2017 Regional Test Piece Rumours

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by smaca, Jul 21, 2016.

  1. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Is it? I'm not keen, it's better than Judges but then so is root canal work. With you on the "no more transcriptions" thing, though. Pageantry is epic, though - along with Moorside, one of the absolute best pieces written for band before 1960 and more than testing the bands, will properly sort out conductors that are all technique and no musicianship. No amount of re-writing into easier time signatures and looking funky will help in that one :D
  2. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    Why all the fascination with old pieces?

    We are in the 21st century, we are playing now, we should be playing music written for brass bands as they are today not how they were 50 years ago.

    Anything written in the last 5 (ok maybe 10) years would be great.
  3. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Usually I would agree Steve, I'm not a fan of looking backwards, but given that most of what has been written in the last 10 years (for the top sections at least) is very much of the fast, loud and flashy variety it might be nice to throw Pageantry in for a change. IMO, it's a timeless classic that will test all bands and will be popular with most players.

    Something not quite so old but still a musical test as much as technical? Maybe Cloudcatcher Fells, Contest Music, Lowry Sketchbook... Great music and none of them sound the least bit dated.
  4. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    I don't see a problem with "looking backwards", there are different challenges in these old pieces (both the transcriptions and the originals) that keep us rounded and have value in themselves.

    We've had the argument on here before about musical tests - my own opinion is that, generally, the pieces that represent a "musical" test seem to lead to more controversy at results time. Whether that's fair or not, the argument that a technical challenge makes it more obvious which bands are capable of playing the music and makes the result more obvious seems an easier position to defend than a subjective judgement based on the musical interpretations of a field of bands who can (almost) all play the dots flawlessly.

    The best bands will always find some music despite the technical difficulty.
    MoominDave likes this.
  5. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    With specific regard to Pageantry, it will handily also show up technical flaws at championship level, and within the first few bars too. So I don't think we need to worry about it not sorting the bands out, and nor does it sound tired and old to modern ears - indeed it sounds more adventurous than a lot of the stuff written today, the timid harmonic content of much of which I'd have been scolded for submitting to my music teacher in my A level portfolio. And if the 1st section really is Leroy Dies, then that'll be plenty enough of a technical challenge there too - arguably too much - and though pleasant, nor do I think it a wonderful piece (see comment below).

    I'm very much of a mind with Marc on his first point - what's being written at the moment is not music that makes my heart jump. "Oh, there's another pile of semiquavers on top of simple harmony." We've lost our way and it requires the inspiration of someone who can catch the current mood (whatever that might be) while pushing forward into musically exciting territory to wake us up to our possibilities. I tend to see our current era as another 'Frank Wright style' age - in the 50s top level banding took an inexplicable detour into the cul-de-sac of playing non-stop FW arrangements of obscure 19th century overtures, and it wasn't until Vinter showed up that we saw a more interesting way to work.
    Accidental likes this.
  6. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    The biggest reservation I'd have with Pageantry is that it'd almost certainly be the "updated" version with the godawful additional perc.
    Slider1 likes this.
  7. bassmittens

    bassmittens Member

    So....anyone heard anything for section 2 yet??
  8. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    I sort of agree with this, yet at the same time I don't think we should abandon the broad spectrum of music already available.

    It's also worth mentioning that some of the most musically interesting (arguably!) music we've had written for bands is generally disliked and very rarely played (a couple of McCabe's come to mind) - as you say, it requires someone to write things that push the boundaries without losing the appeal to the existing moods at the same time, otherwise they simply won't be accepted.
    But... at the same time, we should avoid pushing ourselves into different pigeonholes by cutting adrift music we already have, there's no point moving the boundaries whilst keeping an equally narrow focus.
    Slider1 likes this.
  9. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Not saying at all that "we should abandon the broad spectrum of music already available". Not in the slightest. Rather that those catching the current mood are tending not to excite me musically. Part of that is that the current mood is rather timid, and so those that seek to reflect it aren't pushing any boundaries. It takes a real spark of finger-on-the-pulse genius to produce works that both catch that mood and push it to somewhere interestingly new.
  10. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    I'm sure Vinter had his share of detractors at when he arrived on the scene! I remember the tale of the band conductor (no names...) who when presented with his first Vinter score discovered all of the 'mistakes' (ie dissonance and non-diatonic harmony) and fixed them in pen before the first rehearsal.

    When I look at the pieces that have polarised banding in recent years, McCabe and Bingham being the obvious ones, I wonder whether the controversy stems from the musically challenging nature of the pieces or because they are not written with the requirements of contest music as a first priority. The second baritone part in Prague IIRC has very little to do and mostly doubles other parts. Regardless of the quality of the piece (and I think it has lots of quality) their are going to be upset baritone players if they are stuck doing dozens of hours rehearsal on it.
  11. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    In Britain when a new piece causes controversy, the issue seems to be particularly limited to pieces featuring non-diatonic harmony. Stuff with funky rhythms, odd time signatures, aleatory sections, ludicrous high notes, minimalism or other non-traditional elements seem to to sneak past the radar with not much fuss. Muckle Flugga for example; all either in 4/4 or 6/8 and not particularly hard technically (for the standard of bands it was aimed at), with some extreme tessitura (top Es for baritones, for example, and top Cs on the back row, and a pedalled flugel solo), but nothing too scary for a proper European Championship band. Very much a Marmite piece, though, particularly for the the British bands who didn't seem to like it, nor did any of them play it convincingly. I reckon that this can only be because of the unfamiliar harmonic language and lack of clearly identifiable diatonic melodies.

    I think this is why Spectrum, Volcano, Images, Prague, Maunsell Forts, Grimethorpe Aria, Altitude, Fire on Whaleness, Mutant Sonorities, Waiting for a Pain Hit???!! and many others have caused a rumpus down the years... They use harmonic language that isn't out of the Harmony 101 textbook.
  12. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    I've given a lot of thought to this over the last couple of years. I'm starting to wonder if it will take a change in the instrumentation to create this. Much like the addition of percussion in the 60s allowed Vinter, Gregson and Sparke to define the style of much modern brass band music. I wonder if allowing the addition of trumpets (long advocated and indeed acted upon by Edward Gregson), or maybe the use of a synth in the percussion section will inspire someone to write something genuinely interestingly new.

    In many ways the things that have caught the imagination (or at least MY imagination) in contemporary music over the last 40 years or so are too difficult to transfer to brass bands. The use of electronics, for example, which has exploded in contemporary music of the last half-century, is always going to be difficult for amateur organisations both in terms of competent operators and actually having access to the kit. Minimalism in the manner of Tavener or Part is difficult to manage on brass instruments over the sort of timespans required for the musical process to work its way out, especially for amateurs. While it's possible to use microtones as many contemporary composers like to do, they're really difficult to achieve well on piston valves. I've heard orchestral works by composers like Dai Fujikura and Tobias Brostrom that I've thought were great recently, and wondered if they could be persuaded to write a brass band piece but they're basically working with the same orchestral palette as Stravinsky in 1913, with a few innovations of colour and (in the case of Brostrom) spatialisation. So it's hard to see which of the musical innovations in the wider classical world could work in a brass band context without losing what many people see as the essentials - the sound, the amateur status, the competitive ethos.

    If you add to that the conservative policies of the two major British contests, it's a barren period for musical innovation at the moment, even by the slow-and-steady standards of brass banding - although that does mean that we don't waste time on some of the sillier ideas, which are discredited long before banding gets a look at them. Neither major contest has commissioned a new work from a "non-brass-band" composer for years, and the ticket sales for Stephen Roberts' recent Romantic era pastiches at the Open are being used as justification for regressive test-setting. Works are therefore tending to be commissioned in a brass band "echo chamber" of approval - banders commission a piece from a bander, who writes the sort of piece they know banders like, with the unsurprising result that banders like it and it is decreed as "a success"; rinse and repeat. The days when we went out the wider musical world and got pieces from Robert Simpson, John McCabe, Jospeh Horovitz and Derek Bourgeois for our major events are long behind us. I think it will take significant philanthropic intervention, probably in the form of new ownership or sponsorship of the Open and/or the National, for either contest to take any sort of gamble with their commissioning. Maybe some form of Adams-style "minimalism-lite" might offer some interesting opportunities within the current instrumentation and infrastructure, in the manner of something like Extreme Makeover...
    MoominDave likes this.
  13. smaca

    smaca Active Member

    So, apart from views on old/new test pieces and what is best, anyone any advancement or concrete information on what selections are? So far;

    Champuionship....Pageantry/Extreme Makeover
    First Section......Long White Cloud/Le Roi D,ys
    Second Section ......nil
    Third Section.......nil
    Fourth Section....nil.
  14. Bbmad

    Bbmad Active Member

    The selections will be announced soon.
  15. bassmittens

    bassmittens Member

  16. Kiz7

    Kiz7 Member

    God I hope not for 4th section bassmittens. St Andrew's is not a bad little concert piece in the right setting but as an area test piece? I flipping hope not.
  17. sunshine

    sunshine Member

    I agree. I looked this up to see who it was published by and it is sold as music for a beginner/junior band. I would hope that 4th section bands deserve a bit more of a challenge. Something to show off the technical abilities of the principal players, whilst being supported by the rest of the band, without requiring masses of percussionists would realistically suit most 4th section bands. Last years choice was great in my opinion, as it ticked all those boxes.
    bassmittens likes this.
  18. jezza23361

    jezza23361 Member

    I am disappointed with the prospect of Pageantry for the Area for one personal reason - I have prepared it for contests too many times now. I think 6 times at the last count. I agree that there is a dearth of quality new music but I don't relish the prospect much in all honesty.
    ari01 likes this.
  19. katieeuph

    katieeuph Member

    I really do think that it will be Extreme Makeover- I've only ever played the wind band version (on flute) and it is a great piece. Land of the Long White Cloud would be good for 1st section- not sure about the other sections .
  20. bassmittens

    bassmittens Member

    I agree with you. Last year was spot on for 4th section. Am just echoing what I've 'heard' (as there appear to be no other mutterings yet). I also hope its something a little more rewarding for 4th section bands.

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