Monthly Archives: October 2014

Paradigm Shift Excerpt

Here is my introduction from my paradigm shift paper. After Tuesday’s class, I have two main concerns. The first is that it is not short enough. What we discussed in class made it seem as though an introduction is supposed to be short and sweet and get out of the way of the body of the paper. Also, I am concerned that my introduction is too mundane. It reminds me very little of a movie trailer, like mentioned in class, and I am wondering if it is capable of grabbing the audience’s attention for the rest of the paper.

 

Over the past few decades, stand-up comedy has risen dramatically in popularity. In the 1950’s, very few names were known around the world. As time progressed, more and more comedians became household names: Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, and Richard Pryor for example. Nowadays, comedy is absolutely booming. Comedy Central is one of television’s most successful channels, comedy movies are in high demand, and stand-up comedy specials are gaining popularity exponentially. In today’s world, comedians are some of the world’s most famous people. Performers like Louis CK, Kevin Hart, and Gabriel Iglesias are known all around the world, and have found ways to make every member of their audience laugh. However, comedy has not only changed in popularity. Comedy in and of itself has changed dramatically, even within the past forty years. This makes sense, given that comedy is a fluid art, and hinges upon the thoughts and reactions of society. So, as society naturally changes over time, it is completely natural for comedy to change with it. But how has comedy changed? What changes in society can be seen through this change in comedy? This paper will answer these questions by analyzing the specials of three very well-known comics: Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, and Louis CK. These performances, like any other source of entertainment, can be analyzed under three conditions: Content, Delivery, and Audience Reaction. Looking at these three specific performances will shed light on the changes that have occurred in comedy, as well as dive deeper into what has changed within society that made these comedians so successful.

The Making of a Drum Corps Show

In past blog posts, I have evaluated the effectiveness of several top-notch drum corps shows from this past summer, but, I feel like changing things up this week. In this blog post, I will explain how a drum corps show is born.

It all starts in early fall (late September, early October). The design team of the corps holds a brainstorming meeting, where ideas for stories are shared. No music is brought up, no visual ideas are brought up; all focus is on the story to be told. Once the main concept of the show is created, designers begin shuffling through hours and hours of potential music that will be capable of telling the show’s story. The choice of music depends on two things: the nature of the story itself, and the traditions of the corps. Many corps have a signature sound, and along with that, they play certain genres of music in their shows. Most corps include only classical music. Some incorporate jazz music into their shows, and more recently, contemporary compositions have been included in drum corps shows.

Once the music is selected, it is the brass arranger’s job to choose the parts of the source music that he/she believes does the best job of telling the show’s story. This is an incredibly pain-staking and difficult task, and takes weeks to complete. This used to be done by hand, but now, with the advancements in music notation software, arrangers not only no longer have to write the music by hand, but they can immediately hear what the music they are writing sounds like. This shortens the process immensely. Once the brass arranger is finished writing the music for the hornline, the score (full sheet music) is sent to the percussion arranger and the color guard choreographer. The percussion arranger, much like the brass arranger, spends weeks writing parts that complement the music that the hornline is playing, as well as add energy to the show. The color guard choreographer uses the audio of the show to decide what the color guard should be doing at that point in time of the show. The choreographers analyze the changes in dynamics, as well as the style being utilized by the hornline to write the dances for the color guard.

Finally, all of this information is sent to the drill designer, who coordinates the motion of every single performer to create the forms seen on the field. This is the most tedious process of them all, because the drill writer needs to take so many different variables into account: sections playing, shapes need to tell the story, physical practicality of motion, etc.

This is not a once-and-done process, however. Edits are made almost daily to the show before it is even given to the performers, and even more changes are made once the show is put on the field. Again, advances in music notation, as well as drill-writing software have made this process much easier than its handwritten counterpart. However, the creativity and precision of these designs are absolutely incredible, and work the designers do cannot be taken for granted.

Once all of these aspects of the show are created, it is the instructional staff and performers’ job to give the design life. These individuals work for nine months on a twelve-minute show, striving each and every day for perfection. In mid-August, the final product of all the hard work and design is shown off at finals. Seeing drum corps shows makes me really appreciate the hard work and creativity that still exists in today’s society, and I think if more people knew about this activity, they would realize how incredible drum corps is and what it can do to better an individual’s life.

 

This video sums up everything I have just said, and gives great visual representations of what I stated in this post.

Santa Clara Vanguard’s 2014 Production – Scheherazade: Words 2 Live By

Santa Clara Vanguard’s 2014 production, “Scheherazade: Words 2 Live By” tells the stories of 1,001 Nights (Arabian Nights). The main character must tell stories to save her life. In this show, the characters of her stories (genies, warriors, etc.) come to life.

Evaluation:

Overall Score: 96.65

General Effect: 37.50

At first, the storyline of this show is hard to decipher. The music played by the front ensemble creates a dream-like atmosphere, but also places the show in the Middle-East. However, as the show progresses, the music, as well as the color guard and forms created by the performers helps tell this show’s story. The second major section of the show is the strongest section in terms of general effect, for it is very clear that this is the time the girl tells the story of the genie. The props backfield, as well as the pillow props used throughout the show add a lot to the story. Overall, the show is very exciting, and tells the story in a very adventurous way.

Visual: 19.80, 19.80, 19.70 – 29.65

Color Guard: The color guard contributes immensely to the success of this show. Their bright flags, coupled with their intricate actions and dances create a Middle-Eastern Fairy Tale atmosphere that makes this show a lot more understandable. In the section mentioned above, the color guard’s blue flags and choreography tell the genie’s story beautifully. Finally, at the conclusion of the show, the color guard’s envelopment of the corps under the bright parachute concludes that the main character has told her stories, and is now safe from harm.

General: Throughout the show, the corps’ forms are almost always clean and precise. The forms add to the Middle-Eastern tone of the show, as the shapes resemble Arabic characters and objects commonly associated with Middle-Eastern Fairy Tales. If you watch closely, you can see the corps form numbers, which I believe signify the last of their wishes being granted by the genie that comes to life. The corps is running through most of the show, so their drill is very difficult. However, some of the easier sets (some straight lines for example) were not as precise as they should have been.

Music: 19.50, 19.50, 20.00 – 29.50

General Music: This show was phenomenal musically. The overall tone of the show did a lot to create a Middle-Eastern setting for the stories to be told. The music was energetic in times of adventure, and peaceful in times where the stories were more dream-like. The final section of music was very mysterious, as to suggest the “To Be Continued…” heard at the end of most stories. There were some points where the ensemble tore, but this happened very rarely.

Hornline: As mentioned several times before, the music creates a Middle-Eastern fairy tale setting that helps tell the story. The hornline plays with a very warm tone throughout the show, despite the incredibly challenging drill, which makes it very pleasing to listen to the show. The hornline also plays with varying dynamics that make the show interesting. They change style from aggressive during the adventurous parts of the show, to soft and light during the dream parts of the show. However, there were some balance issues, and some ensemble tears.

Percussion: The percussion was absolutely incredible. The music being performed fills out the ensemble’s sound so beautifully. The music performed by the front ensemble does so much to create the show’s setting, and the battery’s music adds necessary energy to the show. The performers play so well together. The music being performed is incredibly difficult, and the players play it almost perfectly. There were one or two instances where very slight differences in playing could be heard, but other than that, it was a flawless performance.

Project #3 Ideas

The first idea that came to mind of a paradigm shift is the shift that has occurred in stand up comedy. Only a few decades ago, comedians like Bill Cosby were incredibly popular, telling very clean, and simple jokes. Comedy began to shift around the time Eddie Murphy became popular. At this time, comedy began to be darker, and was done in a fashion much like story telling. Nowadays, popular comedians’ jokes, like that of Louis CK, are incredibly dark, touching on some of the most controversial topics of life (race, gay marriage, etc.) Comedy specials are now like watching a master story teller tell the story of everyday life with an interesting spin. This comedy is a lot harder to grasp than that of the past, but also conveys very important messages about how the comedian and the audience should think about how the world works. Despite this shift, there are still some comedians that use the olden-day styles of Bill Cosby (Gabriel Iglesias, for example). I think it would be incredibly interesting to see what types of jokes comedians are shifting to, as well as discover how audiences are reacting to these jokes.

The other topic idea I have is the paradigm shift that has taken place in rap music. In the early days of hip hop, rap was the medium through which underprivileged artists spoke their mind. Artists like Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls rapped about the struggles they were currently facing, as well as what they had to deal with in the past. Until the end of this era in rap, rappers like Biggie and Tupac rapped to bolster their own reputation, and worried solely about their work. However, rap is shifting into a completely new vein. Rappers try to rap about struggles that they have not truly experienced (Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” is a great example). Also, rappers have shifted away from getting messages out through their rap. Finally, rappers constantly bash on each other to increase publicity. Chris Brown recently called out Drake on live radio. Things like this never used to happen, but are now everyday occurrences in rap. Rap is becoming more and more popular, so I think it would be very interesting to analyze this paradigm shift.

Rhetorical Analysis Draft

E-Cigarette-Ad

Here is my rhetorical analysis essay so far. I have yet to write one more body paragraph and the conclusion.

Connor Cassady

Sarah Adams

RCL

14 October, 2014

Why Quit? Switch to the Easy Way Out

Over the past few years, a movement urging smokers to quit has been sweeping across America. Countless commercials, posters, social media posts, and medical professional statements have been circulating through society, all working toward the same goal: Help smokers quit smoking. It is a well-known fact how difficult it is to quit smoking, and many attempts have been made to ease this transition for smokers – nicotine patches, support groups, etc., but have not been successful in helping all smokers quit. Another problem faced by these campaigns is that they cannot stop people from starting to smoke, which starts the whole process over again. Seeing the negative effects of smoking drives smokers to want to quit, but, as mentioned previously, this is a very difficult task. So, a whole new market has been created: smokers looking to find a way to smoke without the harmful side effects of conventional cigarettes. Enter the blu electronic cigarette. This device contains a smaller amount of nicotine than normal cigarettes, but the smoke is all water vapor, thus eliminating almost all of the harm of cigarettes. People everywhere are spreading the word about these devices, and advertisements are popping up all over written and digital media. One ad in particular, the “Why Quit?” ad, uses appearance and berating language to convince wannabe quitters into electronic cigarette consumers.

When first viewed, the ad’s large heading and picture of a man smoking an electronic cigarette creates a compelling argument for switching to blu eCigs. The heading of this advertisement, originally launched in the fall of 2013, creates a safe haven for those smokers looking to quit their lethal habit. The words, “Why Quit? Switch to blu,” make it seem as though it is in smokers’ best interest to not quit smoking, but rather smoke electronic cigarettes rather than “normal” cigarettes. This heading portrays the act of quitting smoking in search of better health as something undesirable, and idiotic. This portrayal makes switching to blu eCigs all the more pleasing because it allows the consumers to continue smoking, and the switch now seems to be the most logical choice. Also, the man smoking the blu eCig in the ad appeals to the audience’s human need to fit in and be liked. The man is depicted as a very cool person, who, based on his clothing, is successful in life. His clothing is expensive, his jewelry is large and flashy, and he has the overall demeanor of someone who has made it in life. And what is he doing? Smoking a blu electronic cigarette. This then makes the viewer believe that he/she can also achieve this wealth and status in society if he/she switches to blu eCigs. Finally, the portrayal of the electronic cigarette itself draws the audience in. It has the same shape as a normal cigarette, but is black, and has a mesmerizing glow at one end. This glow appeals to the simplest of human liking: shiny objects. This glow lures the viewers in, and captivates him/her, allowing the blu eCig to control him/her before even viewing the actual product.

The paragraph underneath the large heading of this ad uses berating, yet inspiring language to convince the viewer to switch to blu eCigs. At first glance, this paragraph seems harmless. It presents the existence of the blu electronic cigarette, showing the viewer a new possibility for “healthy” smoking. However, in the next sentence, the ad states that blu eCigs will allow smokers to, “[t]ake back [their] freedom…” Given this ad was displayed primarily in America, the viewers of the ad have a very strong belief of what it means to be free. America is supposed to be a place where someone can be their own person, and celebrate who he/she is as an individual. This sentence is chastising smokers for letting cigarettes take away this American right. Blu eCigs is taunting the ad’s viewers, almost saying, “How could you let them take away your freedom? Are you not an American? Do you not enjoy being free? Who are they to tell you what you can and cannot do?” This lights a fire under the viewers, and frustrates them to the point of wanting to do something about it. So, what do they do? They use the resource in front of them to come up with a solution. They see that they will be able to get their freedom back if they switch to blu eCigs. Also, the last sentence of this paragraph makes a personal attack at the viewers and their work ethic. It states, “Nobody likes a quitter.” This statement makes the viewer believe that they are not working hard enough to maintain their habit, and that they are not hard working individuals because of this fact. Also, this attacks the viewer’s sense of being an American. Part of being an American, in blu eCigs’ mind, is working tirelessly to achieve goals. So, if these smokers quit, they will never achieve the happiness or success of the man depicted in the ad, and will be shunned for being “quitters.” Again, this statement is using the fact that humans want to be liked and want to fit in, and they will do almost anything to achieve acceptance. So, the ad again portrays the idea of quitting smoking as illogical, convincing the viewer to switch to blu electronic cigarettes, and once again become a part of society. Overall, this paragraph breaks down the viewer. It makes them seriously consider who they are as a person, as an American, and as a member of society. This deconstruction of self allows blu eCigs to rebuild the viewer into someone that chooses to smoke their product, and become the person that this company envisions as an ideal citizen.

 

 

A few things I would greatly appreciate some feedback on:

– Transitions: I’m afraid that my ideas jump randomly from one to the next.

-Cohesiveness: I am unsure as to whether the ideas I am presenting are all leading toward a common theme for the ad. Maybe this will become more clear when I finish the essay, but for now, I am unsure.

-Following the assignment: I have been known, in many occasions, to go off topic, or stray from an assignment. Does this paper follow the assignment?

Thank you for taking the time to read this and provide feedback.

 

The Cadets’ 2014 Production – Promise: An American Portrait

The Cadets’ 2014 Production, Promise: An American Portrait, tells the story of American prosperity through the speeches of three of the most iconic presidents of this country: Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.

This recording is from a rehearsal, so the members are not in uniform, and there are breaks in the show. However, every part of the show is performed, so nothing will be missed in viewing this video.

Evaluation:

Overall Score: 97.90

General Effect: 40.00

The most successful aspect of this show was its general effect. The story presented by this show is told so well, and conveyed almost flawlessly to the audience. The narrator makes this a little easier to achieve, as the story can be told through words as well as music. However, the music does an amazing job telling this show’s story as well. When the excerpts of speeches are triumphant, the music is very energetic and powerful. The music creates a sense of courage and strength that ties in beautifully with the message being conveyed by the excerpts. When the story of the stock market is told, the music adopts no definite key, making the music seem chaotic, an amazing representation of the confusion surrounding the country at the time of the stock market crash. However, the music then becomes more energetic when the speech excerpts tell of people getting back to work after the crash. Finally, the last piece, “Simple Gifts” from Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” finishes the tale of success with an incredibly optimistic and prosperous melody. Also, at the end of the show, President Obama’s speeches are sampled, thus putting the show in the present, and truly connecting the audience to the show.

Visual: 19.10, 18.90, 18.90 – 28.45

Color Guard: The color guard does a very good job throughout the entire show of supplying energy to the music. The constant costume changes keep the audience on their toes, and adds variety to the show that a lot of drum corps lack. Also, their actions are very difficult, and are very synchronized. All of their tosses are thrown to the same height and are caught at the same time, which, surprisingly, adds a very strong layer to the music. The tosses and catches, if executed correctly, emphasize key parts of the music, and make the music’s effect that much greater.

General: Overall, this show is incredibly visually demanding. The music is at incredibly fast tempos, which asks a lot physically of the performers. The musicians are running for nearly half of the show, and it still sounds as if they are playing standing still. Also, a lot of their forms include diagonals and curves, which are very difficult to execute. These forms also add a lot to the overall effect of the show. For example, the flag created in the very beginning of the show immediately introduces the topic of the show to the audience. However, some of the easier forms were not executed perfectly, and took away from the overall visual effect.

Music: 19.60, 19.80, 19.50 – 29.45

General Music: Overall, the music played by each section fit together very well. The parts complimented each other beautifully, and made the corps sound like one cohesive unit. The music was played with a lot of emotion, making it very easy to be thoroughly entertained by this show. However, there were times when some sections slowed down/sped up more than others, and the ensemble sound tore. This took away from the musical effect of the show.

Hornline: This hornline was incredible. They had incredible dynamic contrast (very quiet to very loud), and maintained sound quality throughout the entirety of the show, despite all of the running they were doing. Also, they played with an incredibly warm sound throughout that allowed them to pour every ounce of emotion they had into the show, without the sound becoming ugly and off-putting. There were very few times when the horn line was not balanced throughout,  but these times are what kept them from a perfect score.

Percussion: The percussion added a lot to this show. Every recording heard was the responsibility of the front ensemble to play at the right time. The music played by the front ensemble (and the battery) interweaved beautifully with what the hornline played. The music was incredibly challenging, and the musicians executed it nearly flawlessly. However, there were times where it sounded as though more than one person was playing per instrument.