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 Post subject: The End of Drum and Bugle Corps
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 9:10 am 
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Hello everyone, I am a long-time drum corps participant and fan, and this is the first time I've come across this site, believe it or not.

The title of my post is misleading perhaps. I don't think summer competitive marching will end anytime soon. But it's changing. It's turning into something that frightens me as a fan.

I suppose it really began back in the late 70s, when the front ensemble was added. I imagine fans and vets were put off by that all those years ago as I am put off now.

First, the move away from bugles. I still try to enjoy the shows, but I am no longer listening to drum and bugle corps. In kinder times, the tunes were in keys like concert G, concert C, concert D, keys that many marching bands would never dream of playing in. Now, our beloved drum corps play in B flat, E flat, F....It may not bother folks who can't hear keys or pitches, but it sure bothers me.

I'm not sure what the goal was of allowing marching band instruments into DCI....maybe to elevate the level of intonation, performance quality, ease of transition back into fall marching band....well, I often go back and listen to recordings such as Phantom Regiment playing Claire de Lune, or Star of Indiana playing The Pines of Rome. Doesn't seem to me like using G bugles affected their performances....

Well, maybe I'm just a stick-in-the-mud. Maybe changing to marching band instruments was a popular decision. All the corps have switched to them, except perhaps for the Troopers? I know Madison used bugles longer than most. Well, I don't know if the activity is still called Drum and Bugle Corps, but it's not...

Second, amplifying the front ensemble. Why? Can someone tell me why? Were we missing out on castanet/woodblock/vibraslap solos that were hidden by the brass or something? Let me give an example. In the Cadets' 2005 show, during their Bjoik ballad, particularly at the push; Rather than being able to focus on the brass' intonation and dynamic power, all I could hear were arpeggios on the marimba and vibraphone.

As for the narraration....and i HAVE to believe I'm not alone in this thought....again I ask, why? These corps are armed with instruments, props and stunning visually coordinated manouvers to tell a story in 12 minutes. Why do they need narraration? To me, it completely detracts from my enjoyment of the performance. I paid 15-30 bucks to listen to corps perform, not to listen to someone tell me what their show is about. If I could deliver a message to every corps that uses narraration, it would be this;

If you can't tell the story with the music you perform, and have to get on a microphone and explain to me what the hell is going on, then just put your instruments down and get off the field.

Third, and I just found this out. This may have been going on for years, but I didn't know it. I just looked at this years I&E results, and I was horrified to see that now kids are performing on WOODWIND instruments??? Now, don't get me wrong. I have no problem with woodwinds. It works fine in marching band. You put them in the back, their instruments won't play in cold weather, and you can't hear them even when they play unless they're on the front sideline or amplified (or if the brass is not playing...).

The arguement for this possibly might be that it helps woodwind players who participate in DCI keep their marching band chops up on their primary instrument. Ok. Sure. Fine, I guess. But that also means they're practicing on these woodwind instruments during the DCI tour, which means during this time they are NOT practicing their brass instruments/drum/flag/rifle/keyboard, which doesn't help anyone.

Folks, I'm no DCI insider, but I can see plain as day where it's going. We are ONE step away from DCI becoming summertime BOA. No offense to woodwind players, I promise. But when you start watering down drum corps with woodwind players, you will either see the max numbers go up dramatically, which will reduce the quality of the visual production, or the number of brass players decrease, which will reduce the quality of the musical production.

Fourth, the telecast. I don't think I have to say much about that. I don't think that anyone can really argue that the ESPN2 telecast, which focuses on flashy intros and segueways more than the actual performances, is helping to promote the activity at all. There is no better way to let the uneducated know "this is really cool" than to broadcast a competition from start to finish. The seventies taught us that. Even in the nineties, a taped "highlights" show was a hard pill to swallow. I know that all comes down to funding and sponsorship, but I'd just as soon there be no ESPN telecast if it's going to trivialize the activity as it does. I mean, we might as well be watching national cheerleader championships...right?

The only positive I have seen in the past few years is the movie theater broadcasts. In my opinion, those do a better job at promoting the activity than the cable broadcast. Doubt that will be around for long tho, as movie ticket prices continue to increase and summer movie lineups get bigger and more expensive to produce.

Well, that's a lot of ranting and complaining. I'd just like to be able to fathom what the DCI board of directors, and the corps directors (whom I assume have a say in rule changes) are thinking. Why dumb down drum corps to the extent that it has been? What was wrong with bugles? What was wrong with an umamplified pit? what was wrong with leaving the flutes, clarinets and saxophones at home for the summer?

I'm sure many of you disagree with what I've written. I hope some of you agree, and can advise me on how to best cope with all this. Drum and Bugle Corps used to be my passion. Now I feel like I'm its biggest critic...and I don't like that.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 12:53 pm 
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Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 5:15 pm
Posts: 1111
Welcome 76!

Most of your various thoughts have been dicussed individually here for some time. DCI is evolving and following, in some cases, what's happening with bands. Many of the instructors and marching members are from the band side of the house. That's good, because they have the musicianship to practice back in HS/college before the Winter/Spring camps and the instructors improve their skills and recruit during the off season.

We'll just continue to have healthy discussions about what we like/don't like with each change as it comes along.


Last edited by Ghost on Thu Aug 09, 2007 10:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 2:56 pm 
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Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2007 8:29 am
Posts: 3
Thanks for the welcome! :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 7:45 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jun 08, 2002 3:21 pm
Posts: 951
Location: North Louisiana
Dear 76,
Welcome. Your in put is valued. We have covered most of those issues here. Some I agree, some I don't. But I will say this & at the risk of repeating myself. In '72 I was marching with the Bleu Raeders from Metairie LA. We were somewhere in the mid-west I believe. We were standing outside the gate, waiting to enter the field. This older gentleman came up to me & in front of the corps told us that we & our DCI buddies were the ruination of drum corps & we should be ashamed of ourselves. He went on in judgement of us. I was 16 at the time. I vowed at that moment to never be like that gentleman when I got old. Well I'm old, & I'm not going to be like that guy. DCI runs DCI. As long as they put their pants on one leg at a time they are going to make mistakes, and they are going to heve to live with them.

I could no more run a modern drum corps than be the president of IBM. BTW if how can you hear keys & pitches & not woodwinds...........Bill


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