SWriverstone

SCV's show was an epic musical fail.

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1 hour ago, 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. OK and? 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  I don't know, you might be a vocalist or string major who barely passed his or her juries, but continue! -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. It moved several judges panels over the course of season, 28 times to be exact, but continue (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 RIGHT!!!!!!! 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 on the other hand, don't want to cry, I already saw COCO from Pixar, but continue! 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. That BM from Julliard is really paying off! but continue! 

It left me cold and feeling completely flat. BLESS YOUR HEART, I DIDN'T GET THE SAME REACTION! 

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. Once again, 28 judges panels over the course of season beg to differ, but continue! 

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. It connected with me, the judging community, audiences throughout the summer, but continue! 

---
In many ways, I guess we've gotten what we deserve YES, Santa Clara Vanguard deserved the championship because they had the best designed show and executed extremely well (remember they WON the MUSIC, Brass and Percussion caption at FINALS and other shows) multiple panels throughout the season!! but continue. 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). My three cents for Scott: become a judge, join a corp staff and fix their inherent faults with music or become a composer, so corps can perform your composition. CONGRATULATIONS for Santa Clara Vanguard, YOU MOVED ME LIKE NO OTHER THIS SEASON, YOUR MUSIC SELECTIONS WHERE SPOT ON, I LOVED THE NUANCE, TEXTURE, DISSONANCE, THE HARMONY and THAT MELLOPHONE LINE WAS DEVINE, THE PIT SUBLIME, THE SOLOS ON POINT,  KUDOS TO THE STAFF FOR CHALLENGING ME MUSICALLY! HANDS DOWN A MUSICAL JOURNEY! 

Scott

 

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26 minutes ago, Cappybara said:

Phantom appears on my list regardless of their show, they are my favorite corps. 

SCV is on my list because I appreciated the technical brilliance and flow of the show despite the sterility of the music

Both of your opinions are very interesting to me!  Different strokes for different folks and that's okay with me.

On point one: I marched Crown but I certainly don't include all of their shows in my favorites.  

On point two: Crown's show this year (for example) was really technically brilliant but the flow of the show kind of killed everything else for me.  I think "If I Fell" was one of the most beautiful moments of music I heard from anyone this year...but with the exception of the trombone feature...the rest of the show was kind of like "hey, look what we can play...and we really like to stand still and swivel our legs/feet around", but it didn't speak to me at all, personally.  The trombone feature part of the show sounded like something I'd associate with hearing at a pep rally.  It doesn't mean the kids didn't perform the show incredibly well, because I think they did!

My favorite shows of this year were SCV, Boston and Blue Stars.

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1 hour ago, Lance said:

people like the OP really think they have some special insight

it's kind of adorable

He does have plenty of insight. More than me or a lot of posters who post their opinions on here. 

Where he falls short is he doesn’t realize what he is writing is his opinion

Edited by Cappybara
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6 minutes ago, Nespy said:

Both of your opinions are very interesting to me!  Different strokes for different folks and that's okay with me.

On point one: I marched Crown but I certainly don't include all of their shows in my favorites.  

On point two: Crown's show this year (for example) was really technically brilliant but the flow of the show kind of killed everything else for me.  I think "If I Fell" was one of the most beautiful moments of music I heard from anyone this year...but with the exception of the trombone feature...the rest of the show was kind of like "hey, look what we can play...and we really like to stand still and swivel our legs/feet around", but it didn't speak to me at all, personally.  The trombone feature part of the show sounded like something I'd associate with hearing at a pep rally.  It doesn't mean the kids didn't perform the show incredibly well, because I think they did!

My favorite shows of this year were SCV, Boston and Blue Stars.

I probably shouldn’t feel obligated to put Phantom on there but I do ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

i think it’s easier for very technical shows to come off as sterile. I don’t feel moved when I listen to the show, I feel amazed at how the performers just did what they did. I’m amazed by the design and the thought that went into the arranging of the show. But I can agree with OP that the show comes off sterile. Though the exception would be the ballad 

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2 hours ago, 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

In my opinion, Metropolis 1927 is one of the most memorable and emotional pieces of music Peter Graham has ever written, with a steady and consistent pulse (I think that's contrary to all of your points). SCV delivered the second best rendition I have ever heard after Black Dyke's European winning version. I think I can sing pretty much most of the melody, excluding the lip slurs, but am not willing to subject anyone to that pain. I feel sad that you missed the moment that the majority of us who were there on Saturday took away.

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3 hours ago, SWriverstone said:

There's a well-known and studied psychological phenomenon called

To continue your sentence. There's a well-known and studied psychological phenomenon called JAZZ. Without all the technobabble that follows it just boils down to that, you don't like JAZZ, thanks I get it. I find a lot of folks think they like JAZZ but really don't. However not many of them were in attendance for three shows last week. 

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41 minutes ago, HockeyDad said:

Well, he DOES have a BM from Juilliard. 

It should've been a BS instead.

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I haven’t read through this entire thread but, good lord!

I’ll say this, i was unfamiliar with SCV’s music but it grabbed by the b**** upon my first listen. 

(I also have a music degree although it’s not from the prestigious Juilliard school, BFA bassoon performance.)

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I'm not sure where the chop and bop is that you criticize so heavily?  The core of the show is built around My Body is a Cage (Peter Gabriel version), and they pretty much play the song in its entirety.  Anyways, the show is fairly clearly segmented into opener, production number, drum feature, ballad, dance feature and closer, and I'd make the argument that the final five of those are complete and straightforward arrangements, without a lot of musical left turns or such.  The only song I think you might have an argument with is the opener, but I haven't heard the source material yet. 

The ballad especially meets every single criteria you described - memorable/hummable, no massive tempo changes, evokes feeling. Check, check and check.

So, I have to respectfully disagree.  I think SCV actually had a fairly conventional music book.  I also think they had a fairly *great* music book.

Mike

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