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A Dinosaur's Lament

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11 minutes ago, cixelsyd said:

I think the same can be said for any 40-year period.  1980 and 1940 were both tick system - in that comparison, the creativity and general excellence of 1980 is off the charts.

But I would say that the developments over that time had very little to do with visual innovation. Sure there was expansion of the musical book, but that had more to do with the evolution from single rotor bugles to 2 vertical valve bugles. I guess we should ask the question was there more progression in the activity from 1940 to 1971 or from 1972 to 1980 because getting away from the design restraints of the VFW probably did a lot to move the activity forward. 

As far as general excellence, by 1980, we had many more marching members who were actual high school and college musicians then in 1940. Today, you need to be a top tier player to be in a top tier corps. 

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7 hours ago, BlueStainGlass said:

Another one of these? 🥱

What's the problem? Well-reasoned, informed, respectful. 

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5 hours ago, 2muchcoffeeman said:

Granted, it's hard to see evidence for your assertion on the surface. Bloo is a riot of unconventional thinking. Crown has blown people's minds several times this decade. There is no other word for Mandarins this year than creative.

But if I follow you correctly, your diagnosis is more directed at the creativity of method, not at the content of the performances. BD has mastered the method, and thus need only apply the thinnest of new washes over the top each season to collect another gold medal. Surely this can't be what the visionaries had in mind in the 1980s when the tick system was abolished. It's worth thinking about.

Thank you, this is exactly what I was trying to communicate. My argument is not that "there is no creativity in drum corps any more." My argument is that "wild" shows (like Bluecoats this season) cannot and will not ever win in the current system.

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21 hours ago, hostrauser said:

2023 was the first time in over 30 years that I was not a DCI spectator in any way, shape, or form. I didn't go to any shows. I didn't go to Big, Loud, Live in the theater. And I didn't purchase video performances (live streams now, replacing the DVDs and VHS tapes of yore). Because the drum corps atmosphere--not the corps themselves, but the overall drum corps environment--has gotten truly, stiflingly...


1992 was the year I was introduced to DCI. 1993 was the year I became a super-fan. I think I still have those 1993 tapes memorized. In 1993, the build-up style of judging was only about a decade old. I remember the interviews with Jeff Fiedler and Gene Monterastelli on those tapes, and Monterastelli in particular pointing out the big flaw of the tick system: it was beating down corps trying new things in favor of corps who weren't doing as much stuff but were doing it cleaner. And it really did lead to a revolution in drum corps design. From 1988 to 1992, five years, there were five different champions with five different and distinct styles. And 1993 promised to continue that trend: Cadets, Star of Indiana, and Phantom put out three fantastic drum corps shows that were completely and totally different from one another. It was an exciting era. It was partly because you didn't know who was going to win from year to year, but even more so because you didn't know HOW that corps was going to get to the top. The Blue Devils won in 1994, 1996, and 1997 with three entirely different show designs.

Ah, the Blue Devils. So much dislike of that corps and resentment of their recent success from the peanut gallery. To hear some people talk, the Blue Devils are everything that is wrong with modern drum corps. And that's KINDA right, but probably not in the way you'd expect.

The 2005 Blue Devils changed drum corps probably even more than 1993 Star of Indiana did, though it's not recognized as such. After that lackluster season (by their standards), the Blue Devils changed. The Blue Devils have the smartest design staff in DCI, have for a long time. 2005 made them re-evaluate everything they did in show design, whether it was a conscious decision or a subconscious recognition of reality, I do not know. But the Blue Devils were the first, the fastest, and the best at recognizing what DCI judges do and do not want, and they simply trimmed everything outside of that from their shows going forward. They found the one major, hard and fast rule of modern DCI judging and had it pretty much locked in by 2007. They've finished 1st or 2nd (by tiny margins) every year since.

What is this magic rule that the Blue Devils learned over 15 years ago, that other corps either haven't figured out or refuse to abide by? Simple:


There's no extra credit! Don't do anything you can get away with not doing if you want to score well. Judges want variety of demand and cleanliness, the Blue Devils provide that in spades every season (it's usually the SAME variety of demand... but I get ahead of myself. More on that in a moment). Anything beyond that, difficulty for difficulty's sake, is just going to drag your score down unless you can get it as clean as the Blue Devils. Which, let's face it, you probably can't. Look at 2023. The Bluecoats had, in this idiot's opinion, a lot more visual difficulty in their show. But the Blue Devils were LOADS cleaner. The miniscule spacing and timing problems that popped up here and there in the Bluecoats' show simply weren't present in the Blue Devils' show. And, of course, the Blue Devils guard was near flawless. I think corps feel the need to try to do MORE than the Blue Devils to beat them, but I think it's the exact opposite. They need to do LESS, and make it CLEANER.

The Build-Up judging system has fallen into the same pitfall the old Tick system had: it is beating down corps trying new things in favor of corps who aren't doing as much stuff but were doing it cleaner. Full circle.

Now, this next sentence will probably surprise you, so I hope you are sitting down. I love the Blue Devils. Seriously. 1994 Blue Devils remains one of my Top 5 shows of all time. I CHOSE to audition for the Blue Devils over any other corps (back when I had that youthful naivete that hid from me just how awful of a visual performer I was). And I love the Blue Devils design concepts. I just wish it weren't pretty much the same thing, year after year after year. The same staging concepts. The same visual elements. The Blue Devils are a truly awesome sports car, but all they do is change the paint job each year. Because they know (consciously or subconsciously) they can't do much else without getting hammered for it.

Who's to blame? The Blue Devils? DCI judges? I feel it's kind of a chicken and the egg situation. On one hand, the Blue Devils have heavily influenced the course of DCI judging. On the other hand, many of their design features became mainstays solely due to positive reinforcement from the judges. I would absolutely LOVE to see what the Blue Devils staff would come up with if the judging system gave any signs at all that something different would be acceptable. Even the most recent non-BD champions (2018 Vanguard and 2016 Bluecoats) have strong Blue Devils influence on their design styles.

And that's why 1993 and the years surrounding it remain such a fond memory for me. Sure, those G bugles sounded dreadful, and even the top corps made performance fracks that you wouldn't see or hear in ANY finalist corps today. But year after year after year you not only had no idea who was going to win, you had no idea HOW they were going to win. Cadets' style? Star of Indiana's style? Phantom's style? Blue Devils' style?

But today, there is only one winning style: the Blue Devils' style. All other styles have been judged and found wanting. Everyone is trapped. Even the Blue Devils.

And that makes drum corps boring.


"It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it." --Maurice Switzer

"Hold my beer." --Hostrauser

As a fellow dinosaur, I'd salute you, but I have tiny arms 😆

Like you, I've gotten bored with the absolute lack of parity at the top of the scoring chain and show design getting more and more obtuse and less musically focused. 2016 was the last year I recall attending DCI and to be honest I really haven't missed it.

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7 hours ago, MikeRapp said:

Yeah but…

Compare show designs today to show designs using the tick system. They literally don’t compare. The creativity and general excellence is off the charts now. Literally.

The theory of the tick system is one thing; the unintended outcomes are something entirely different.

Eliminating the tic system had little, if anything to do with the advancements of modern Drum Corps.  I was there from before the creation of DCI and saw all the advancements from 1971 until about 1980 -  all occurring under the dreaded "tic system."  Drum Corps was already evolving and it wasn't going to matter what judging system was used. 

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At this point I think having AI judge wouldn't be a bad thing.


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3 minutes ago, Mello Dude said:

At this point I think having AI judge wouldn't be a bad thing.


John Conner is on line one waiting to speak with you. 

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9 hours ago, Boss Anova said:

performance and execution of it. Thats how I assess this anyway. Did the Blue Devils win percussion on Finals Night ?  ( no ). Did the Blue Devils win Brass on Finals Night ?  ( no ). So they did not win the " Drums & Bugles "?  Correct. But BD did not need to. They still won going away. 

Coats '16 Finals night would like a word with you.

Edited by resipsaloquitur
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This is a little off-topic, so apologies if that is a problem. During the periods from 1983-1987, when Cadets won 4 years out of 5, or 2000-2006, when Cavaliers won 5 years out of 7, was there a lot of concern about lack of competition or lack of reward for creativity at the top of DCI? I recognize that BD's run of firsts and seconds is unprecedented so maybe it's apples and oranges but I have wondered this before. Thanks!

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