting better and there is just cause for us old schoolers to take heart.

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I went to a FB group called 1970's drum corps. It was fun reminiscing and seeing old pics like we do here. The difference is....there are old crotchety people that just want to put down what DCI and DCA do today. Other than electronics in DCI and the keys of the brass instruments...what is really so different today? I spend my time defending the activity but it's like the old guys sitting out in front of the barber shop and talking about what was better about the olden days. The kids were just as hard today and maybe even harder. Yes, there are less drum corps but the shows are still awesome to watch.

Anyone else see the good?

70s and now - I don't think that you and I look at the activity in a drastically different way - but I do think there are HUGE differences between the 70s (especially the early 70s) and modern day drum corps - HUGE - much more than say the difference between the 50s and 60s (which during the 60s seemed like night and day).

Just to tick some off:

The visual show: With few exceptions it was marching, with the color guard doing 95% equipment work. Most "drills" were written to get the featured brass section in the right place to balance and showcase the music. While kaleidoscopic effects had made their way into the top shows, mostly it was pretty symmetrical and in general could be "marched". It is much more choreography now, and athletic, gymnastic choreography to boot. A lot of us dinosaurs marked the end of our marching careers when we heard the term "Jazz run" introduced. A friend of mine referred to late 70s, early 80s DCI as "Drill Teams International". By the way I'm not criticizing. I couldn't do it, but I'm in awe of those kids (including my own) that can.

Pits: as of 1978 we were still carrying timps and xylophones/bells. Look at the pit out there now. Again not criticizing (even with electronics). My daughter is playing synth in Crossmen - without the evolution of the pit she would have had to learn to march around carrying a piano - she's not that big.

Brass instruments: by the end of the 70s we're still carrying 2 piston horns, and for many corps not in all sections (someone in their infinite wisdom decreed that only one voice a year could be swapped out, starting in around 1977. Bayonne was forced to buy brand new one piston mellophones and contras to make the switch to a whole line of brass lacquer horns in 1978 - tell me that was good for the activity. Now - multi keyed 3 piston instruments (IMHO) for the most part decidedly better quality than anything that wasn't built by Zig Kanstul by the end of the '80s. (not a complaint)

Repertoires: By the end of the 70s we've seen some sophistication (not that sophistication is desirable for its own sake)and Chuck Mangione and Maynard Ferguson have replaced piles and piles of Broadway - some classical music is being done - most notably (for me) SCV's Young Person's Guide to the Drum Corps - always love that. The repertoires now? Wind music that many of us would never have heard had it not been for drum corps evolution - for better and for less better.

Huge differences in color guard - including the name - no more colors to guard - it's a whole lot of dance. That's up to your own taste as to whether you love it or not. I always thought (I am a dinosaur) that Guards were at their best when they did equipment that no one in the world could do as well. I can still see the Holley Hawks in my mind's eye.

So it's different - the folks teaching these corps are top teachers and indeed professors from all over the country and the world. At the same time many of the "techs" are alumni/alumnae with little experience beyond corps membership - especially for guard (how many guard techs are really professional dancers?).

The only things I really complain about now is a) the activity that ate my life - between the last day of college and the 3rd week of August these kids do NOTHING but drum corps (or whatever they can fit in on tour - pretty much drum corps). I'd never keep a kid out because of this, but I wish they had time for baseball and other sports; b) I think there's nominally less esprit d' corps where a kid joins and stays there until age out. Don't get me wrong - that existed earlier in life - my brother left our Oceanside Legionnaires to join a bigger better St Rita's Brassmen. 3 of my 5 kids who have marched left to play in better placing corps. It happens - I just don't like it much. In some cases it may (or may not) be as much about a corps not making the commitment to improve as it is about the kid leaving, but that's for people smarter than I to figure out. c) finally, I HATE corps that get the kids committed without making the financial commitment to getting them through the season. It's a big business now, but who doesn't know that? I don't want to hear that you figured out in late July that you can't afford to take the kids where you agreed to take them. We've seen waaay too much of that, although it's less about the difference between the 70s and now, as I seem to remember that happening in my time - lest I forget the 1984 season where I was teaching. Brutal - shouldn't have been allowed to happen.

Anyhow Keith, thanks for introducing the thread - I doubt anyone read all the way through this but it was fun to rant for a couple of minutes while I wait to hear that my daughter has made it back to school from Crossmen camp. (6 hours - now that feels like the old days).

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Right with you on that, Mike. One thing that is different though, our Music Director and Instructor and Arranger did not have to negotiate the rights for any of his charts.

That, today is very different from back then when Hy could put his own spin on whichever piece of music he wanted to arrange for whichever corps he was arranging for ... and probably holds back many of even the elite corps from playing many pieces.

You know Puppet, the only reason that we got away with that is that no one on Earth knew that we were doing it. We were like this underground activity. Once ASCAP learned we were playing this music for large crowds they were going to get their money - it's not that Hy didn't have to do it - just that no one knew we Weren't doing it.

That long might have folded half the drum corps on the planet pre-DCI.

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You know Puppet, the only reason that we got away with that is that no one on Earth knew that we were doing it. We were like this underground activity. Once ASCAP learned we were playing this music for large crowds they were going to get their money - it's not that Hy didn't have to do it - just that no one knew we Weren't doing it.

That long might have folded half the drum corps on the planet pre-DCI.

I thiught the rights did not have to be obtained BITD because corps did not use 3v instruments. That misconception was corrected by a DCPers who is in the know (but won't give names). With the Internet today nothing gets by due to FB, YT. LOL - don't even have to use the full names and we know what I mean.

How DC history would have changed if a corps or DCA/DCI DID get sued for the rights BITD...

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You know Puppet, the only reason that we got away with that is that no one on Earth knew that we were doing it. We were like this underground activity. Once ASCAP learned we were playing this music for large crowds they were going to get their money - it's not that Hy didn't have to do it - just that no one knew we Weren't doing it.

That long might have folded half the drum corps on the planet pre-DCI.

Great points, Ray.

Back in the day drum corps was so far under the radar, it would make a B-2 bomber jealous. :tongue:

Edited by Fran Haring

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I went to a FB group called 1970's drum corps. It was fun reminiscing and seeing old pics like we do here. The difference is....there are old crotchety people that just want to put down what DCI and DCA do today. Other than electronics in DCI and the keys of the brass instruments...what is really so different today? I spend my time defending the activity but it's like the old guys sitting out in front of the barber shop and talking about what was better about the olden days. The kids were just as hard today and maybe even harder. Yes, there are less drum corps but the shows are still awesome to watch.

Anyone else see the good?

Sure.. if you only want to hear about " the good ", there is plenty of that, imo.

a) the marchers pretty much all want to have their Corps perform well, so they work their hardest to accomplish this. This hasn't changed much in 50 years. They want to win, or place as high as possible... to please themselves, their fellow Corps members. They want to get better in their craft. They're still as fierce the competitors of earlier generations, imo.

b) Many value their Corps history and want to know as much about it as we did when we first joined a new Corps.

c) instructors and staff still work long hours in thinking of ways to help make their Corps perform better.

d) while its decidedly " different ", its still kids competing on a football field playing music and moving in unison on the field and being judged by both judges and fans alike.

e) the overall musicianship abilities of marchers, on the whole, has improved exponentially since the 50's, 60's 70's, 80's. What these current day marchers are asked to do in competition is really quite amazing regarding the levels of demand and complexity, imo.

Thats a few " good things " about today. There are no doubt many other things that could be mentioned too.

Edited by BRASSO
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Another big difference is average age of performers. I'll bet the average age in 1975 or so was about 15-16. I know when I marched we had no age-outs for the 1983 season and had about 85 members. Of the snare line, I was 19, two were 17, one 16, two 15. And I suspect that we were about average of the over 200 corps in existence in the early 80s.

One thing is similar is that each generation has set a certain paradigm be it marching symmetrical drill or "running." That paradigm is pretty rigidly adhered to and it seems few corps or judges want to venture outside of that box. I see just as much sameness with the approach of today as that of yesterday. I wonder if a corps could stay in the game if they chose to "march" not run, a strictly symmetrical military style drill and did it extremely cleanly?

One area where we have lost is the ability to draw and appeal to in the locals. Being in a Class A corps, a lot of the shows I performed at were local, with a smaller cash overhead, and they drew in an entire community, rather than the 'true believers.' I always think of the Titusville, PA show as example. There was some sort of day long community festival (related to 4th of July I think), a parade, and then the locals came to the show at night. It was not strictly a 'drum corps crowd.'

Now to some extent a lot of those festivals died because funding dried up, but I also think that even if it was there (and they still exist in some cases), the current product is so specialist oriented that few would/do enjoy it.

Before say the 1990s, there was music that appealed to everyone from show tunes, Big Band, Latin flavor, rock, etc. Nowadays it's pretty incomprehensible to all but drum corps folk (or their parents).

I think this has hurt the activity as a whole. While the musicians are probably better on whole as far as musicianship, the product is less appealing to the general public. If the activity is to be strictly insular, appealing to only the true believer and parents, it will die.

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