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How Drum Corps Is Judged Today

How Drum Corps Is Judged Today

by George Oliviero

“In second place with a score of…………….” We’ve all heard those words in one context or another. For drum corps fans, the announcement of the scores is the moment to hold one’s breath and to cross one’s fingers, hoping that the favorite team moves up in the standings. Of course, that excitement often turns to amazement, disbelief, shock, and perhaps a bit of anger. “Those judges…….” Or “How did THAT happen? My team was clearly better.” Or “It’s a fix. They always win.” Gosh, I am sure we have all heard a long list of complaints after a competition some time or other. We can probably agree that even in professional sports the audience reactions are not so different. “How could they miss that interference call?” Or “It was clearly goaltending, and they didn’t call it.” Or “It was a fumble. What’s the tuck rule?” Yes, you have to remember the “Snow Bowl” days for that last one.

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DCA

DCA

by H. Worth Ake

The Senior World Championship circuit, Drum Corps Associates, has had an illustrious history of 32 consecutive years of international competitions, although no title show has yet been held outside the continental USA.

DCA was organized in 1962 at Scranton, Pennsylvania under the guidance of the late, great, Henry A. Mayer, and motivated continuously down through the years by many-time DCA president, Vince Bruni. Current circuit president Michael Petrone has inspired the continuing success of the circuit.

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Edward J. Denon, January 1, 1931 – July 20, 1995

Edward J. Denon, January 1, 1931 – July 20, 1995

Ed Denon’s eulogy as delivered by George Oliviero, St. Paul’s Church of Hingham,
Monday, July 24, 1995

“Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and the muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.” *

It is a devastating and very sad time for us. Our long time and dear friend, Ed Denon, passed away, peacefully, Thursday, July 20. When he retired a year ago, he took even more pride in his lawn and garden area. That day, after some time doing the cutting and trimming, he came into his home, sat down and his very warm, big heart stopped.

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The Triumph of Sound

The Triumph of Sound

by John Fitzgerald

Recently a contributor to the Netscape Drum Corps Newsgroup on the World Wide Web raised an interesting issue. She inquired as to what people thought was fundamentally more important in the activity, the music or the marching? This is a question I have been pondering since the end of the season, and it is, I believe, a question that merits some serious scrutiny.

As I formulate it, the question is: what is primary, the sound or the sight, music or marching? My response, as a thirty year observer of the activity, is that sound, in particular brass, is primary today. Now, before all you M & M freaks hit the ceiling, let me defend my position. To do so, it is necessary to examine a bit of drum corps history.

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Musical Form vs. Visual Form: The Art of Film Scoring … and Drum Corps?

Musical Form vs. Visual Form: The Art of Film Scoring … and Drum Corps?

by Eric Reasoner

Film Scoring: the “art” of creating music for motion pictures – music that will “underscore” the dramatic moments on screen.

Drum Corps: the “art” of creating a musical and visual entertainment experience … (well, you fill in your own definition if you like).

Film scoring and Drum Corps, an interesting pair – different worlds, yet some familiar ground…opposite methods used in development, yet alike in overall intent.

Musical form and visual form, which comes first? The scene or the score, the drill or the arrangement, which one is the primary element? Good question. The answer is … it depends. Let’s see.

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Why the Ticks Stopped

Why the Ticks Stopped

The Ever-Changing Face of “Excellence”

by George Oliviero

“Have We Abandoned Excellence?” was a question asked of American society and workers, in general, more than ten years ago, in an essay by  Lance Morrow in Time magazine. The question is still relevant in society and is heard more and more in our activity. The story is that we are no longer as “clean” as we used to be. There is a longing for the good old days when we say precision and we knew, and the audience knew, that there were very few mistakes. How beautiful, how nostalgic: why did we ever get rid of the tick, which was the preeminent force to foster such precision?

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Beginnings

Beginnings

by Jack Weir

The result was the same for all of us. The circumstances leading up to it differed in many cases but the effect never varied. We were stricken by the “Drum Corps Virus,” i.e. chills, goose bumps, and an insatiable thirst to be a part of the group.

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From Chrome to Rope – Part 2

From Chrome to Rope – Part 2

by Michael J. Cahill

Observations of a Drum and Bugle Corps Drummer in the World of Fife and Drum

Last time, we explained that because the fifers and drummers were the signalmen of their day, they had to be at once identifiable to the commanders. Because of this, they were uniformed in the reverse colors of the infantry. But this was not the only reason for that. Very often the martial musicians of our Revolutionary War were young boys, and in any case, non-combatants. Generals of that era were members of the aristocracy, and although men still got stabbed with bayonets and had their heads blown off by artillery shells, war was a much more gentlemanly affair in those times. As strategically advantageous as it would have been, it was considered very bad form to shoot a musician (By the way, it still is!).

As drummers, early in our training, we learned that the drum was not able to sustain a tone like the non-percussive instruments or the human voice. The drummer’s tool for sustaining a tone was the roll. In drum and bugle corps, circa 1945-1980, we marched at about MM=128. A one count roll was a 5 stroke, two counts was a 9 stroke, and a three count was a 17 stroke roll. (Beyond that, a four count roll was known as a four count roll, etc.)

Colonial soldiers walked everywhere. Many of the soldiers at Yorktown, Virginia in the final battle had walked there from New England and other distant places. They marched at MM=92 if the commander was in no great hurry. In fact, this tempo, at that time was called a quickmarch! It was a dignified pace and made twelve hour forced marches possible day after day.

Well, guess what – a 5, 9, or 17 stroke roll at that tempo does not sound like a roll! That is why colonial drumming uses different count rolls. In colonial drumming, the one count roll is the 7 stroke, the two count is the 11 stroke, and the three count is the 19 stroke roll. Those two extra strokes squeezed in create a roll sound as opposed to a more staccato sound you would hear if you played a 5, 9, or 17 stroke roll at that tempo.

In drum and bugle corps, the sixteenth note was the foundation, subdivisionally speaking, of the roll in a duple meter and the eighth note in tertiary meter. A diddle is a double stroke played by the same hand. By diddling the sixteenth note in duple, or the eighth note in tertiary meter, we not only got the roll, but a good, solid, easy to hear subdivision that allowed us to pulsate the roll in time and play the interior diddles together.

To any of you, who like me, thought that because colonial drumming is played slower and is not as flashy as drum and bugle corps drumming, it isn’t as hip, check this out. In colonial drumming, the subdivision for the 7 stroke roll is a sixteenth note triplet, the subdivision for the 11 stroke roll is an artificial grouping of 5 (a quintuplet). For the 19 stroke roll, the subdivision is an artificial grouping of 9 – spread evenly over two counts.

You have all probably heard that on the evening of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere, William Dawes, et al. rode the Massachusetts countryside throughout Middlesex County spreading the alarm by yelling that “The British were coming!” This is comical. Americans of that time considered themselves British. What Revere, Dawes, et al. were yelling was that “The Regulars were out!” This meant that the regular British army, sailed from England and encamped in Boston, were on the march and headed this way. To yell that “the British were coming” would have been totally meaningless to the colonial farmer of 1775. The typical response to such a cry would most probably have been, “What does that mean?”

So our drumming was originally of British origin. Then along came a Prussian named Baron Von Steuben whom George Washington promptly appointed to the position of First National Drill Instructor. After Benedict Arnold spurred the Americans to a victory at Saratoga, New York, the French, who had been interacting with the Swiss, and when they were not at war with them, the Germanic states, said, “Hey, maybe these Americans can beat the British after all,” and entered the war on our side. American drumming became at once what the country was becoming – a melting pot.

As the American culture would do in the years to come, American drumming assimilated the best of the British, German, Swiss. and French styles.

American Martial Music would evolve over the centuries. The War of 1812 saw the introduction of the bass drum. The bugle was introduced around the time of the Mexican War. The Civil War saw the first multi-instrument bands, forerunners of the American Marching Band. In the late 1800s, John Philip Sousa raised the marching band to prominence in the American military, and by his many public tours and concerts, in the American culture.

Drumming, though it evolved some as a skill, remained largely unchanged until the 1960s. If you don’t think this is so, take any drum and bugle corps snare drum part played prior to 1960, substitute 7s for 5’s 11s for 9s, 19s for 17s, play it at MM=92.
Whistle “Yankee Doodle” as you play – Tricorn is optional.

To be continued…

Was Star of Indiana Good for the Activity?

Was Star of Indiana Good for the Activity?

Point: Star of Indiana Was Good for the Activity

by T.L.

In this debate on the state of drum corps today, one corps – Star of Indiana – has been a flashpoint. To many, Star is the strongest example of what ails the activity. They look at the corps’ progressive programming and financially firm footing and think that this somehow will bring drum corps to ruin.

That’s ridiculous!

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From Chrome to Rope

From Chrome to Rope

Observations of a Drum and Bugle Corps Drummer
in the World of Fife and Drum

by Michael J. Cahill

 

As I grow older, I am truly amazed that I continue to learn a great deal – a fact that is astonishing considering that I was quite certain that I knew it all some 35 years ago. One of these revelations is that almost nothing is what it is for no reason. If you trace anything backwards in time, there is almost always a person or an event that starts, alters, or puts something on a path where permanence is established. Although we are told that drumming is as old as man, the adoption of the drum by the military is one of those momentous events.

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I’m Bored – Aren’t you?

I’m Bored – Aren’t you?

By Gerry Shellmer

In my opinion, listening to a drum corps percussion section is as musically boring as a politician’s campaign speech. Imagine how interesting and musically rewarding a drum corps contest would be if the instrumentation were not limited to mere drums and cymbals. The contest would evolve into an enjoyable show and therefore a more saleable product which would realize more $$$ for the corps.

Honestly, consider the amount of musical orientation drummers receive who play in even the finer lines in the nation. Hopefully they will at least learn how to read music and play in time. They learn to play with precise execution – the snare drum, the tom tom, bass drum, cymbals and tympani. Whether or not they learn to play these instruments with the proper technique is in serious doubt.

Before a percussion student is accepted into any good music college, he must demonstrate a degree of proficiency on a keyboard mallet instrument, usually the marimba. Where does he get the training? Certainly not in the drum corps!!!

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