Jump to content

SCV's show was an epic musical fail.

Recommended Posts

Never mind the academic dinner party chatter - I cannot get past the simple factual errors.  Drill down to the three points he puts forth:

20 hours ago, SWriverstone said:

There were no discernable, memorable melodies in the show—and by melodies, I mean a sustained melodic line lasting at least 8 bars (at the same tempo) that very clearly moves from point A to point B in an emotional arc. (Think of just about any Beatles song, any Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, or any Beethoven symphony.) Even after repeated views, I couldn't sing along with 2 bars of this show (and I have a good ear for remembering melodies).

There was no sense of a grounded tempo anywhere in the show—by this, I mean a chance to get into a groove—to feel the pulse of the music and actually have a chance to tap your foot or rock gently along with it. Tempo changes were so frequent they suggested a kind of musical schizophrenia—arrangements driven entirely by the drill and perceived difficulty.

NOTE: Even some of the most brilliant, avante-garde compositions in music history hold to a steady tempo for at least 16-32 bars—I'm thinking of pieces like Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps or Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra orJohn Cage's Third Construction.

There was no overall sense of continuity—no feeling of going on a journey from the beginning of the show to the logical conclusion. Despite the flowery descriptions creative staff come up with to justify their shows, SCV's show was quite literally like a long series of 1- or 2-second cuts in a video, each one jarring, seemingly designed to be as abrupt as possible.

The ballad alone blows away the first two points.  In fact, thanks to you, this ballad will be replaying a memory loop in my head all morning.  There is plenty of melody and a steady tempo throughout.  The only possible explanation for this is that you only viewed this show on broadcasts where the ballad soloists were not properly captured in the audio, or from equally poor seating locations live.

Continuity is a more subjective issue.  Obviously, a competitive drum corps program must explore many moods, dynamics and tonalities in about ten minutes.  The continuity of lengthy symphony movements cannot fit into that format.  I think you overstate your case regarding SCV, though.  If you think that was jarring and cut up, I would love to hear your reaction to Blue Devils, Cavaliers, Blue Stars, Mandarins and Colts.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm totally devastated.

I thought I was going to come to DCP and find the objective meaning of life, drum corps, and everything. 

Now I'm starting sense that DCP might be just a bunch of drum corps fans, with opinions, on a message board.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

13 hours ago, sched88 said:

When I was at Allentown for DCI East, the Mandarins performed their show as a standstill because of the rain.  I was totally bored with it because there was no movement or color guard to go with it.  When I saw them at the theater for prelims, I really enjoyed it because the movement and color brought the music to life and visa versa. That's what makes drum corps so cool to me.  I like the music and movement together.  One without the other just isn't as exciting in the context of drum corps. I wouldn't expect the same if I was going to an orchestral concert.

If one wants motion and music together at a "concert hall", then attend a ballet.  The big difference, of course, is that the music for a ballet stands on its own, as it should.  The same cannot be said for present drum corps "music".  I see today's DC music as a soundtrack for a visual presentation and is, for the most part, uninteresting, as witnessed when listening to the Mandarin standstill in Allentown.  But then I haven't found the latest soundtracks for the latest films very interesting either.  

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

14 hours ago, jthomas666 said:

OK, thanks for the info.  I was under the impression the judges saw the shows on a more regular basis.

And just so we're clear, I am not implying any sort of dissatisfaction regarding SCVs show.  Yes, I'm not familiar with any of the music, but it is growing on me.  And the musicianship on display was unreal.

This site has an excellent database of which judges judged what shows and what captions:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

18 hours ago, SWriverstone said:

I've gotta go for now, but maybe a good related question is: who is the audience for drum corps? And more importantly, who should it be? Clearly a lot of people think the audience for drum corps shows is made up almost entirely of music school students or graduates who are drum corps fans. Because if anyone thinks the general lay public is going to love a piece like Metropolis 1927, you should spend some time listening to FM radio. (I think DCI would be shocked to find out how quickly their fan base would grow if shows were more accessible to average audiences-which could easily be done without dumbing them down.)

More later!

We all know that programs are written for the judging community and whatever they are rewarding. They are not created for the general audience. This has been the case for a long time now.

I also agree with a number of statements the BoyWonder made earlier. SCV's execution of this product was stellar! However this era of experimentation is here to stay. 



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of interesting posts and points—thanks! 

On the definition of quality—lots of people put forth the notion that "there is no such thing as definable quality." Maybe. But if you follow this concept to its logical conclusion, then DCI wouldn't exist—because there would be no competition. Why? Because you can no more or less define "quality" in music than you can in execution. Just because a row of musicians marches in a flawlessly straight line or a mathematically precise curve isn't "proof" that it's "high-quality marching." 

Yes, DCI *attempts* to set forth standards by which certain aspects of a show are judged objectively—but it's just as subjective as me saying SCV's music was an epic fail. Even when given clearly-defined criteria, everything judges do is subjective. They are expressing their opinions about who is 1st, who is 2nd, and so on. (If someone has some omnipotent, mechanically precise method for determining who executes the best, please enlighten us!)

If you think I'm undermining my own argument, bear with me—in the absence of any real ability to judge objectively, subjectivity is all we have. If we don't at least try to establish some definition of quality, then we're totally unmoored—just a bunch of babbling fools making progress toward...nothing.

Getting back to the issue of SCV's music—some here seem to think I lack the ear to understand it. Again, I love a lot of music considered "difficult" by most people. I love Charles Ives' Concord Sonata.  I'm no stranger to dissonance, odd-meter rhythms, abrupt transitions, non-chord tones, bitonalism, etc. And yet I still thought SCV's show was an awful mashup filled with jarring transitions and musical filler.

I'd really like to continue the thread and try to add to the conversation, but (contrary to those who suggested I don't have enough going in my life) I have a busy life with a family, kids, and a great job with en environmental nonprofit, and I just don't have the time. Haters and single-syllable grunters rejoice! YOU WON!!!  :thumbup:

Thanks to those who made intelligent, reasonable posts—I really appreciate your replies!

Otherwise, this whole thread has left me believing that DCI has a serious case of "The Emperor's New Clothes" going on: drum corps fans have become so blinded by flashy baubles in the form of scatter drill, props on the field, hornline choreography, amplified digital samples and the like that they've forgotten how wonderful it is when a corps plays music that the crowd can actually relate to and groove with. And imagine how amazing corps shows would be if you added the scatter drill, choreography, props, etc. to an accessible musical show!

It's also clear that as a youth activity, drum corps will never grow beyond its current state without making shows more accessible and entertaining. You can deride that as lowest-common-denominator BS all you like, but it's just reality. (What's that? You think the activity is healthy and growing? Look around a bit.) If you want drum corps to be what it currently is: an insider's activity where the target audience is corps alums, parents, staff, corps members, and every high school and university band director in the nation, then Hallelujah!

But if you'd like to see every major city in the country have a great corps—and see the activity catch on in a meaningful way in smaller cities and communities (and internationally), shows like SCV's will not get you there.


PS - A couple folks asked me what drum corps shows met my criteria for great music? I could pull a list together, but it's pointless—because most of the list would be of shows from 10, 20 and 30 years ago—which many here would laugh at as being old-school and irrelevant. This is because "old-school" drum corps relied mainly on the music to sell a crowd (because they didn't have much else to offer).

• For SCV, my "Exhibit A" is their 1999 opener "The Canyon." Absolutely brilliant musically (and supported by a drill that perfectly fit the music).
• Another brilliant SCV opener: 1985's "Festive Overture" (Shostakovitch)
• The Cadets entire 1983 show: Rocky Point Holiday was one of the greatest openers in DCI history, bar none.
• Phantom Regiment's "Malambo" in 1979

I could go on—the point is NOT that the visuals of the above examples compare with today's. The point is, minimize your browser window and just LISTEN. If you''d really rather hear SCV's music from this year's show than the above examples, I just shake my head.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since we're throwing around degrees and how they apply to drum corps, I have a BS in Marketing, an MA in Psychology, and myriad certifications mostly leaning toward the former. SCV 2018 was cool, and it is marketable.

There's a handful of shows and a handful of corps that are really great at creating accessible shows. Accessible to the common viewer (so, not drum corps people, and borderline not even music people). SCV 2018, Boston 2018, the second half of Bluecoats 18, all of Bluecoats 16 and 17 (I'm forgetting many many, but you get the tone I'm talking about) are perfect in their ability to showcase the activity to a wider audience. There's goosebump moments, wow moments, and in general just coolness. They don't lack cheese necessarily, but they do it in a way that doesn't make the eyes roll. They don't try to showcase nuances that only a hard core fan would get, but instead focus on drawing everyone in. They appeal to the masses the same way a Cirque show might - I assume most people in a Cirque du Soleil show don't have an intimate knowledge of acrobatics, but they definitely enjoy what they see.

I'm not sure what the goal of this original post was, but my own personal goal, or vision, or whatever you want to call it, is to make drum corps easily appreciated by more people outside of the activity. Not mainstream - that'll never happen - but requiring significantly less explanation for the laymen to appreciate it. There are many many parts of this year's show that could be chopped into snackable social media content, and it has the potential to be shared outside of drum corps circles. That's marketable, and I love it. SCV 2018 achieved something that can be appreciated outside of our die-hard audience, and for that I applaud them.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...