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Agogobell28

Arrangements

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I'm fairly certain this is a bit mistaken. Often a "show coordinator," music arrangers, and visual designers have pre-season meetings to map out a show. It is VERY common for visual phrases to take precedent of music phrases, and I know with certainty there have been times when a visual designer trumps music arrangers when it comes to shortening or lengthening a piece because of visual design. What you describe may be the case in some corps, but I know this is not accurate with at least some of the most successful corps. Meaning, music designers don't pick what they think would make a cool show and then after everything is written the the visual designer gets to work: that hasn't been the case in quite some time, and this is very evident when you see how integrated visual design is with music design. It is very common for arrangers & vis. designers to "storyboard" their show, even before the downbeat of any music is written, in order to design the most cohesive marriage of visual & music.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming WGI or visual designers or whatever (I actually quite like DCI show designs now-a-days). While music is not chosen by a visual designer, corps' musical arrangements are curated in part by the visual designer to fit a specific visual design they have in mind. Of course, it depends on what a corps' strength is. I would suspect with a corps like Crown, where music is their obvious strength, the music arranger might have more pull than the visual designer. When Cavaliers were at their peak in the last decade, I suspect their visual designs took precedent over their music design

What you're saying makes perfect sense. And what you're saying - particularly in the bolded statements above - is that today visual designers have a say in the show design, sometimes a leading role, not that in general they lead the design process, or much less that they accelerate the pacing of the show according to some fast-paced visual design principle. I see no reason to believe that visual designers tend to quicken the pace of things anyway - ballet and Broadway musicals, for example, are not known for being chop-and-bop in style. So what makes people think visual designers cause fragmented shows? The confusion of correlation and causality. The music teachers (and visual caption heads and judges too) evolved their thinking about how best to "max out the student" during the same period that WGI/visual people became more influential. That leads to an incorrect assumption about the cause.

The Cavaliers illustrate this actually: they actually had a overtly* visual driven show many years ago - but their music is no more chop-and-bop than anybody else's, and has often been the most memorable.

*-overtly, not overly!

Edited by Pete Freedman

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This all just makes me want to return to my attempted arrangement (for a SoundSport level corps, clearly) of Isolde's Liebestod ... uncut and without interpolated additional music.

Edited by Eleran

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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 wondered about a couple things:

(1) Does the format of "best of" edited Youtube collections such as you were watching, by JeremysBugles or others, exacerbate the impression of disunity?

(2) Was 2012 a year in which the trend you describe was particularly prominent? I thought so at first memory, but apparently not among recent years, at least based on the number of songs played. From Corpsreps listings, I count 63 different songs played in DCI Finals for 2012 (treating all of Phantom's Turandot selections as just one work) and 62 for 2014--so no real difference at all, although it's a little more prominent if you just consider the top six (32 in 2012 vs. 27 in 2014).

However, certainly there were far fewer works used in at least some past years: in 1988, a year others have mentioned in this thread, five Finalist corps each played selections from just one long musical work: Cadets with Copland's Symphony No. 3, Cavaliers with Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, Phantom Regiment with Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, Spirit of Atlanta with Stravinsky's Petrouchka, and Suncoast Sound with the drum-corps original Symphonic Dances for the Contemporary Child by Robert W. Smith. The songs played by another three corps were unified in being selections from just one musical or opera: Santa Clara Vanguard with Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, Star of Indiana with Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, and Sky Ryders with Rodgers' The Sound of Music. As has been noted, Madison Scouts played but two pieces that year. Bluecoats played only three. And Blue Devils played four. That leaves just Velvet Knights playing a musically unconnected show of eight different tunes--and they were deliberately going for a comic effect.

(The number of different tunes is only part of the story, of course, and I don't mean to imply that you indicate that.)

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I wondered about a couple things:

(1) Does the format of "best of" edited Youtube collections such as you were watching, by JeremysBugles or others, exacerbate the impression of disunity?

(2) Was 2012 a year in which the trend you describe was particularly prominent? I thought so at first memory, but apparently not among recent years, at least based on the number of songs played. From Corpsreps listings, I count 63 different songs played in DCI Finals for 2012 (treating all of Phantom's Turandot selections as just one work) and 62 for 2014--so no real difference at all, although it's a little more prominent if you just consider the top six (32 in 2012 vs. 27 in 2014).

However, certainly there were far fewer works used in at least some past years: in 1988, a year others have mentioned in this thread, five Finalist corps each played selections from just one long musical work: Cadets with Copland's Symphony No. 3, Cavaliers with Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, Phantom Regiment with Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, Spirit of Atlanta with Stravinsky's Petrouchka, and Suncoast Sound with the drum-corps original Symphonic Dances for the Contemporary Child by Robert W. Smith. The songs played by another three corps were unified in being selections from just one musical or opera: Santa Clara Vanguard with Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, Star of Indiana with Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, and Sky Ryders with Rodgers' The Sound of Music. As has been noted, Madison Scouts played but two pieces that year. Bluecoats played only three. And Blue Devils played four. That leaves just Velvet Knights playing a musically unconnected show of eight different tunes--and they were deliberately going for a comic effect.

(The number of different tunes is only part of the story, of course, and I don't mean to imply that you indicate that.)

Thank you for taking the time to do the research, N.E., and for sharing it with us. Nice job.

I'm certainly not going to speak for Agogo, for it is not my place to do so, and he (or she...don't want to be accidentally discriminatory) has already proven to be able to speak quite well for himself (or herself). However, my "take" on the original posting has less to do with simple numbers of selections utilized (a point which you recognized as well), and more to do with the craft of the arranging. One may choose a given musical selection which is lengthy in it's original form (let's say 20-30 minutes for arguments sake), yet treat it several different ways. It could be shortened into a three-minute presentation, citing 3, 4, 5...or even 6 of the assorted high moments found in the original (the "chop and bop", if you will), with 20-30 seconds of transition material between each high point. Or, one could take the grandest idea found in the original piece, and create a series of builds throughout the three minutes, finally culminating in the single climactic idea as created by the original composer. To me, this takes far more craft on the part of the arranger...and, at the same time, also asks more of the observer (as well as instructor, designer, and performer). This past summer, I commented as to my respect and enjoyment of the two separate statements of the Russian folk tune Polyushka Polye as they were arranged for and performed by BAC. I found the tranformation of a primarily simple, minor-mode melody into both multi-tonic and discordant renderings to be not only fresh, but original and inspired as well...and totally appropriate as musical representations which served the larger picture and/or message. In other words...I respected the "craft."

Sorry, Agogo, if my interpretation of your words is errant. I hope that someone like ArrangerX can reply and take me to task if I'm talking out my hat on this one.

Edited by HornTeacher
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There are exceptions but the overall sense is arranging to the sheets at the expense of the music which means most shows share the same pacing and become monotonous, uninspired and boring

Innovation today would be allowing a corps to fully develop a 12 minute piece as the entire show, ignoring the conventions of the sheets and letting the music dictate the visual. It would challenge the audience, maintain the intellectual intent of the composer and push the brass to play the bulk of the show. It would generate GE in a much different way….doubt it’d be successful or well received so we wont see it anytime soon

Perhaps soon, everything old will be new again?

For an activity that pretends to value and strive for innovation, they really don’t, they just push trends and reward gimmicks

Edited by cowtown
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There are exceptions but the overall sense is arranging to the sheets at the expense of the music which means most shows share the same pacing and become monotonous, uninspired and boring

This is true, and a good point. However, the activity is a competitive one so it seems an illogical argument to blame arrangers for wanting to max out the sheets: that is literally the point of the activity. Like I said, as with every facet of every era of the activity, the truly talented thrive, do great work, etc. while the not-so-talented falter. You could look at the poorer designers in the activity and crucify the trends, or look at the top and see amazing shows that prove the "formula" works. I would say the majority of Top 12 last season had really strong show designs & performances, but I would agree that the lower end of DCI WC can feel similar and homogeneous

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HornTeacher, I think that's what I was trying to get at in my original post. There's less development of themes, I feel, in much of today's arranging. For example, in Star 1991, the first selection from Roman Festivals felt more like a unified piece of music than a "selection" from the source music. There were transitions aplenty, but they came from the original music, and very few "seams" were audible. However, when BAC did the exact same tune a couple years ago (last year, maybe?), it was more the themes surrounded by drum breaks and pit runs. Far too WGI-ish for my taste :-) But honestly, to each their own.

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Or, one could take the grandest idea found in the original piece, and create a series of builds throughout the three minutes, finally culminating in the single climactic idea as created by the original composer. To me, this takes far more craft on the part of the arranger...and, at the same time, also asks more of the observer (as well as instructor, designer, and performer).

Of these, the only one DCI cares about is the performer (well, pretty much, anyway). I agree that the manner you suggest could be better for the performer as long as the arranger is really good. But chop-and-bop doesn't require as talented an arranger. So if they say, "Let's dwell on Clair de Lune for five minutes," they (the instructors) really don't know how that's going to work out. It's a risk. Unless you know the arranger is really good, it may not be worth the risk.

The question seems to be "Will it max out the student?" It's crass, and perhaps somewhat mechanical, but it does seem to be the way they think.

Edited by Pete Freedman

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