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 Post subject: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 3:32 pm 
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I have been around the activity a while, and the biggest beef I have in today's world of marching music, is the show material selection. No one is doing anything new. Ever. Every school out there just cycles through the same music over and over. Everyone plays rhapsody in blue. Everyone plays the planets. Everyone plays the theme from the incredibles. Why? Why not do something new and exciting? Something no one has ever heard before? The kids are always so disconnected because the music was written before their parents were born and they have no emotional ties to it. They couldn't care less about the artistic expression and it shows on the field. Use newer music the kids can relate to. A couple groups that I think would make EXCELLENT field show arrangements are; system of a down, killswitch engage, pink Floyd. Why are we ignoring the most musically interesting groups of the last 50 years? There is an existing paradigm that's suffocating the sport. And I don't understand why. Any band directors out there please post and explain this lapse to me. It's such a waste.


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:28 pm 
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:shock:
I have noticed similar trends. Back in the covered wagon days, my HS band director used to arrange current music for our band and also music from the rock group he played in.
In the late 70's many good marching bands were using custom arrangements of current music, including classic jazz and the like.
The common thread among all of this?
Not only did the band members have a blast but also other students that heard music THEY listened to...wanted to be a part of the band program.
I won't get into schools that spend a billion dollars per year for their music, when there are many talented arrangers out there and....good music from not that long ago, that would work great.
mightyhorn


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:35 pm 
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Great reply. I'm glad I'm not the only one. I just feel that the activity as a whole has gotten so painfully predictable. I wish music had been my career choice just so that I could become a band director and change things up. And it wouldn't be difficult or expensive to arrange a show based on more current music. It would be ground breaking and would definitely boost the interest in the program. I'm sure back in the day it was awesome, but 76 trombones and "Mars" just don't cut it anymore. It's boring. And it shows a complete lack of imagination by the director. Get with it guys. Time to update the sport.


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 6:00 am 
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Follow the trophy. Judging associations are providing clinics and creating sheets that encourage shows into what we are witnessing. For years we have been told that the music and visual content of our shows should follow a pre ordained pacing of highs and lows. Judging sheets are changed to require what you are now seeing for the students to have any reasonable chance for competitive success.

Directors who arranged their own music and wrote their own drill were mentioned. Where does that happen any more? So, we go hire drum corps instructors to do what the director can no longer do. We need a color guard and percussion staff as well. Directors do more staff managing and program coordinating than teaching. That's what it takes to be just like everyone else.

Judging has changed from 1 music, 1 showmanship, and 1 marching judge (back in the day) with fairly general sheets giving the judge flexibility, to detail oriented sheets where musical performance is diminished in favor of show design and visual presentation in terms of points awarded. Listen to a judges comments today. Most talk more about show design than about performance (even though the sheets try to direct them). The show that is put together by the director and staff is being judged as much if not more than the actual performance the students are providing.

In the end it is a reflection of the fact that so many directors are willing to allow the judging associations to define our programs through the environment they have created for us to exist/compete within. But this has happened with the director's imprimatur. The judging is a reflection of what has been put in place and accepted by the directors. Remember the SCSBOA forums leading up to the current sheets and championship format (as one example)?

I wish some of the directors who put all the time and resources into recreating drum corps style shows would at least place the same kind of emphasis on their concert programs. I have been disappointed with the product some of the best field bands produce on stage. The effort is just not there for so many in concert.

But, trophies are not involved in concert band.


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 12:57 pm 
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[quote="Pathfinder"]Follow the trophy. Judging associations are providing clinics and creating sheets that encourage shows into what we are witnessing. For years we have been told that the music and visual content of our shows should follow a pre ordained pacing of highs and lows. Judging sheets are changed to require what you are now seeing for the students to have any reasonable chance for competitive success.

Directors who arranged their own music and wrote their own drill were mentioned. Where does that happen any more? So, we go hire drum corps instructors to do what the director can no longer do. We need a color guard and percussion staff as well. Directors do more staff managing and program coordinating than teaching. That's what it takes to be just like everyone else.

Judging has changed from 1 music, 1 showmanship, and 1 marching judge (back in the day) with fairly general sheets giving the judge flexibility, to detail oriented sheets where musical performance is diminished in favor of show design and visual presentation in terms of points awarded. Listen to a judges comments today. Most talk more about show design than about performance (even though the sheets try to direct them). The show that is put together by the director and staff is being judged as much if not more than the actual performance the students are providing.

In the end it is a reflection of the fact that so many directors are willing to allow the judging associations to define our programs through the environment they have created for us to exist/compete within. But this has happened with the director's imprimatur. The judging is a reflection of what has been put in place and accepted by the directors. Remember the SCSBOA forums leading up to the current sheets and championship format (as one example)?

I wish some of the directors who put all the time and resources into recreating drum corps style shows would at least place the same kind of emphasis on their concert programs. I have been disappointed with the product some of the best field bands produce on stage. The effort is just not there for so many in concert.

But, trophies are not involved in concert band.[/quote]

I really dislike generalizations. We can no more lump ALL marching performances together than we can ALL marching associations/circuits. That is not to say that there is not a kernel of truth in your complaints, but to label ALL together... just not accurate. Why not highlight and praise those programs that DO demonstrate the innovation and excitement which you seek?

Contemporary music exists on the field in many forms. Whether it's a professional arrangement of the latest Cirque show, or contemporary Broadway, or even the latest top 40 hit, I have seen them all on the field in the last few years. Of course, it needs to be quality source material to be useful. Maybe that's the issue, rather than the music not being relevant to the students.

To the trophy issue...Yes, it IS an issue. And quality band directors consider all of the factors around those awards when choosing their schedule, the show, and more. But there are even greater considerations: economics (cost of music, transportation, drill, choreography, costuming, copyrights, etc.), quality of adjudication, the venue (field access, judges' location(s), lighting, warm-up facilities, parking, etc.), student ability and potential for individual success, and, and, and...

So let me discuss MY personal choices. Consider first that I have educational goals for the students including improving musically, physically, ethically, and mentally as a result of our semester of study. Our field shows have to "please" three consumers; football audience, field show audience, and the students. I therefore use my experience in each of those capacities and judge the options from each of those perspectives. Our shows from the last few years included a) a hybrid of Wizard of Oz, Wicked, and the Wiz; b) an on-field detective story using Harlem Nocturne, Murder from Jeckyll and Hyde, music from Cirque's Quidam, and music Feelin' Good from Roar of the Greasepaint the Smell of the Crowd; c) a hybrid of Ben-Hur and Gladiator; d) an arrangement of Steven Reinicke's Into the Raging River; and many others. Please note, at no time did I consider the judging sheets in the choices of my music. Well written music is well paced already.

Visually, I personally consider marching band a form of musical theater. As such, my design is approached more like a broadway musical than a kalaidoscope set to music. This upsets some visual judges due to my transitions. I understand that, and try to minimize those issues as best I can, but I do not alter my overall plan for that. Consequently, I usually receive fairly high praise for the staging of voices. It's a balancing act I'm comfortable with.

I then choose my competitions based on the quality of the judging, both in terms of the sheets that are used as well as the comments that are provided. Do they provide clear paths for growth? Are they relevant to my students and our goals? I do not choose our shows based on our chances for "winning," the history of scores given, or who is judging on a given day. Those are irrelevant to our desire for growth as individuals, as a program, and as a band.

Ken Hoffman


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 1:12 pm 
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Ken,

Your style of music choice is exactly the style I'm talking about. I'm well versed in the world of mainstream music and none of the compositions you mentioned are at all mainstream. They are musical theatre predominately and as musically enriching as they no doubt are, it's BORING. Also, the fact that you don't find any current music as well written quality source material is exactly the lack of imagination that I'm referring to. There are hundreds of extraordinarily well written songs out there that would make for excellent field show arrangements should anyone put in the effort to arrange. The fact that you don't find any interest in these musical areas suggests a very shallow understand of the music itself. Take the blue coats for example. A few years ago they played "Creep" by radio head. This was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've heard a corps play in quite some time. And it's that untapped wellspring of music that needs to be explored. If you'd like, I could post my top ten of songs I think would be great for field show. Maybe you could take a listen and then tell me there's no good source material out there.


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2015 10:13 pm 
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I completely agree! A multitude of current music programs seem to "play it safe" when it comes to their field shows and I feel that this is largely influenced by the judging panels that they submit to.

Off the top of my head, I know the 6A San Marcos has put out some really interesting/unorthodox field shows. I saw them for the first time at the 2013 championships and decided to look them up on youtube and have since become somewhat of a fan.

Although I'm not saying we should only have "techno-y" shows out there, I think more variety in music and overall creativity in theme would do everybody some good.


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2015 8:50 am 
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Sac_man10 wrote:
I have been around the activity a while, and the biggest beef I have in today's world of marching music, is the show material selection. No one is doing anything new. Ever. Every school out there just cycles through the same music over and over. Everyone plays rhapsody in blue. Everyone plays the planets. Everyone plays the theme from the incredibles. Why? Why not do something new and exciting? Something no one has ever heard before? The kids are always so disconnected because the music was written before their parents were born and they have no emotional ties to it. They couldn't care less about the artistic expression and it shows on the field. Use newer music the kids can relate to. A couple groups that I think would make EXCELLENT field show arrangements are; system of a down, killswitch engage, pink Floyd. Why are we ignoring the most musically interesting groups of the last 50 years? There is an existing paradigm that's suffocating the sport. And I don't understand why. Any band directors out there please post and explain this lapse to me. It's such a waste.


Welcome to the forum. I hope you enjoy your time here.

Copyright issues have become a major issue related to music source material. Because of this, quite a bit of music is no longer available to bands.

Someone else has mentioned getting online to see what a number of groups are doing. You will notice that there actually is quite a variety of music being performed all across the spectrum.

As an aside, referring to ideas in absolute terms such as "everyone plays Rhapsody in Blue" makes it seem that your perspective can be broadened. Very few issues are consistent across every ensemble.


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2015 9:15 am 
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[quote="Sac_man10"]Ken,

Your style of music choice is exactly the style I'm talking about. I'm well versed in the world of mainstream music and none of the compositions you mentioned are at all mainstream. They are musical theatre predominately and as musically enriching as they no doubt are, it's BORING. Also, the fact that you don't find any current music as well written quality source material is exactly the lack of imagination that I'm referring to. There are hundreds of extraordinarily well written songs out there that would make for excellent field show arrangements should anyone put in the effort to arrange. The fact that you don't find any interest in these musical areas suggests a very shallow understand of the music itself. Take the blue coats for example. A few years ago they played "Creep" by radio head. This was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've heard a corps play in quite some time. And it's that untapped wellspring of music that needs to be explored. If you'd like, I could post my top ten of songs I think would be great for field show. Maybe you could take a listen and then tell me there's no good source material out there.[/quote]

I'll try not to take your comments too personally... :) In fact, I've used the music of Radiohead with my Jazz groups, however, my marching band would not be able to handle the meter issues as well. In addition, I, personally, am not a big fan of having a rhythm section in the pit. While I've seen some incredible shows which utilize a full rock band in the pit, I have not been successful in marrying that sound with the smaller field band. Perhaps that is my failure, or a limitation of my numbers.

But I do take issue with the concept of what is, and is not, mainstream. Now you're talking tastes and preferences. I can't even get my three daughters to agree on a single style or type of music. Student A may be a huge fan of thrash metal while Student B can't get enough of classic C&W. Meanwhile, I've got students singing Frozen at the top of their lungs. And that aforementioned Reinicke piece, which our concert band just played, is the "jam" of one of my horn players.

Then there is the need for GOOD arrangements of the music. I've listened to Black Eyed Peas arrangements that are painful. The soul of the music has to come through. THAT is an art. I can transcribe pretty well. I'm pretty happy with my arrangement of Bang, Bang that we do with the Pep Band, but I do not have the ability to take the music you seem to be defining as mainstream and do them justice, i.e. meet the needs of my 3 audiences.

As for your offer to list your top 10, I'd welcome it!

Ken


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2015 11:59 am 
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I think it is important to also note that simply doing all your own arranging of whatever is popular at the moment is not only very time consuming (for teachers who have a lot of other teaching responsibilities) but is also very likely to run afoul of copyright issues. Gaining the proper permissions to arrange is not always easy or cheap and not doing so is just asking for legal issues.

From a strictly marching band standpoint I'd suggest you look around more. I heard groups play Royals and Radioactive among others this year.

I do not play much popular music in performance in general for a few reasons. One reason was already hit on by Ken....many of the available arrangements just do not work. Sometimes this is a result of the source material lacking in variety (repeated pitches with different lyrics is very different that just a litany of rhythm with no pitch change), other times it is poor arranging.....but the result is the same....if my student play it perfectly, it still sounds "off" and then they are being judged by their audience that is familiar with the top 40 hits not by the quality of their playing, but by how well it transfers to marching, or jazz, or concert band. I try to play some each year, but it is often difficult to find good stuff.

I also tend to avoid these "hits" because I find the better arrangements are usually pep band stand tune style arrangements which are also usually a minute and a half at most in length, and with limited budget to purchase music, I'd rather spend $60 on a 5-10 minute piece instead of a 1.5 minute pop tune that repeats three times in the process.

Finally, I tend to avoid pop tunes because I feel part of my job as an educator is to teach my students about music they are less familiar with. They will get exposed to pop music without me, it is almost unavoidable....it is everywhere around them. But look at my students ipods/playlists and you will see that many of them love Whitacre and Holst and Mackey and Copland and so on just as much as they like about the top 40 stuff and how likely is it they will run across Redline Tango on the radio?

Norman

PS I'd also note that many kids only knew Creep as that cool tune Bluecoats did....(or from Rock Band) It isn't exactly new enough to be contemporary to high school students....I mean it was released in 92...I've been teaching for 11 years and I started high school in 94.....


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2015 1:55 pm 
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I think the reason is much simpler than what style of music is being played, whether it be popular, rock 'n rock or classical. Most of the music being selected by band staffs to perform in competitions is what I call program music, or music played to support visual effects. Very much like the sound track score to a movie or television show. That music, by nature, is design to be felt but not heard. Lots of big chords and segues and key changes to create audio effects for the visual production.

The big thing missing from this kind of music is a strong melody. In the good old days directors chose music that could stand on it's own merits and entertain the audience, even if you were standing still. People would drive home from the show whistling or humming the tunes they heard that night. Today some individual shows may contain exciting moments here and there, but as the evening progresses and band after band comes on playing the same melody starved program music, it wears down the audience. I know it wears me down when I sit through an entire competition. So, it really is that simple....

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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2015 3:21 pm 
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Well said, Dave.


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2015 9:08 pm 
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Melody should drive the music.


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:13 am 
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Because it is no longer "marching" nor is it "band".

It has gotten away from being the entertaining and thrilling art form that it used to be and has been replaced with an attempt to be elitist "artistry", hit all of the content boxes on the score sheet, and impress people that want to see an exaggerated theatrical production on the field. As a result, we are now witness to an absence of traditional, disciplined, skilled marching and an absence of music with substance and real content that requires a demonstration of musicianship.

Instead, we now are subjected to moving and posing (which does require training but is not "marching") and are forced to listen to well-designed and executed sound bites cobbled together into a presentation that more resembles an electronics and drum exposition than a "band" performance.

Students are prepared in much the same way as circus animals to execute tricks like chromatic runs, coordinated rhythmic hits, and to do visual tricks that are comparable to "sit up" and "roll over". The over reliance on electronics covers up the inability of groups to produce sustained harmony with wind instruments, and the excessive chromatic runs (again with the electronics or on mallet instruments) has replaced the need to develop music melodically.

Whatever it is now, if the people that are doing it are happy to do it, fine. Go ahead and call it "evolution of the art form" or progress.

Just do not call it "Marching Band", because it no longer is.


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 Post subject: Re: Why has marching band gotten so boring?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2015 10:18 pm 
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seanrj wrote:
Whatever it is now, if the people that are doing it are happy to do it, fine. Go ahead and call it "evolution of the art form" or progress.

Just do not call it "Marching Band", because it no longer is.


i think you're in the wrong district then, because look at where you're sending your students Sean...


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