SWriverstone

SCV's show was an epic musical fail.

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Great topic of discussion. I am a huge fan of 80's and 90's drum corps. The main thing about those shows compared to now is indeed the lack of emotion in the musical scores, and that a tune is rarely given more than 6 bars before moving onto the next musical phrase. As an example... Star of Indiana got it perfect...  they played a whole tune, were technical when required, but simple when it needed to be, very emotional and fantastic visually.

One tune that stood out for me this year was Spirits ballad. They did a great job and shows it can be done.

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12 hours ago, SWriverstone said:

But in spite of everyone swooning over the ballad in the show, I can think of many, many other ballads I've heard (both from drum corps and elsewhere) that I think tower over this particular ballad from a musical perspective. I cannot evaluate any corps music in a vacuum without comparing it to every other work of music I've ever heard. If you think SCV's ballad was the most beautiful thing you've ever heard, I'm baffled. (Which is okay—it's okay to be baffled!)

To clarify my own opinion, I make no "greatest ever" claim regarding the 2018 SCV ballad.  But it does provide all three of the elements that you identified as necessary to avoid epic musical fails.

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With drum corps, I think the overall level of ensemble performance has absolutely progressed—but I don't think the music has gotten any "better" over the past few decades. It's been twisted and chopped and spliced to fit the insatiable needs of a hyperactive drill and choreography.

Well, that I generally agree with.

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PS - I'm still interested and somewhat amused that not one person in this huge thread has made a single comment about the musical merit (or lack thereof) of the examples i linked to in an earlier post (even from older SCV shows) of what I think are brilliant musical examples. It would be GREAT if someone would take any of those pieces and explain why (in your opinion, of course) what SCV performed this year was so much better?

Oh, those were fine examples.  They all speak to the elements you are looking for, and they work for me too.  I am not here to claim 2018 SCV is superior in musical construction... only that it is far from an "epic musical fail", and that specifically, by your own standards, there are more than a handful of other corps more deserving of your criticism.

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It's  #### like this that reminds me to stay miles away from this cesspool. I would love to see you craft a drum corps score that will excel incredibly well, please the audience and win a championship. 

You can have your own opinion.

 Let others have their own.

 

 

Edited by 20XXMM

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4 hours ago, SiFrySopUK said:

Great topic of discussion. I am a huge fan of 80's and 90's drum corps. The main thing about those shows compared to now is indeed the lack of emotion

I go back to the1960's. Have drawn emotion throughout that period up to now (on/off). Last few years was right up there in emotion for several of us that has been around for ages. Guess my saving grace is I am not trained in music or any of the arts for that madder. I go to a show with an open mind no preconceived expectations and am hardly disappointed, don't have a good enough memory to compare decades of fun times and entertainment against each other.

For me emotion comes from within not the opposite. The on/off is also from within, moods change outside influences differ from year to year that affect how I felt at a certain point in my life. To me the MMs have always played their hearts out no madder what era and it was me that was not able to appreciate because of where my head was at the time.

Love the Kids Grove Scouts like what they are playing this year wish they were coming to DCA.

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2 hours ago, cixelsyd said:

 

delete

Edited by Bluzes
typo

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9 hours ago, Jeff Ream said:

###### if I can't stop humming that ballad and closer

iTunes served up the source on a random shuffle last night for me. I was pretty much agog at how well SCV translated that to the field. 

 

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Sorry, I had to respond to this one as well:

On ‎8‎/‎14‎/‎2018 at 10:42 AM, SWriverstone said:

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.

This paragraph is, to put it kindly, incorrect.

I went back and listened to the show (always happy to have an excuse). Number of tempo changes within each movement -

  • Preshow / My Body is a Cage - 0
  • Opener / Journey to the Center of the Earth - 0
  • Production / Metropolis 1927 - 0
  • Drum Solo - 0
  • Ballad / My Body is a Cage - 1 (rit/accel at the end of the first baritone solo)
  • Dance Feature / Club Sound - 0
  • Closer / Metropolis 1927 - 3 (slight accel during the pit feature into the closing melody, slow down for the horn fanfare, a tempo through the end)

There's just not musical ADD in this show.  Now the pieces may make you feel uncomfortable or edgy, but in structure, like I keep saying, the parts of the show are fairly conventionally assembled.  They're just *really* good parts!

Mike

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15 hours ago, SWriverstone said:

it's okay to be baffled!

Thank You for giving us some space and almost approving our love for SCV.  I respect your knowledge but I live in a musical safe space that appreciates music in a vacuum no time to compare the ballad or any other piece of entertainment, that is what your career and training enables not ours, we have the judges for that. If you need to pick a fight take it up with them not the fans. There are no words or outlines that are going to make any difference. We adored it, got the goose bumps my wife and I hugged each other when we heard SCV won. 

I am baffled that in this day and age someone with the musical expertise that you acquired is so determined to change the fans minds about what we just experienced (don't you have peers to bounce this around with) . We were emotionally moved had tears in our eyes it was the greatest in that moment. Other moments will come and we will love them as well. Why does that bother you? 

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On ‎8‎/‎14‎/‎2018 at 8:42 AM, SWriverstone said:

There's a well-known and studied psychological phenomenon called the mere-exposure effect (also called the familiarity principle). It means people develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. Put more simply, if you listen to lousy music long enough, you'll start thinking it's good. (This isn't opinion—it's fact.) 

It's clear that DCI audiences are suffering from this effect in a big way. Witness what DCI judges considered the pinnacle of shows in 2018 by awarding it a championship (SCV). Now I get that drum corps is more than just music—it's "art" (though I could make a case for why it really isn't, even at the highest levels). Drill, choreography, difficulty, etc. are all part of the activity. But the emotional underpinnings of any show are the music. You aren't going to be swept to emotional highs by a single high rifle toss or a big two-handed rimshot. The music matters—a lot. 

I've spent countless hours of my life studying, listening to, and performing music of all kinds. I have a BM degree from Juilliard—which doesn't make me more knowledgeable than anyone else—it simply certifies that I'm very knowledgeable about music—and what distinguishes good music from bad music. Contrary to popular belief, music isn't "in the ear of the beholder." It's entirely possible to judge it objectively and even place it (roughly) on a universal scale from bad to good. (If you're someone who believes the quality of music is entirely subjective, you're a hypocrite—because you logically must say the same about everything in life—which I'm sure you don't.)

So on to SCV's show: I've watched it several times. Not dozens or hundreds of times—because remember the mere-exposure effect? I'm not going to destroy my judgement by watching it every day for the entire summer (like the corps members and staff do). The first criterion for great music is that—on the first listen—it moves you. If it doesn't, then it could easily be argued the music has failed. Some might argue that it's not just the music in drum corps that should move you, but the collective experience of music, drill, and choreography. Fair enough. But nobody would argue that the music has a far greater impact on a show's general effect than either drill or choreography. And drill and choreography don't even come close to having the emotional impact of music.

I watched SCV's show with an open heart and mind. I love SCV! I always have. And I give every show the benefit of the doubt because I want to be moved emotionally. When I watch a drum corps show, I want to have tears in my eyes. I don't give a flip about how cleanly a difficult move is executed. It's interesting, but that will never move me to tears. (That's a bit like trying to be moved to tears by a brilliantly-designed coffeepot—it ain't gonna happen.) While watching (and listening) to SCV's show, I paid attention. I focused on the melody (or absence of it), the harmonies, the transitions, the tempo changes—I sat back and let it wash over me without judgement.

It left me cold and feeling completely flat.

After hearing it the first time, I thought "Okay, I'm just not familiar with it." (There's that principle again!) So I watched/listened again. And again. And in what is a testament to the absolute sterility of the show's music, familiarity didn't help at all. Every time I listened to SCV's show, it was just as pointless and unemotional as the previous listening. Here's what I noticed, repeatedly:

• 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.

This was, plain and simple, an epic musical fail. (And therefore, a fail of a show—in spite of winning.)

Some of you reading this will think I just don't get it. Okay—I'll humor you: I get cubist paintings. I get architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright. And I get music by Steve Reich, Igor Stravinsky, Vincent Persichetti, John Cage, and countless other "challenging" composers. I have a very sophisticated musical ear. My favorite composer is Charles Ives—I've listened to his Concord Sonata hundreds of times—and every time I hear something I didn't hear before. (And trust me—Ives' Concord Sonata is light years ahead of any DCI show in sophistication.)

Some of you will think I'm just an old fart who doesn't understand current music. At this I just shake my head and laugh: have you noticed that people still love The Beatles, Beethoven, Mississippi John Hurt, and Joni Mitchell? This music isn't any less relevant and popular today than it was 25 or 100 years ago.

When it comes to music, you can't get rid of the fundamental elements that make music great without destroying it:

1. It moves you emotionally on the FIRST listen.
2. It is memorable—you can actually hum or sing some of it after one hearing—and ALL of it after several hearings.
3. It has a steady, consistent pulse that you can slip into and feel—in a sustained way—while you listen.

SCV's show had NONE of these qualities on the first hearing (or second, third, or fourth). which is why I call it an epic fail.

What disturbs me even more than SCV performing this show (who has a long history of connecting emotionally with audiences through great music) is the fact that DCI judges apparently reward this "music" that is devoid of any characteristics of good music. Yes, I know—they're judging more than the music (I already acknowledged this), but the judging community has lost its way. Clearly judges are more focused on difficulty (in the form of chaotic, disjointed shows packed with tempo changes and 32nd-note runs) than they are on emotionally connecting with audiences.

---
In many ways, I guess we've gotten what we deserve. It's widely acknowledged that young people today have an average attention span of seconds. Maybe show designers are catering to this? Maybe we—as an American species—have lost the ability to focus on something more than 10 seconds without needing an abrupt change? Listen to pop music today and it's clear that it exists on a level far lower in intelligence than it ever has in the past (just look at all the hit songs about nothing more than partying). Even the Academy Awards have officially decided movie audiences are dumb–they've created a new Oscar for "Best Popular Film."  (Because a popular film can't be intelligent or have depth.)

If anyone out there disagrees with my premise that SCV's show was a musical fail (and I'm sure hundreds or thousands do), feel free to explain (hopefully in more than single-syllable words) why you think it was great. Tell me how this show moved you emotionally. And as proof, record yourself singing some part of SCV's show and post the MP3 here. :-) (Corps members and staff who performed/arranged the show aren't allowed–your impartial judgement is long gone).

Scott

Hans Christian Anderson wrote a short tale about a couple of WEAVERS who promised to make a suit of clothing for the EMPEROR.  The weavers eloquence and position convinced the kingdom that those unfit of their position, those ignorant, uneducated and incompetent would not be able to "see" any clothing at all... 

The NAKED truth is Scott's original posting, which he has since somewhat modified in tone, eloquently details that he is convinced of everything he believes.

I'm not sure if he is the "weaver" or has been "woven" to think as he does...

Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell, Children will listen...

Careful before you say, listen to me...

 

I'm thinking Jubal has a show theme begging to be explored...

 

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On 8/14/2018 at 10:42 AM, SWriverstone said:

But the emotional underpinnings of any show are the music. You aren't going to be swept to emotional highs by a single high rifle toss or a big two-handed rimshot. The music matters—a lot.

It's been about two days, and I'm surprised that no percussionist has yet chimed in to take issue with the above implication, that rim shots are not music.

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