Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Building a visual program from the ground up...(or how to stop worrying and love straight legs)

Come this fall, in addition to my work with TJ, I will become the "vis guy" for a small marching band in the area. I will be basically creating the visual program from the ground up for this band, including writing the drill. This got me thinking recently about how I should approach introducing a new visual program where one did not exist before. So this is kind of what I came up with...

Visually, there are two, and only two, things that separate the great visual groups from the bad - Timing and Posture.

I am a big believer in the philosophy of looking good before your sound good. People believe their eyes before they believe their ears. If you think differently, just think about why major orchestras make players audition behind screens. No matter what people may consciously think, everyone falls victim to visual bias sometime. The more a group can do to look better, the better the music will sound - or the better we think it sounds.

Overall, posture is important not only because it physically makes a group look better, but also because it assists in the mechanics of wind playing. Without proper torso carriage created by great posture, it is impossible to create the proper air support to produce a good sound.

Posture is clearly more difficult to obtain for the larger marching instruments. Contrary to what you may think though, Marching Baritones and Euphoniums (bell-front, not the over-the-shoulder or the "cradle" kinds)
have a much more difficult time with posture than a contra-style tuba. The difference has to do with weight distribution. Marching Baritones force the player to hold the entirety of the weight in their arms projected out in front of them. In order to counteract this unnatural stress on the torso, the player has a tendency to lean and arch their back in an attempt to center some of the weight over their hips. The correct way to maintain posture is to have the player think about using their arm muscles to support the horn. While this is not exactly the best way to actually hold the horn, it is the best way to think about holding the horn because it makes the player focus on keeping the weight in front of them and they will automatically straighten their back.

Timing is the second pillar of visual cleanliness. The golden rule I live by is that sloppy technique equals bad timing. The simplest technique to define timing wise is the straight-legged technique. The heel hits the ground on the downbeat and the legs follows through and crosses the other leg on the "and" count. Also on the "and" count, the toe of the stationary "plan" leg should be making contact with the ground. The bast way to improve the timing of a group is to first of all define where things should be at different points. Secondly, working with a metronome, subdividing the beat and slowing down simple exercises gives the performer an opportunity to analyze and correct themselves. Group vocalizations - maybe "and" or "cross" - can help train and standardize the group. Lastly, performers should be able to subdivide to music without the assistance of a metronome. Giving simple subdividing movements to recorded music can help with this.

So this is a start for me, I will be posting more as I figure more things out.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Help out with the Drum Corps WIki Shows Project!

So I'm kinda bored in the offseason, so one thing I like to do is got through my DVDs and watch a lot of shows. While doing this I try and find out everything I can about the shows as well as record my notes about them for future reference.
What I have found is that info on shows is very scattered throughout the web in literally dozens of locations if you can find it at all:

Who was the Corps director at that time?
Who wrote the Drill? Designed the Guard Uniforms?
Where was Spring Training held that year?
Did the music change throughout the year?




So it got me to thinking that what we really need is a place for all of this info on the web. Someplace where you can go when you want to find out who instructed the Baritones for the Cadets during the Summer of '06 (Chris Moss) or how did the Euphoniums in the '04 Cadets line carry their instruments at "Trail" (Like suitcases)...

Now, I marched these two years, so I know these things, but there is a million billion things that I dont know about drum corps...however, this is where you come in. Everyone knows a lot about different shows and corps and it is time to share that knowledge so that 3 years from now, if someone wants to look up who made the uniforms for the Bluecoats in 2000, they can simply access this site and find out.

I've started a couple pages on the drum corps wiki for the shows I know well. I would encourage everyone to start some pages of their own and put their knowledge out there for others to see.

Here is a template to get started, just create a new page and copy over the wiki-code to start.

More details can be found on the project page

Here are two pages I have started, however they are in no way even close to being complete.

Living with the past - Cadets 2004
Vol. 2: Through the Looking Glass

Let me know what you think,

-Joe Dacey

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Where the posts at?

Due to my hectic fall schedule, I have been remiss in my postings...I'm hoping to start posting again on a somewhat regular basis by Thanksgiving...
sorry for the inconvenience....

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

The "Broken Windows" theory of marching bands.

The "Broken Windows" theory of crime was first put forth in 1982 by James Wilson and George Kelling. Crime rates at that time were through the roof and scholars were seeking some type of explanation. Criminal Psychology at the time was almost entirely focused on crime as a function of violent, individual, anti-social behavior. In short, people committed crimes because they were criminals.

Wilson and Kelling were some of the first scholars to theorize that crime had a basis in environmental factors, not simply individual behaviors. The "Broken Windows" theory speculated that perceived decadence in a neighborhood is a major contributing factor to crime. They used the example of a neighborhood with a few broken windows. If the windows go unfixed, it sends a signal that 1.) people do not care about things such as that in the neighborhood, and 2.) there is most likely no consequences for minor vandalism. This view of a decadent environment is extrapolated and projected into other situations throughout the neighborhood creating crime of ever increasing magnitude - in other words; minor infractions beget major crime.

The City of New York decided to heed the advice of criminologists subscribing to this theory and by the mid 90's, crime was at the lowest rate in 20 years.

Now, how does this relate to marching band?....

It is quite simple - the details and small things are the foundation of a successful band program. Many directors stress over the big picture too often - rehearsal times, show concepts, uniforms, guard flags -while letting the seemingly insignificant things fall through the cracks. They think of the program in terms of the giant pieces - if they could just get the right giant pieces in place they could make a great program. It is like an construction worker thinking only of giant steel beams and oceans of concrete while ignoring the mortar and rivets that hold everything together. Truth is, all buildings are made of essentially the same big materials, what makes them different are the details of how things fit together.

Practically this means that instead of focusing on how much rehearsal time is scheduled, maybe you should focus on starting on time and following a schedule? Rehearsals that do not start on time send the same message as a broken window in a bad neighborhood. Students will begin to expect a late start and the line between free time and rehearsal time will be perceived as being blurred. As a director, you must make sure to mend the broken window as quickly as possible to send a message that these things will not be tolerated.

As for schedules, a giant broken window that many groups create is ignoring them. If students and staff expect schedules to be inaccurate, they lose all meaning and thus the goals set out in the schedule lose meaning as well. Make sure everyone knows the schedule ad be very rigid in sticking to it and the goals for the rehearsal.

Rehearsal scheduling is just one facet of the program that a good director cannot ignore. There are many other "windows" out there that a director must keep an eye on to prevent minor infractions from snowballing. These include:

1. Keeping the band room/equipment room(s) clean and organized. The worse state the rooms are in, the easier it is for students and staff to justify perpetuating it. If everyone expects cleanliness and order, they will most likely do things to preserve it.

2. Making sure instruments are in good workable condition. This is a huge budget issue, but if students do not have quality instruments in their hands, they perceive disorder and decadence in the program and will perpetuate it.

3. Proper Attendance and Absence requests. This seems like a no brainer but you would be surprised to find out how many directors fail to take accurate attendance or have official means of student absence requests. Making sure to do this is not only a way of asserting control over the group, but also makes students accountable for their time.

4. Always fight to make sure the band has the best. This means fighting to get lighted fields; or more paint to keep the fields lined; or enough paper to copy drill for every member; making sure the band is fed on long days; getting nice buses; clean uniforms; and much, much more. Basically, if you give the perception that the band is getting the best, then students are more likely to give you their best.

I implore all directors to take a look at what is going on in their band program and scrutinize how you deal with small things that may come your way. Sometimes the smallest things can be the most important to a great band program.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Breathing Exercises for Marching Band and Drum Corps

Welcome to the wonderful world of breathing exercises! Popularized by the great tuba player Arnold Jacobs, proper breathing is now approached as a fundamental of musicianship. While many of his methods required one-on-one coaching and a variety of breathing "toys" - methods that are impractical for large group settings - in recent years they have been adapted to the world of the marching arts by teachers such as Patrick Sheridan and Sam Pilafian. The duo's "Breathing Gym" has become standard pedagogical fare throughout both the Drum Corps and Marching Band world. Many of the exercises below are based upon ones you can find in their breathing method. Since these are only verbal descriptions, I highly recommend you purchase their DVD "The Breathing Gym" for a complete visual representation of the method.
The exercises I describe below are a compilation of exercises I have been taught and teach. I in no way claim to represent the above mentioned DVD and am posting this simply for pedagogical purposes.

Free Breathing
Free breathing refers to exercises that focus solely on inhaling and exhaling full breaths of air. There are literally thousands of different permutations on this exercise and everyone seems to have an opinion on how to do it best. The most common is the metered breath, where performers inhale and exhale based upon certain timings that gauge the rate of breathing. This is usually done without instruments in hand and a raising arm motion used to visually indicate the breath. The arms move from the relaxed position at the side of the to touching over ones head on the inhale, then they are lowered back down to the resting position on the exhale. The arm motion also serves to stretch and open the chest cavity allowing a fuller breath.

Typically, the exercise will start with performers inhaling for four counts and exhaling for four counts. The focus is to move the air freely with no restriction or tension. The breath should occur evenly throughout every count of the exercise. Inhalation through the nose is sometimes implemented as it forces air to fill the lungs from bottom to top. When the mouth is opened for breathing, inhalation should be silent and also create a "cold spot" on the back of the throat. Exhaling should also be silent, however performers should feel like they are blowing out hot air. A good visual is to imagine fogging up a mirror that is placed in front of the performers' mouth.

After the "in four, out four" has been established, the inhale and exhale counts should be moved around. Shorter inhales with shorter exhales will work the lungs hard, but will teach them to move lots of air quickly, while longer inhales with longer exhales will teach how to budget the air to make it through long phrases. Some instructors dislike meters and just breath without a tempo by using a visual indicator. Some instructors will also do this exercise with instruments in hand, exhaling through the instruments. This provides a more realistic situation and also gives a little external resistance to the airflow.

Visual Breathing
This I believe comes straight from the "Breathing Gym" exercises and focuses on air at different volume levels. There are three different parts to the exercise;air at a piano dynamic, air at a mezzo-forte dynamic, and air at a fortissimo dynamic.

1. air at a piano dynamic - have the performers visualize making a paper air plane and throwing it. The goal is to link the idea of the smooth gentle toss of the the paper airplane to the gentle slow air that they use to play at a piano dynamic. As they toss their imaginary air planes, have them exhale and visualize their air gliding along the flight path of the plane.

2. air at a mezzo-forte dynamic - have the performers visualize throwing a dart while exhaling with their air. The air is faster and a little more directional. The gentle air that pushes the paper air plane will not work for a dart.

3. air at fortissimo - this is the fun one. Visualize using your air to shoot a bow and arrow. Have the performers pantomime pulling back the bow in the inhale then shooting the arrow forward with a very fast and directional stream of air.

During every step a "hiss" may be added to the end of the exhale when the performers feel they have expelled 90% of their air. The hiss is used not only to aurally indicate when the performer runs out of air, but also to engage the abdomen in expelling the last bit of air out of the lungs. Personally I do not find this helpful to do as it introduces unneeded tension into the exercise.

Fight for air
The purpose of this exercise twofold - 1. to get as much air into the lungs as fast a possible without tension; and 2. to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the chest and diaphragm.

The exercise begins by performers exhaling all of the air in their lungs (this means pushing out the air that naturally fills the lung cavity for equalizing pressure). Immediately the students are to cover their mouth with the back of their hand to create an airtight seal. Students then "suck" on the back of the hand as if they are fighting to pull air through the hand. After a few seconds (5-10) of fighting for air, performers are to pull their hand away from their mouth and allow their lungs to naturally fill with air. The inhale should be free from tension and obstruction and should happen immediately upon removal of the hand. Students should then exhale naturally. If this exercise is done correctly, the ensemble should be coughing their brains out afterwards. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Coughing can be good if it occurs as a result of air rushing into new areas in the lungs that are not used to being filled so quickly. Coughing is bad if it is the result of some obstruction in the throat cavity on the inhale.

The sip
The goal of this exercise is to increase the lung capacity of the performers. Performers take in a full breath and hold it in. After a moment or so, they sip in more air into their lungs. This is repeated a few times before finally exhaling. The performer is encouraged to try and fill up completely on the first inhale so it is impossible to sip any air. The body heating the inhaled air, coupled with the forcing of more air into the lungs on the sips leads the lungs to expand and stretch. Over time, lung capacity is increased.

The Blade
This exercise is more about perception and psychology than actual breathing technique. The performer holds his hand in front of his opened mouth longways so that his index finger is touching both the upper and lower lips and the point is touching his nose. The hand should have fingers closed and be oriented so the pinky finger is furthest from the face.

The performer inhales and exhales in one count pushing his hand away from the face with his airstream. The goal is to completely fill the lungs in a single count by inhaling with your hand obstructing the air stream. The only way to be successful at the inhale is to stay relaxed and open the airway to allow more air in. The only sound heard should be that of air rushing around the front and back of the hand to get into the lungs.

The next part of the exercise is to move the hand so it is about an inch away from your face. When you inhale this time, you mind still perceives you hand as an obstruction to the airstream and the inhale should be just as relaxed and open. This is good for replicating the obstruction of the mouthpiece when playing an instrument.

All of these exercises are only effective if done consistently and if the performers have a full understanding of the goals and reasoning behind each one. The goal of all of these exercises is to create, as habit, taking in full relaxed breaths when playing an instrument.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tuning, a quick survey of different techniques...

This came up in a DCP post and I thought it would be good to kind of expand upon this idea....

From my point of view there are three different methods to approach tuning - electronically, aurally, and mechanically. I will survey each one as a separate method, however they are not exclusive methodologies - meaning a combination of the three can be effective as well.

This approach seeks to tune the instruments first using an electronic tuner. The tuning note is generally a concert B-flat, however some people swear tuning to a concert F is better. Personally, since on a brass instrument the inherent tuning difference between an F and a B flat is so insignificant, I like the getting the B flat in tune because it is higher and generally right in the middle of the register for players. F is generally a little easier to bend, so it is harder to get a true read on where the student is placing the note. A student may be playing with a loose embouchure, causing the F to read as flat...the student pushes the tuning slide in to adjust and throws other partials extremely sharp. when the student tightens the embouchure to reach higher notes, he is suddenly badly out of tune with the rest of the ensemble. A popular method to minimize the "bending" effect is to have the students play up to the tuning note starting on F. They play "F-G-A-Bflat", holding the B flat at the top to be tuned. This is a more natural and realistic approach to the note and can sometimes help in getting a true read of a players tuning.

Electronic tuning has the advantage of being fairly accurate and immune against human error. Sure embouchure problems might throw student's pitch out of whack, however that is more a problem of playing fundamentals than it is tuning. It is also quick, speed being limited to the number of tuners available at the time. Another advantage is that no real training is required of the people using the tuner - just a simple knowledge of what to do when the tuner reads a certain way.

The disadvantage of electronic tuning is that students become dependent upon the tuners to play in tune. Using this as the only tuning method in a technique program is not recommended. Students should have an understanding of a basic concept of playing "in tune" and have advanced listening skills before this method can be totally effective. If you are using this method, take the time to make sure students know exactly what is going on and the reasoning behind how to adjust for tuning.

Aural tuning
This is the approach championed by The Cavaliers recently. It involves no electronic tuners and is focused on developing the listening skills of the performers. Tuning notes often originate from the bass voices and work their way upwards to the high trumpets and piccolos. The goal is to listen to the tuning note and attempt to match the sound, not only in pitch, but in quality as well. Often two players who can register as in tune by an electronic tuner can sound out of tune because the quality and timbre of their sounds differ. The reason for this perceived difference is while the fundamental note is in tune, the overtones that create timbre are not. This can be fixed with some individual work with an advanced electronic tuner that displays overtones, however not many programs have the time - much less the actual tuner - to spend fixing individuals. On the field, techniques that develop sound, "air and valve/key", mouthpiece buzzing/squawking, and simply listening to a pure characteristic tone can help. I run into this problem a lot with Saxophones and Trumpets. Saxes range from a very mellow, clarinet-like sound, to a harsh jazz timbre. Depending on your ensemble you may want either one. Trumpets have either a "stuffy" sound or a "bright" tone. The factors that go into these and how to fix them are many, but that is a topic for another post...

Anyway, the aural tuning method trains the performers to match their tones to to one another. This becomes useful in actual performance when they can recognize they are out of tune and respond by independently adjusting it. Performers also become more aware of the tuning tendencies of their instruments and can better anticipate when adjustments will be needed.

A good method that I use is the idea of a "tuning trio." This is a good extension exercise that uses skills from aural training to help with blend and balance. After being tuned in some fashion, three students with like instruments will face each other and play the three notes of a B flat major chord. On a signal, the students will switch and pass around the notes, the goal being to keep the sound consistent. This is quite difficult to achieve as not only do performers have to listen and be aware of tuning and timbre matching, but also be aware of their chordal responsibilities.

Mechanical tuning
This third method is definitely in the minority in terms of use. This is the method that was championed by The Blue Devils in the 90's and, more recently, by Gino Cipriani and The Cadets. The basic premise is that instruments of the same brand, using the same mouthpiece, played in the same manner, will be in tune mechanically at the same point as a function of the air temperature. This method is only applicable to bands and corps who play on instruments of the same brand, and whose mouthpieces are the same. This is very important, because different mouthpieces and bran of horn have different tuning tendencies.

What happens is the staff carefully make marks on the tuning slides of instruments a few millimeters apart. Each day,a small group of players representing each type of instrument will tune using one of the methods described above. The air temperature will be recorded as well as which mark on the tuning slide the instruments were in tune at. The rest of the ensemble will move to the mark that their instruments are in tune. After enough data is collected, the staff can make pretty good estimates on where to set the marks on the tuning slide based on the air temperature alone. From there only minor adjustments can be made on an individual basis. As with the electronic method of tuning, exclusive use of this method is not recommended as students should have an understanding of tuning on a functional level.

The advantage of this system is, while data collection takes time, once it is in place it is by far the fastest way to get a group in tune. Also, it creates consistency throughout the hornline, especially if a last second adjustment is needed. It is a lot more precise to say "move out two marks" instead of the vague statement "pull out." This method also allows for changes in air temperature in the performance venue - for instance if performing in a dome. The staff can set the hornline to be in tune at the aur temperature inside, instead of having tuning go bad because they tuned in a warmer environment.

The disadvantage of this system is it requires absolute consistency, not only in horn and mouthpiece selection, but also in the approach to playing the instrument. Every program has the goal of consistent approaches to playing, however it is up to the individual directors and staff to recognize when there are exceptions. Each player has different tuning tendencies that are discounted as part of this process. Certainly individual work and identification of a player's tendencies can happen, however it is time consuming and ever changing depending upon circumstances.

Also uncertain is how this system could work with woodwinds. I suppose one could mark the corks in a similar manner as tuning slides, but I can't speak to this as I have never seen it done.

None of these three approaches should ever be used in isolation. As educators, we should all strive to help performers understand tuning and how to play in tune, and not glance over tuning the same way we would gas up a car.. Our approach to tuning should be from a variety of angles, recognizing that students learn in very different ways. What a student sometimes cannot hear suddenly may become very clear to him after seeing the needle on a tuner, for instance. We should mix up our routines and not be afraid to try new methods.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Competition...Blessing or Curse? - Part 1 - Drum Corps (cont.)

This is the 5th installment of my series on Competition in Drum Corps - I encourage you to read the four previous installments found below...
Educational Value

Drum Corps is an excellent educational tool for teaching a variety of things. What are some of the things that are taught? Musical excellence, Discipline, Physical excellence, and hard work are four that come to mind. So lets examine how competition affects each of these lessons. Also for consideration is the trickle down effect from having so many music educators marching in corps today.

Musical excellence -
As examined in the previous post, competition has driven corps to explore extreme musical complexities. The musicians that march today are, overall, more trained and have a better background in music than those who marched years ago. This is not a knock at the "old-timers", just an observation that it is quite difficult to obtain a spot in a highly competitive Drum Corps without having some serious training. Competition has directed the best musicians to the best corps, and left many casual musicians behind. Since the quality of musician has increased, the question is does the activity still have a musical educational value?

This influx of musical talent has actually increased the musical value of the activity. Since most of the performers are starting at higher levels, the corps can better explore musical nuances and spend time perfecting interpretation instead of fundamentals. Harder music, plus the ability to explore the music at deeper levels equals a high educational value in terms of musical excellence.

Discipline -
Here is another area that has been changed drastically from the beginnings of drum corps. The performers today are not local kids who are just looking for something to do over the summer, they are kids who choose to do this activity specifically. Everyone that marches wants to be there and generally try and help out their corps as much as possible. Discipline is not really a major issue these days. From my experience, though, I would say that all marchers learn a level of disciple they never thought possible - even the most dedicated learn something. This activity cannot be duplicated by anything else and nothing can really prepare you for the issues one has on tour. Going through the experience will, for sure, make someone more disciplined. Competition, by changing the main makeup of performers, has increased the value of learning discipline.

Physical Excellence -
This goes hand in hand with musical excellence. Competition has driven corps to perform more visually demanding shows. Performers are put through many varieties of physical training that rival many boot camps - from 2 mile running/breathing blocks, to strength training. Many performers now train in the offseason as well as maintain their physical fitness after aging out. In this respect, competition has increased the educational value of fitness.

Hard Work -
This is the one thing that I hear people marvel at the most when discussing drum corps. All drum corps do it - the long 12 hour rehearsals in the heat, the hours of dot book work, the personal practice time. Many people are unprepared for the amount of time and energy being in a competitive drum corps requires. Competition increases the drive for working harder. The thought that other drum corps are rehearsing and getting better is constantly in the back of performers' heads. As it is now, the pressure to always get better is tied to the idea of competition and being recognized as the best. Also, one gets a clear reward for hard work - if you work hard, your score goes up. If there were no competition, I feel this drive would lessen a bit and corps may become more lax in their rehearsals. The motivation would shift from extrinsic rewards (scores, placements) to more intrinsic rewards (accomplishment, self-esteem). Competition has taught many drum corps performers how to work hard and it is a valuable lesson for them as they go through life.

Competition has only increased the educational value of drum corps - whether it is indirectly, through recruitment of better musicians, or directly through ideals such as hard work and discipline.

next installment will examine the effect competition has had on the number and size of corps....
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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Competition...Blessing or Curse? - Part 1 - Drum Corps (cont.)

This is the 4th installment of my series examining the effect of competition on the marching activity.
Complexity of Material

Complexity of material can be broken down into two sub categories; show design, and technical demand. Both of these are affected by Drum Corps being a competitive activity. The question first of all is how are they affected by competition, and secondly, is this effect good for the activity.

Examining show design, we find that shows today are much more complicated and involved than shows at the dawn of DCI competition. This directly correlates with the increased emphasis on General Effect scoring over the past 20 years. Under the "tic system", shows need not have any overall "general effect", and this was not a major concern for directors and designers at the time. Gradually, GE points became more important, comprising 10%, then 30%, then finally 40% of the overall score. Designers advanced these ideas of "effect" with the development of the "total show concept." This was the idea of every section of the show relating to a larger general theme. This concept remains in place today. Competitive corps who revert to the old show designs find it more difficult to compete in todays Drum Corps context (I'm thinking specifically here of Cadets '03 and Madison '04).

Now is this effect on show design good for the activity? Many people have complained recently that show designs are too complex and ask too much of the audience. While initially, competition drove the change to the "total show concept", nowadays the competitive atmosphere is more of a hindrance to show development than anything else. Designers' ever-expanding visions are being cut, spliced, and crammed into parameters that were never meant to display them. It is akin to a governing body restricting what you could use in a Broadway musical, then forcing the writers to cram it all into 11.5 minutes. Musical ideas cannot be developed fully in the time alloted forcing designers to cash in on the quick effect and leave subtlety behind. New storytelling techniques are burdened by restrictions on personnel and instruments. Show designs are stripped down to the most basic semblance of expression under the weight of competition, demanding of the audience little more than basic form and musical recognition. Freeing the show design of the shackles of competition will bring depth and true complexity to an activity that is already yearning for it. Shows can step out of the banal, and create profound performance art that can have lasting impacts on society.

The second area of complexity deals with the question of technical demand. During the "tic system's" heyday, technically complex musical and visual material was generally toned down, or "watered", to make it easier. The thought with that process was that if you aren't playing something extremely difficult, there is less chance that you will screw it up. The advent of the "build-up" system allowed designers to program in great feats of virtuosic display, because now they received credit for attempting more difficult material. This trend towards more difficulty is still in full force today, as corps keep trying to out-perform previous years.

The question now is does competition driven technicality help or hurt the activity. I am of the opinion that many of the technical demands built into shows these days are exceedingly gratuitous. The average person has trouble distinguishing the difficulty of things that are not blindingly obvious. Only the highly trained judges can sometimes understand and appreciate some of the demands a show makes on the performers. If competition were to disappear, shows would become increasingly easier , however not appear less impressive to the audience. The gratuitous difficulty would be trimmed from the shows, leaving more time for substance and musical narrative.

On both accounts, show design and technical demand, I contend that competition hurts the activity more than it helps it. Show designs would become more fan-friendly and entertaining and some of the technical filler would be trimmed away making for a much cleaner show.

The next installment I will examine the effect competition has on the educational value of Drum Corps...

Continue reading...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Uniform musings, Part 6 - New Uniforms in '07, Allentown edition

So, I have been a little late in getting this out due to some other factors, but without further ado, here are some thoughts on the new uniforms I saw in Allentown.

Best "Surprisingly good" uniforms - Madison
I did not initially think this was a good change for Madison who did have beautiful white pants and a cool jacket design, however after seeing them in person, I found my opinions to be quite different. Marching was never Madison's strong point, so green pants does a lot to refocus the eye onto the white gauntlets, hat, and shoulders. The three-tone green effect was not as offensive as the Bluecoats two-tone blue mainly because the greens turn into a visual "wash" against the variable green field background. The simplified jacket removes the awkward business of the "half-fleur" and makes for a cleaner look all around.

The "To boldy go..." award - SouthwindThe "inspired by Star Trek" look works well for Southwind who has not had th best luck in uniform selection over the past couple years. The return to the traditional shako and plume is a safe choice and the simplified colors and cut to the uniforms make the corps look more cohesive as a unit. There is some visual distinctiveness as it is very apparent when parts of the corps are turned backfield. The yellow and white on the shoulders serves well to highlight front facing performers.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

a message from an author of the blog

Sorry about the sparse postings...I've been out of town for the past two weeks and I don't own a laptop.
I will return to my regularly scheduled postings (like 2 a week or so)

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