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"Stop standing around! That's not how this works!" (Another Show Comparison)

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10 minutes ago, denverjohn said:

We smoked a few cigarettes and called it good.

Have corps outlawed smoking by now? It was a smoke fest in the lot even in the 2000's. 

I would imagine corps have stopped trying to ban cell phones from tour by now? 

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On 7/11/2019 at 3:45 PM, jwillis35 said:
  • Battery percussion is playing and marching a lot.
  • The responsibility of the pit is solid, but not overwhelming or nearly as diverse in instrumentation as we see today.

There's so much good stuff in this thread. It really is just a breath of fresh air. Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful responses and memories. 

Just to touch on the quoted text, excellent observation. I think anyone who marched battery in the late 80's will share my recollection as well. We moved a lot and played a lot, yes. But we also moved a lot in straight lines and diagonals. Our drum features were all front and center park and play stuff. I don't think today's material is more difficult from a rudimental  standpoint than what we played at least in my 87'-90' time frame, but these MM's are ALL OVER the field and what they're playing ain't exactly a cosmo either. The skill level of all of these cats, across all captions is at a next world level compared to what we did IMHO. 

On the second point, EVERY front ensemble player now seems to be a top flight musician. These guys now are just flat out artists performing their craft. We had talented players as well, but 10 out of 10 players weren't at the top level. I think the parts now are just quite frankly, better written. I don't even hate the electronics as some do. It can become a little over the top with bass drops at every impact point, but we can't always get what we want all the time. 

Again, just a fantastic topic. Love it, love it, love it. 

Edited by Weaklefthand4ever
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1 hour ago, StuStu said:

I do remember this.  I spent HOURS working ok the mello runs a 4 after 62.  Those eventually were cut for the 2d mellos.  We did the pinwheels while the 1st mellos played the runs. 

Again proving one of the fundamental premises in this thread - the harder the music, the easuer the visual, and verse visa.  As true in 2019 as it was in 1987.

####, this is a fun thread. 

I love how in the drill you're meant to think (at least I think so) that the people doing the pinwheels are playing the runs.. and you think it based on their movement imo.

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3 minutes ago, frachel said:

I love how in the drill you're meant to think (at least I think so) that the people doing the pinwheels are playing the runs.. and you think it based on their movement imo.

Smoke and mirrors

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4 minutes ago, LyricalCoder said:

Smoke and mirrors

The tricks are endless... And worth it for the effect.

Another one is layering runs and ostinato patters (so that groups are trading off the line).  Mixing articulations is a good one too (X plays tongue, tongue, slur; while Y plays slur, tongue, tongue... And it comes across as tongue, tongue, tongue, tongue).  So many clever tricks to make it work and keep it all together while maintaining the 'wow' factor.

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So a few days ago I commented on Garfield's spectacular 1987 show. Below are my thoughts on Blue Devils exciting and spectacular production from 2017.

How We Got Here

Most of you know all this, but I do think it's fair that when comparing two shows (both amazing) but from vastly different eras, it is necessary to examine the 30 years between the design of these two productions.  Over the past 30 years we have seen...

  • corps of today are using better instruments
  • many more music majors marching with the top-tier corps, including more specialized members coming from WGI, BOA, dance studios, etc.
  • design models have certainly changed, with more influence from BOA and WGI finding its way into DCI.
  • For lack of better word, shows today are more theatrical. This isn't to say they are all presenting a Broadway show on the field, but there is a great concentration on the combination of the arts. Body movement and staging with dance, with shared responsibilities in these area between guard, brass, and percussion. The staging has allowed for more interaction with all the elements and performers.
  • Electronic amplification is allowed, along with non-brass and percussion instruments such as bass, synth, strings, and keyboards
  • Props are more elaborate today and much more important to the show (in general). Many of them are used to a high degree (Bluecoats 2016, BD 2014 to now, SCV 2018, and many more examples)
  • Narration, singing, audio clips, and sound effects are all part of the norm today

Blue Devils 2017

  • There is a notion that many have in which they believe Blue Devils lack of traditional, full ensemble marching somehow makes their shows less difficult. Very false. 
  • There is also a notion that today's brass and drum lines have less physical demand placed on them because they are not marching (traditional style) and playing at the same time nearly as much as corps did in the 70s, 80s, 90s. Also false.
  • I think the first thing to do with today's shows, and BD 2017 is certainly a perfect example, is to appreciate them. Period. We are seeing a different style and I love it. No, it's not the 80s. I'm fine with that. I loved the 80s and 90s. But now is now. I love the trial and error, but I especially love when a corps, like BD, can knock something completely out of the park, as they did with their Metamorph 2017 show. We don't need to knock down the current model of design in order to prop up the 80s. Garfield Cadets of 1987 will remain a timeless classic, like the Wizard of Oz, many decades from now even when shows are no longer created that way. 
  • As for the Blue Devils 2017 show, there are obvious differences in design (as there should be 30 years later)
  • For starters the brass and percussion have many other responsibilities to the visual program in addition to playing. There is a physical element that goes beyond just marching and playing (which is certainly physical enough). But BD brass and percussion are combining jazz running, body movement, and dance with the traditional marching. 
  • Does the brass line play their most difficult passages while in some staged area? Most of the time, sure. But this is nothing new. Many corps even back in the day did the same thing. Those corps were also not running roughly a half mile (the jazz running between scenes) per show while also engaging in dance, other body movement, and some seriously tough playing (standing or marching). 
  • If you watch Metamorph closely (and there is a video out there that gives you the perspective from a trumpet cam) the corps was doing some serious running. Just the jazz running alone might have been close to a half mile per member for the show to go along with so much more. I doubt very much that most folks who have been out of drum corps for say 4 to 5 years would even make it through BD's opener without being totally gassed. Not unless you continue to keep yourself in great shape.
  • Let's now talk about timing. Most traditionally marched shows from back in the day used typical evenly-numbered counts between sets (8, 16, 24, 32). Typical step-offs were on strong beats of the music (1 & 3). There are exceptions, but this was certainly more common in the day. If you watch BD 2017 closely, they include a lot of moves where the performers break rank from a traditional motion form, often doing this at a new tempo or double time, then they fall back into time while setting a new form. As the new form sets, other members break rank as well, but they do so on any count, or even half count, moving at double time or just scattering (all the while maintaining their timing with the music coming from their brass or percussion instrument) and then they fall into the new form and find the proper footing/timing. 
  • I really don't know what I would call the above, but it's a type of flex sequencing. It is somewhat similar to what we saw the Cavaliers do so effectively in the 90s and 2000s. But their sequences were often evenly metered (although not always) and usually revolved around a specific move that would be repeated in sequence by 2 groups, then 4, then 8, and so on. What BD is doing now is totally different with some similarities. 
  • THE MUSIC: much like Garfield in 1987, the Blue Devils played fantastic music in 2017. The old-school opening with modern elements thrown in was well staged. The old school percussion beat was awesome to hear. The first brass hit is goosebumps, and had a film score feel to it. Flight of the Bumble Bee is fast and furious, with great staging and a few WOW drill moments to bring home to bacon. The ballad had some great solos, and allowed BD to stage the guard very effectively. But the icing on the cake was staging the brass on the other side of the field, closed into a clustered circle and letting them remind us that old-school park and bark is still exciting and an effective part of a show in this style. The section features in this show, exposing each section, was amazing. The tubas in Bumble Bee, the Trumpets in several tunes including the long feature toward the end, the bones just before the percussion feature, and more. Musically, this was as entertaining as any show in 2017, coming from a corps that many have criticized for being too complex and modern. That has not been the case from 2014 to now. 
  • Finally we have the amazing guard showcasing everything from old-school rifle work, to the wings from the 1985 era, to modern rifle and flag work that left the jaw dropped. And the dancing, staging, and interplay with the rest of the corps was on a different level from everyone else. 
  • In my opinion, 2017 Blue Devils is one of the best shows of its' era and I hold it pretty high among the greatest shows of all time. They scored higher in 2014 (phenomenal corps), but I like 2017 better. 
  • There is more that we could say about this show, and much more we could argue over as well, I am sure. But if anyone thinks this show was easy, they clearly are not evaluating the content. They are simply holding to old sayings like "they don't march" or "all their hard music is standing still." So limited in scope is this type of thinking.

A few more thoughts on this show:

  • I loved the use of color and uniform. Beginning the show with jacket and hat, then moving away from that as the show got more modern. 
  • The guard outfits were perfect, and seeing that many rifles at the beginning of the show perfectly illustrated that you can occasionally throw in some old-school corps and make it fun. The crowd ate it up. 
  • One of the similarities with BD 17 and Garfield 87 is the use of field. Amazing field coverage. It's achieved quite differently, but so effective.
Edited by jwillis35
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On 7/12/2019 at 5:42 PM, frachel said:

I love how in the drill you're meant to think (at least I think so) that the people doing the pinwheels are playing the runs.. and you think it based on their movement imo.

You know it's interesting that you say that. BD in the Scott Johnson era is pretty famous for visual trickery like running rolls straight into double paradiddles. It makes it APPEAR that the lines has this sudden burst of speed when it's really just a trick.

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Mark Spitz won 7 gold medals in the 1972 Munich Olympics with times that wouldn't even qualify for the national team in 2019.  Yet he remains one of the all-time great Olympians.

The accomplishments of today don't diminish the achievements of the past.  Time makes one long continuum that ties us all together.

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