Among the aspects of the drum corps activity that have changed over the past five decades, it could be argued that the visual elements have been the most affected. The standards “back in the day” included marching in straight lines, wearing uniforms that matched exactly in color and style, and adhering to extremely stringent rules. Today’s visual programs have changed so much that many alumni claim it is “no longer drum corps.” Admittedly, some of the changes have diverged glaringly from the activity’s original roots. And yet, many of the same elements that made people “drum corps nuts” back in the day still exist today. (more…)
In Part 4A we discussed Rules and Judging. In this article, we will cover Attire.
For decades it was easy to identify a corps marching into a stadium from a simple glimpse of their uniforms. Until the late 1970s most corps wore uniforms that were a part of their signature. Many were classics worn for decades. A majority wore cadet style uniforms with shakos while others had roots derived from other styles. There were the military inspired (Troopers, Knights), scout influenced (Madison, Racine, St. Paul), ethnic (Caballeros, Kilties, Muchachos), police inspired (Bluecoats, PAL Cadets), and nautical (Stockton Commodores, IC Reveries).
Part 4(a) discussed Rules and Judging. Part 4(b) explored Attire. Now let’s examine:
Up until the late 1960s, the equipment permitted on the field was quite limited. Other than “legal” musical instruments, color guards carried flags, rifles, and sabers and rarely anything else in terms of equipment or props. If you fast forward to today, the contrast is stunning. In addition to a much wider range of guard equipment, almost every corps brings additional non-musical items onto the field. (more…)
Part 4(A) discussed Rules and Judging. Part 4(B) explored Attire. Part (C) studied Equipment and Props.
Now lets look at:
Design/Movement – 20th Century
The early years of “marching and maneuvering” in drum corps involved parade formations and straight lines with heavy military influence. Marching behind the corps proper and executing “the manual of arms” were often the extent of contributions from color guards. Most maneuvers involved platoons and squads at tight intervals. Drum lines were largely pinned to the 50 yard line. Fast forward to this century, and what is presented on the field these days is very different from those original roots. (more…)
Part 4(A) discussed Rules and Judging. Part 4(B) explored Attire. Part 4(C) studied Equipment and Props. Part 4(D) examined Design and Movement in the 20th Century. Now let’s look at:
Design/Movement- 21st Century
After the turn of the century, visual designs began including so much simultaneous GE that it was often difficult for audience members to decide what to focus on. In addition to a flood of new equipment, sets, and props, the complex designs featured layers of content with dynamic patterns and forms. Some programs were so content-dense that they required several viewings for the average fan to fully appreciate what was being presented. (more…)
In Part ONE, we covered brass.
In Part TWO, we covered electronics.
Next, we look at the evolution of Repertoire:
Part THREE – Repertoire
Back in the day, drum corps played complete songs. Remember that? It was common for a corps to play a march or martial-type song ‘off the line’, a Spanish Jazz piece for concert, and a ballad for their ‘exit’ with a production number in a completely different idiom. Back then, it did not matter if those songs were related in any way. This meant you could get a variety of musical styles in a single corps’ performance. With a few exceptions, programs did not have a ‘common thread’ or theme. Take, for example, the Madison Scouts 1975 Championship program: ‘Slaughter on 10th Avenue’ (Broadway show tune), ‘MacArthur Park ‘(pop), ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (classical with jazz influence), ‘Dueling Banjos’ (bluegrass), and ‘The Way We Were’ (ballad). This type of mixed idiom program was the standard up through the mid 1980s.
Part TWO – Electronics
In Part ONE of ‘Innovation and Evolution’ we discussed brass instrumentation. Next, we consider another significant innovation; the use of electronics.
Drum corps enthusiasts who have followed the competitive activity for decades have witnessed a significant evolution. Gone are the days of the ’starting line,’ playing ‘concert’ at a standstill, inspections (ended in the early ’70s), color presentations, the ‘tick’ system (early ’80s), and uniforms that appear, well…….uniform. What corps play, how they look, and what is allowed on the field is dramatically different now than in DCI’s inaugural season. Changes that have transpired over the past two decades have been especially significant, as the visual and musical landscapes of the activity have morphed away from their traditional roots.
Top DCI competitors these days regularly leverage their wealth of resources to put out excellent shows. Over the last 10 years, six corps: Blue Devils, Santa Clara Vanguard, Carolina Crown, Bluecoats, Cadets, and Cavaliers have been at or near the top of the rankings, with Boston making a dramatic surge of late. They all have strong organizations and are teeming with talent in their design teams, instructional staffs, and performers. And, most of the time, the shows they put on the field ‘hit a home run’. There are also instances where, despite all that talent, there have been ‘swings and misses’. (more…)