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Agogobell28

Arrangements

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I'm sure I'm not the only one who's noticed this trend, but I was watching the "Best DCI Moments of 2012" recently, and I was struck by the surprising lack of cohesion in many of the brass arrangements. It's almost as if a lot of the shows are just "hit - transition - hit - transition - hit - transition - hit" in structure. I'm not saying that they don't contain complete musical ideas, but the arrangers are being fairly unoriginal and cliche'd. I also think that they're not being patient with the music, allowing it room to breathe and stretch its limbs.

I'm primarily a brass person, so I can't really comment on pit and battery arrangements, but I have a fair amount of experience with music arranging and transcription; what I've seen of good arrangements has taught me that there are many intermediate shades between loud/bombastic and quiet/subtle. Yet these arrangers just can't grasp that.

And what's really puzzling is that many of these arrangers have proven themselves to be skilled in those respects - adding variety to music and using orchestrational techniques to bring interest and meaning to the music. For example, Michael Klesch, currently with Crown and a few others, arranged brilliantly for Garfield in 1985 and 1987 ('85 is my favourite arrangement for drum corps ever), preserving the source music's spirit and vitality while compressing them into 13 and 11 minutes respectively. Scott Boerma, still with Scouts after all these years, really brought out the aggression of Madison's hornline, while still making it musical and keeping the integrity of the sources.

Is it that they and the many other arrangers working today just don't care? Or is it that they must bow to the will of the visual team and stretch and shape their music to rigidly fit the drill and guard? If any of you can shed some light on this phenomenon, I'd appreciate it.

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Agogo,

I find your post to be most intriguing. I agree with you almost whole-heartedly. However, I wouldn't entirely lay the blame at the feet of the arrangers. Rather, I think (surmise?) that it might rather be an indication of where we've arrived as a general society (and I say "general" as a disclaimer against rendering everyone in any kind of "All" category). We've become a "highlight" society, whether it be through a diminishing of attention ability, or because we don't have the time to appreciate a slower, inexorable build to an eventual climax. We seem to need the ESPN "Top Ten Plays" of the day to satisfy our thirst in the athletic arena; we scan MSN news (and many others) to inform ourselves of the day's events. Televison news is little more than "headlines" and sound-bites...not the story-driven news stories that many of us recall from our pasts. This has carried over to Drum Corps. If I am not mistaken, Madison's rendition of "Malaguena" of 1988 which absolutely floored a good many people took nearly 6 minutes (somewhere around 5:45 or so, If I recall) -- more than half the time now allotted for a full show. Would that be nearly as musically effective a selection in 2014 or 2015 as it was in 1988? I'm not sure, but I would venture a guess that it wouldn't. Instead of a series of "semi-high points" leading to a final huge climax, we seem to need a HUGE hit every couple of minutes And there are two problems with this: first, with every HUGE hit, we run the risk of incrementally depriving the full strength of the final climatic event; second, every climax doesn't necessarily need to be huge. Sometimes, a fully-satisfying "Ahhhhh" moment can serve as the climax -- sort of a "Yesssss...I GET it" kind of moment. It all comes down to being a journey with an eventual, and satisfying, resolution. And in the very best of circumstances, it can be of both worlds. Maybe that is, subconsciously, why the Bluecoats' "pitch bend" moment was so intriguing this past year -- not because it was strange or innovative (which it was, in many ways), but because it served as a culminating "climax" built from all that came before it. When all is said and done, arrangers are at the mercy of the thinking of the day, and what will maintain interest -- say nothing of fitting their artistic mind's-eye with the artistic mind's-eye of their colleagues on the Corps staff.

This might be said of music of the past which has been transferred to the field. Does a Corps (or its' arranger) have the same amount of time to build "Nimrod" from Elgar's "Enigma Variations" to its' climax? Does an arranger have the time to build Barber's "Adagio" in the same way that Barber himself did? Of course not. That is not the fault of the arranger. It is more a matter simply emanating from fitting multiple musical selections into an 11 minute program. However, I DO agree with you. The "just the highlights, Ma'am" school of thought does often leave me unsatisfied as well. And I think I can safely guess that you and I are not alone in this regard.

Edited by HornTeacher
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As someone who has listened to many shows from the past 30 years through fan network, I agree with you in that the style of shows have turned into something like a highlight reel. However, i disagree that it takes away from the shows and their impacts. I like both styles equally and each have their own pros and cons.

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Agreed. Perhaps in an effort to create effect, there is a continually evolving program to keep judges engaged. We need fast, ballad, a section to highlight percussion, another for guard...

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There are many reasons for the current trends in brass arranging.

Chiefly: impatience by visual, percussion and color guard judges and writers, who think of their own compartmentalized piece of the puzzle rather than allowing the music to live and breathe.

We've been hijacked by WGI pacing, and designed judging sheets that reward frantic moods and over-writing.

It's all VERY coordinated and well-thought-out on paper. In performance? It becomes mangled and generally meaningless musically.

I won't speak for all arrangers. Some just aren't very good. Some are. Some do not assert themselves, while others do. Some are more concerned about keeping their gig, rather than making music.

And sometimes, speaking up in defense of music isn't a popular thing for a younger generation of writers and teachers who didn't grow up listening patiently and thoughtfully.

And sometimes they don't care. It's a paycheck and someone else is responsible for the show -- so they cash the check, and move on because their voice was drowned out a long time ago.

Lots of reasons.

I'm sure there are more. These are my particular views on the subject.

Myself? I like music, but rarely like drum corps anymore. Love the performance levels. Truly over the "every 30 seconds needs an impact" school of thought, and the "cheats" used to achieve "clarity" and the "checklist" mentality of the design process. Double tonguing? Check. 192 bpm? Check. High sticking and a leg kick? Check. Gratuitous 16th note run living outside the musical idea? Check.

Blah.

Chuck

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If I am not mistaken, Madison's rendition of "Malaguena" of 1988 which absolutely floored a good many people took nearly 6 minutes (somewhere around 5:45 or so, If I recall) -- more than half the time now allotted for a full show. Would that be nearly as musically effective a selection in 2014 or 2015 as it was in 1988?

Which means the BD 7 minute Channel One Suite is no longer possible.

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It's kind of sad, really. It's definitely not that the performers are talented - they are. And to the very highest degree.

And it's very interesting reading your replies for different perspectives on the issue...

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Even more, the 'lowly' members of the general audience have bemoaned this development for MANY years. Forget the moms, dads, girlfriends, boyfriends, etc., they're good with all of it, whatever it is. The challenge is enthralling the other faces in the crowd.

I did see great promise in 2014 performances, however. The activity is moving toward a better balance. I sincerely hope the past season's productions were not merely a brief aberration. Answer coming soon!

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Which means the BD 7 minute Channel One Suite is no longer possible.

It wasn't even possible in 2002.

It WOULD be possible if that's what we wanted as an activity. We're too worried about color guard and percussion staffs leaving, and about tempos and cookie cutter pacing.

So we bow and gaze at our navels, and wait for the pendulum to swing back. It's a long wait.

We shall see.

Not that I want to see it again -- but just the idea that certain things are no longer in the table because they don't meet the "checklist" requirements is somewhat lacking in creative energy.

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Which means the BD 7 minute Channel One Suite is no longer possible.

I never said anything was no longer possible, Ghost. And I'm glad you brought up the BD "Channel One," for that was my other option. All I'm saying is that I personally feel that such programming choices are unlikely, given the current direction. Personally? I'd LOVE to hear both done again (Mal AND Channel One)!!!

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