SCV's show was an epic musical fail.

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2 hours ago, Ghost said:

Great reply Horn Teacher.  Your comments on DCP have been sorely missed.

Your words mean much to me, Ghost...as of which I find great assurance, along with the greatest of appreciation and fellow respect by now.  But remember, please...mine are only one man's opinion.  However...I thank you.  With equal sincerity and respect given and intended, Good Sir.

Edited by HornTeacher

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7 hours ago, Triple Forte said:

I discussed this with a lot of fans in Indy and most agreed with me.  I said SCV is always popular and after they beat BD a couple times I believe most of support was for seeing SCV get gold more and less about the actual show. To me SCV 2016 was vintage SCV and 2018 is really good but not 2016 (Design wise) 

2016 is still one of my favorite SCV shows ever 

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This was quite an odd post for me.

Drum corps has certainly suffered from:

Lack of melody 

Flawed visual first thinking (flawed because it's presented as the only way to do things)

Faddy, fashionable stuff with no substance

Emperor's new clothes 


... but... when I was telling people how much I enjoyed SCV what I always signed off with was ".. and it's got melodies!"

How on earth can a Juilliard product not hear the M1927 ending as anything but a big, tonal, old fashioned tune???!!!

Now you might not like it. But it IS. A melody!!!

Edited by RADIO3
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10 minutes ago, Cappybara said:

2016 is still one of my favorite SCV shows ever 

How come I can remember what corps played 50 years ago but need to go to my hard drive to figure out what you are talking about? Is there a medical term for that?

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Swamp troll. 

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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).


Yes Scott, the moon does follow you when you walk from your car to your basement appartment in your parent's house... 

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I truly don't think I've heard this kind of vitriolic reaction to a medalist show since Star '93...and we know how consensus opinion about that show has evolved over the last 25 years.  I hope SCV understands that any questions about their relevance to the activity has been soundly answered with this kind of response...or for some folks will be in a few decades.  

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18 hours ago, Triple Forte said:

I discussed this with a lot of fans in Indy and most agreed with me.  I said SCV is always popular and after they beat BD a couple times I believe most of support was for seeing SCV get gold more and less about the actual show. To me SCV 2016 was vintage SCV and 2018 is really good but not 2016 (Design wise) 

The reaction to the show in many venues BD wasn’t at disproves your theory 

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