Category Archives: Passion Blog

RCL II Passion Blog Ideas

My first idea for this semester’s passion blog is to detail my attempt of writing a novel. I have had the idea for a long time now, and actually began writing (only the introduction and one paragraph of the first chapter) last semester, but I would really like to work more on this book. In this blog, I would describe how the past week of work has gone, as well as share my goals for the next week. This idea was actually inspired by a friend of mine at James Madison University, who has done a vlog series of the same exact style. If you are curious as to what I am writing about, it is a thriller about a serial killer, with the perspective shifting from the killer to the police investigating the murders, and possibly other characters I create. This blog would really help me stay motivated, give me deadlines for the book, and allow me to see if what I am doing is entertaining and worth continuing.

Here’s a link to the first vlog of his series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC5wOXd3r7E

My second idea for the passion blog is related to a topic I explored in great detail last semester: Comedy. In particular, I loved exploring stand-up comedy last semester. So, for this blog, I would watch a different stand-up comedy special each week, and comment on what I found funny, what I liked and didn’t like about the comic, and try to delve further into what the comic was trying to say about society as a whole. Yes, I did just say what the comic was saying about society. Stand-up comedy is no longer just about making people laugh. This form of entertainment has become so much more, and is an incredibly successful platform for social commentary. I believe that stand-up comedy may be one of the best tools to create necessary changes in society. This blog would allow me to further explore this interest of mine, as well as expose the more “scholarly” side of stand-up.

Here’s a link to the TED Talk I gave on comedy last semester: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_Z6oHwdoD0

Carolina Crown’s 2014 Production, “Out of this World”

Carolina Crown’s 2014 production, “Out of this World,” follows Major Tom on his journey away from Earth into the far reaches of Space, his loneliness when communication is lost, and his happiness when returning home.

Evaluation

Overall Score: 95.45

General Effect: 37.00

This show tells its story very well. Through the use of electronics in the front ensemble imitating futuristic weapons and rocket launch sounds, the use of trampolines to create a “zero-gravity” feel to the show, and very Space-like and triumphant music, Major Tom’s story is told very well. However, the main thing missing from this show was visual representations of Space travel. Not many of the forms made by the performers explicitly represented space travel, and I think if more of these forms were utilized, the show would have been better.

Visual: 19.30, 19.60, 19.50 – 29.20

Color Guard: The main issue I had with the color guard throughout this show was that they did not catch my eye. This is not entirely their fault, for the drill being performed by the rest of the corps was very eye-catching because of its difficulty. However, the job of the color guard is to add color and flare to the show, and I do not believe they did this as well as they could have. Their flags were bright and shiny, and some of their work was difficult, but overall, I was not wowed by their performance.

General: As mentioned above, more could have been done to visually enhance this show. That does not mean that what was presented was bad. In the beginning of the show, the corps is spread out haphazardly on the field, and as ground control counts down to launch, the corps forms a uniform block. This effect is great as it shows the myriad of moving parts that go into a shuttle launch, as well as shows everything that could go wrong during a launch. Despite these possibilities for failure, launches occur very seamlessly and orderly, as evidenced by the drill. I also mentioned the high level of difficulty of this drill. The performers are running throughout the entire production, and their stamina is very impressive.

Music: 19.70, 19.80, 19.00 – 29.25

General Music: As mentioned before, the electronics used in the front ensemble add a very space-like tone to the show. Also, the music played by the whole corps is very reminiscent of a journey through Space. During the launch and travel to the far reaches of Space the music is very triumphant. At the time of the show where Major Tom is lonely and hopeless when communication is lost, the music wonderfully reflects these feelings. Also, ensemble voices were paired very nicely. For example, in the first movement, the tenor drums played with the mid brass (mellophones and baritones), the snares played with the trumpets, and the bass drums played with the tubas. This pairing of instruments highlights their respective ranges very nicely, and is pleasing to the ear.

Hornline: The hornline does a phenomenal job throughout the show of not letting their drill affect the way they play their instruments. Despite running almost the entire show, it sounds as if the hornline is standing still. The balance from player to player is incredible, and the sound is very pleasing. However, I feel that the hornline could have showed a little more dynamic contrast to add to the emotion of the show. In the ballad (the section where only the hornline and front ensemble play), I feel like varying volume would have packed a stronger emotional punch, especially at such a pivotal part of the story.

Percussion: The percussion was the worst of the five corps that I have evaluated so far. Granted, they are still performing at a very high level, but there were a lot of times where it sounded as if more than one person was playing. That being said, the percussion did a lot to add to this show. One of my favorite moments is when the battery plays on mufflers and metallic plates. This section does a great job of representing Major Tom drifting through empty Space, heading into an unknown world.

A nice little video of a snare drummer’s drum falling off during the finals performance. Luckily, the judge was there to save the day. This video also gives you a good view of how many fans there are in attendance at finals.

 

 

My Favorite Drum Corps Shows of All Time

Sorry to stray from my original topic again… but I liked posting a different style blog post last time, so here goes. This week, I will be sharing some of my favorite drum corps shows ever. Hopefully you’ll have time to watch them because they are pretty freaking awesome. Also, I hope this blog post, either directly through your viewing of the shows I post, or indirectly by following the YouTube thread to other drum corps shows, inspires you to find some of your favorite shows. Finally, I think it is important to remember where drum corps has come from in the past, rather than just explore what took place this past year.

The Cadets 2011 World Championship Production, “Between Angels and Demons,” is tied with the Bluecoats 2014 Production, “Tilt,” for my favorite drum corps show of all time. This show takes Dan Brown’s book, “Angels and Demons,” and brings it to life. The general effect of this show is through the roof. The uniforms, the music, the drill, all of it tells the story of the struggle between good and evil beautifully. The drumline (my favorite part) is incredible during this show, the color guard is fantastic, and the hornline is outstanding. Enough of my raving, here’s a multicam view of their encore performance at finals.

Fun Fact: The tall snare drummer in maroon who is the first one shown in the video went to Penn State and marched in the Blue Band. There is also another snare drummer, as well as a bass drummer who were in the Blue Band. Representing Penn State pretty well, I’d say!

The Cadets 1989 Production, “Les Miserables”

This show does a wonderful job of telling the story of Jean Valjean. With incredible energy, amazing musicianship, and nearly perfect visuals, this show has it all. This show was ahead of its time, meaning it contained effects that were on the cutting edge of the activity. The best example is in the closer, not seen in the video, where the corps splits in two, and plays two completely different songs at two completely different tempos, showing the vast divide between the diplomats and the poor during the French Revolution. This show is also incredibly sentimental to me because my mom marched in this show. There are no full videos of the show online, but here is a clip of the opener.

 

Madison Scout’s 2013 Production, “Corps of Brothers, 75 Years of Survival.”

This show is amazing because it shows just how emotional drum corps can be. This show tells the story of soldiers going off to war and the turmoil they face in battle. Many cool effects are used in this show to mimic warfare. One example is the snare drums playing in a way that resembles machine gun fire. The color guard is the most important part of this show, as they depict the soldiers at war, making the show real and approachable. If you only have time to watch one show (and don’t mind possibly crying) I recommend you watch this show.

Google Madison Scouts 2013 and click on the Daily Motion link for the full show.

These are just three of the hundreds of amazing shows that are out there for your viewing pleasure, and there are hundreds more that haven’t even been thought of yet. If these three aren’t enough to satisfy your drum corps hunger, Carolina Crown’s 2012 and 2013 shows are phenomenal, and so is Phantom Regiment’s 2008 show.

I hope you enjoy my favorite drum corps shows as much as I do!

My Drum Corps History

This week, I have decided to write the post that I probably should have started the year with: How did I become involved in this odd activity called Drum Corps?

Drum Corps has become somewhat of a tradition in my family. My mom (1988 and 1989, Hornline), aunt (1988, Color Guard), dad (1986 and 1987, Battery), and uncle (1985 – 1991, Battery) all marched Cadets. My mom and dad met through drum corps in 1988 and continued on to a group in DCA, the Reading Buccaneers, in the 1990’s. My mom served as the Drum Major for the corps during these years, and my dad performed in and later taught and wrote for the battery. *T.M.I. Alert* I am what you might call a drum corps baby because I was conceived the night of DCA Finals in 1995. So, drum corps is in my blood. My family still loves and participates in drum corps, and we regularly attend drum corps competitions.

I began playing in the percussion section of concert band in fifth grade, and as the winter of my sophomore year of high school approached, I decided I wanted to try this drum corps thing. So, I, along with my mom and sister, went to the Reading Buccaneers and auditioned. My mom was the Drum Major, my sister auditioned for trumpet, and I auditioned for the Front Ensemble. Sure enough, we all made the sections we auditioned for, my step father took the role of photographer for the corps, and drum corps became a family ordeal. A little fun fact – performers have to pay to perform with a drum corps, but because there were three of us performing, we got the family discount!

The summer of 2012 was when I fell in love with this activity and began reaping the endless benefits of spending my weekends in the sun, and playing music with some of my best friends in the world. Our show that year was entitled, “The Black Symphony,” and we were fortunate enough to be crowned World Champions with a record-breaking score of 99.03. Fun Fact #2: In all of the years of my mom participating in drum corps, this was the first year she was part of a corps that was crowned World Champion, so it was incredibly special for her to take home her first trophy with her son and daughter also performing.

Here’s what it looks like to be a member of the Front Ensemble. (*Warning* Sixteen year old shirtless me is in most of this video. Proceed with caution.)

Mom, K, and Me 2012 Finals

 

The three of us “keeping our cool” after receiving our championship medals in 2012.

But, one year and one championship were not enough. In the winter of 2012, all three of us went back to the Buccaneers. My mom remained the Drum Major, my sister auditioned again for trumpet, but I decided to change things up and audition for snare drum. We were again all incredibly fortunate to make the sections we auditioned for. 2013’s production was entitled, “Higher, Faster, Stronger.” Again, we were fortunate enough to be crowned World Champions, with a score of 98.43. Fun Fact #3: Drum Corps is an incredibly emotional activity. You find a second family in your section, and in my case, become even closer with your actual family throughout the summer.

Here’s an up close video of the snare line marching the 2013 show. Hopefully this video gives you an idea of the physical challenge drum corps presents to performers. I’m the tall one starting on the 40 yard line.

 

K and Me 2013 Finals

My sister and I doing a little huggin’ and cryin’ after coming off of the field after our Finals performance. Keep in mind, we do not know we have won yet.

Drum corps has taught me so many incredibly valuable life lessons – too many to list here – but here are a few that I carry with me every day:

–     Work harder than you ever thought possible. Your body and mind may scream at you to stop, but do not give up. Push past the pain, and come out on the other side stronger.

–     Love those around you, and do not be afraid to rely on them for help and support. They are going through the same thing you are, so they will know how to pick you up when you are down.

–     Cherish the thrill of working with others toward perfection. No matter what happens, remember people make mistakes, and frustration will happen, but never forget that everyone is working just as hard, if not harder, than you are, so respect them and their work. What you can do together is truly astounding.

 

 

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.

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.

Bluecoats’ 2014 Production: Tilt

The Bluecoats’ 2014 production, Tilt, shifts the field and puts a whole new spin on what it means to perform a drum corps show on a football field.

There is a video on YouTube of their Finals performance, but due to possible licensing complications, I will not post the link here. I encourage you to watch this video, “Bluecoats – “Tilt” [Finals]”.

Evaluation:

Overall Score: 97.95

General Effect: 40.00

The purpose of this show is to take the typical idea of what a drum corps production is, and “tilt” it. The Bluecoats achieve this in so many ways. The most prevalent way is through the orange border they use to create new boundaries on the field. From above, this new border makes the field appear as though it is tilting down and to the left. The triangle props on the field allow the players to stand on an angle, and at several points in the show, the performers lunge to the side, and “tilt” themselves. The visual forms are created with reference to the orange boundary, and are thus “tilted” with regards to the normal lines of a football field.

The modulation of the introduction, along with the constant modulations in chords played by the corps create an aural “tilt.” There is never really one standard sound, and the corps constantly “tilts” and slides to the next theme. Also, the constant change in tempo, through accelerandos (gradually increases in musical speed) creates this same “tilting” effect.

Visual: 18.70, 19.00, 19.00 – 28.35

Color Guard: The flags, rifles, and costumes of the color guard add necessary bright colors to this show. The corps’ dark blue uniform is contrasted nicely by the orange of the color guard’s costumes and the bright blues and reds of the flags. The guard’s choreography helps add to the “tilt” motif of the show. For example, they begin the show in side planks, and thus are at a “tilt.” Also, their interaction with the hornline and drumline adds to the general effect of the show. For example, during the drum feature, the color guard grabs on the snare drummers, allowing them to “tilt” forward and backward while playing. Despite all of these details, the color guard does not add much emotion to the show. They add a bouncy energy that compliments the music, but do not evoke emotion out of the audience very effectively.

Visual: As mentioned before, the “tilted” forms add a lot to the general effect of the show. Almost all of the forms created use diagonals, which are very difficult to make look good. However, some of the lines that are supposed to be straight in this show are a little curvy, taking away from the visual effect. Along with the forms created, the use of the triangle props adds a lot to this show visually. The “tilting” of these props while performers stand on them helps convey the overall message of the show.

Music: 20.00, 19.50, 19.70 – 29.60

General Music: Overall, all of the parts fit together beautifully. The chords played by the hornline are beautiful and incredibly powerful. The battery and front ensemble parts compliment the hornline’s music amazingly, creating a very unified ensemble sound. The best example of this ensemble togetherness occurs at the very end of the show, where the hornline plays, and then the pitch is picked up, and bent by a synthesizer to the next chord.

Hornline: The hornline does an amazing job throughout this show. The bends in pitch that they play add to the aural “tilt” of the show. The most effective aspect of the hornline’s performance was their dynamic contrast. They played very loudly at times, but played very quietly as well, and varied volumes throughout the entire show. For example, the ballad began with them playing very quietly, peaked at a very loud volume, and then ended in an echo-like phrase. There were some parts, however, that some sections played louder than others, and threw off the balance of the hornline.

Percussion: The music the percussion plays, along with being difficult, adds a lot to the ensemble overall. The accents line up with accents in the hornline, and the parts weave in very well with the music being played by the corps. The parts also add necessary aspects to the music. For instance, in the beginning of the third section of the show, the hornline plays slow, drawn-out phrases. During this time, the front ensemble plays very fast rhythms, filling in the spaces created by the hornline. However, there were some times that I could hear more than one person per instrument.

 

 

Blue Devils’ 2014 Production: Felliniesque

Before I begin my judging of this performance, I must explain how I will be evaluating the performance. For this blog, I will be evaluating the Semi-Finals Performances of several DCI Corps. These videos are available through a subscription to the DCI Fan Network, and are therefore not publicly accessible through websites such as YouTube. However, I will be posting a link to the video on YouTube that I think is most similar to the Semi-Finals Video.

Each DCI show is judged on three categories, totaling a maximum of 100 points: General Effect (how well the show told its story) is worth 40 points, Visual (how good the show looked) is worth 30 points, and Music (how good the show sounded) is worth 30 points. The visual category is broken up into three parts: two general visual, and one color guard section. The music category is broken into three parts: one general music, one brass, and one percussion. In these multi-section categories, the maximum points for each section is 20, and the points are added together and divided by two.

The Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps 2014 production, “Felliniesque,” tells the story of the behind-the-scenes aspect of movies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YutfWHOLNE (Not the whole show. Shows them in uniform, and some of the forms).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOad-XSx_T0 (Entire run through. This is at practice on the day of Finals.).

Evaluation:

Overall Score: 95.20

General Effect: 37.50

This show, to me, did not tell the story of the movies at all. It begins with a very circus-like atmosphere through the music being played in the front ensemble. The brass continues this circus theme upon their entrance. Shortly afterward, the brass and battery shift gears into music that sounds more like a movie soundtrack. While this is going on, the color guard seems to be having a low-budget fashion show. The corps uses white platforms in various ways throughout the show, and the color guard’s most exposed moment occurs while these platforms are set up as a runway. Throughout the entirety of the show, the front ensemble continues the circus motif. This difference in central focus really takes away from the planned story of this show. I am going out on a limb here by making this connection, but the only possible way I can see these three separate ideas blending is by the show telling a “rags to riches” story (starting in the circus, working your way up to the big screen).

Visual: 19.00, 19.00, 19.00 – 28.50

Color Guard: Despite the seeming disconnect between the show’s intentions and the actions of the color guard, they do an amazing job telling their story. Each performer brings so much emotion to the show. Their choreography shows the struggles they are going through on their “rags to riches” journey, and helps connect the audience emotionally to the music. However, a lot of the work they are doing is not very difficult, which is the only thing taking away their perfect score.

Visual: Overall, the corps’s forms are very good. I only mean this in that they look like shapes. They do nothing to tell the story, and a lot of the time, I can barely tell what the shapes are. Also, the excessive use of scatter sets (forms that have no definitive shape – if you do not know what I mean, you will after watching this show) shows that this show is not very hard visually. Finally, the use of props as guides for forms (circles, for instance) is smart, but takes away from the difficulty of the drill.

Music:  19.30, 19.50, 19.60 – 29.2

General Music: The selections for the show are all amazing pieces of music. These performers perform them so well on the field. The only problem I have with the music overall, is the disconnect between sections, as mentioned before. Some things performed did not fit well together. For example, after the jazzy, dance movement, the hornline gets soft and smooth in playing style. At the same time, the quad section comes forward and plays and incredibly difficult feature over top of the brass, ruining the effect.

Brass: Again, the music was played beautifully. The only thing keeping the brass from a perfect score was the monotonously loud volume they played at. Very rarely did they play quietly. A shift in volume would have made the show a lot more interesting to listen to.

Percussion: The percussion music was incredibly challenging, and I applaud the performers for playing it as well as they did. However, the percussion’s job is to sound as close to one person per instrument as humanly possible. In this performance, there were instances when I could hear multiple performers per instrument, thus taking away from the overall effect of the percussion.

 

 

 

What is Drum Corps?

The activity of drum corps is something that few people know about. However, those that do know about it, can never get enough of it. This activity used to be a lot more popular (World Championships were aired on ESPN up through the 2007 season), but has sadly slid away from the public eye the past couple years. Drum Corps, put simply, is major league marching band, with shows performed on a standard football field. When phrased this way, however, I think people do not appreciate the level of difficulty of this activity.

In 2005, ESPN aired a short “documentary” detailing the athletic abilities of a drum corps member. In this video, a researcher from Indiana State University attached devices to a drummer to measure his heart rate and oxygen intake. The researcher found that the drummer was taking in as much oxygen as a well-trained runner halfway through a marathon, and had a consistent heart rate similar to that of a 400 yard dash runner. This is incredible, and definitely solidifies the qualification of drum corps as a sport.

Like any sport, drum corps has leagues. There are two main leagues, DCI (Drum Corps International, performers 21 years of age and younger), and DCA (Drum Corps Associates, all-age performers). DCI is the more intense of the two, due to the fact that members move in with their corps in mid-May, and practice 12+ hours everyday until mid-August, and DCA members practice only on weekends. In both cases, these are not your typical band practices. These practices are grueling. Performers must practice through rain, intense heat, and incredible physical fatigue. They all strive to be perfect in every single way – musically, visually, emotionally, etc. All of their hard work culminates in their final performance in mid-August and World Championships. Much like any other sport, there are corps that are consistently near the top of the pack. For DCI, these corps are the Blue Devils, the Cadets, Carolina Crown, The Bluecoats, The Cavaliers, Santa Clara Vanguard, and Phantom Regiment. These corps, along with all of the other corps in DCI, are from all over the United States.

So, what makes up a drum corps?

A drum corps consists of four groups: The Horn-line, the Percussion, The Color Guard, and the Drum Majors.

The horn-line consists of trumpets, mellophones, baritones, and tubas. The main role of the horn-line is to provide the lyrical and emotional aspect of the show, as well as a portion of the visual aspect of the show.

The percussion has two sections, the battery and the front ensemble. The battery is made up of snare drums, quad/tenor drums, bass drums, and occasionally cymbals. The front ensemble consists of typical concert percussion instruments – marimbas, vibraphones, tympani, concert bass drum, etc. The main role of the battery is to provide tempo for the corps in a creative way, and contribute to the visual aspect of the show. The front ensemble also provides tempo, but interweaves with the horn-line to add emotion and remains on the front sideline, thus rarely contributing to the visual aspect of the show.

The color guard consists of performers who play no music, but are the main visual contributors. They twirl and throw flags, rifles, sabers, etc., and put color and action to the music. These three groups also march to make shapes on the field.

The final group, the drum majors, directs the corps. These are the conductors of the drum corps, and they are responsible for maintaining tempo, and keeping the corps playing together.

The overall goal of a drum corps as a whole is to tell a story and evoke emotion out of their crowd. The amazing thing about this activity is that a show can move a whole stadium to tears with just music and motion. Almost every corps earns a standing ovation at finals, and they all deserve it. What these young performers do is absolutely incredible.

So, that’s drum corps in a nutshell. Next week, I will begin my analysis of this year’s DCI shows with the Blue Devils championship show, Felliniesque.

 

Here are links to the aforementioned video from 2005: