40years of brass evolution?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Chat' started by ISBBBb2, Oct 10, 2012.

  1. ISBBBb2

    ISBBBb2 Member

    Chesterfield, Derbyshire
    Im sure there are probably hundreds of similar conversations about this on TMP however...

    In 1973, Championship Section Bands up and down the country were getting their teeth into the Symphonic study for Brass "The Plantagenets" by Edward Gregson

    40 years later it is announced as the 2nd section test piece with little or no argument whatsoever from the bands involved, suggesting that the bands of 2nd section standard today are just as good as the Championship bands of 1973. For the record, Grimethorpe won the Yorkshire Areas in this year with non other than Elgar Howarth conducting.

    So here's the question.

    Are bands better than they were 40/30/20 years ago or has the music just got so much harder?
  2. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Some pieces can stand being used to test varying standards of band.

    Allan Street's 'Rococo Variations' was set as the 3rd section piece in 1977, not long after 1973 at all. In 1995 it was set as the 2nd section piece - and wasn't easy at all. It is certainly not my observation that bands at all levels are any better now than they were 20 years ago, which is as far back as my memory stretches - if anything, I could believe that the overall standard has slightly declined - but it's been pretty flat in that time.
    40 years ago? Well, I wasn't there, but bands were acclimatising to the new wide-bore instruments that are easier to play acceptably well and were in the process of being challenged by a series of new works that expanded the musical and technical horizons of the movement.
  3. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    That's pretty much it, I suspect. Plantagenets was somewhat different from the "usual" contest pieces of the time. The same applies to works like Energy - compared with a modern semiquaver-fest like Titan's Progress, it's technically easier and well within the compass of most current 1st section bands, but the language still takes a bit of getting used to and would have been exponentially more challenging to early 70s bands used to the Romantic vernacular of Le Roi d'Ys and Kensington Concerto.
  4. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    Energy is still properly hard... In the way that a Bach fugue is hard, not in the way that an Arban exercise is hard. If it can do this to Willebroek, then evidently it still retains a potent level of challenge.
  5. Stephen Bourne

    Stephen Bourne New Member

    A first thought is that the bands in the 70s could only play what was put in front of them. We will never know if they could performa Titan's Progress to the same standards. I wouold say that the top players and top bands were just as capable in my opinion in the 70s as today(but as an over 50 I would day that). The other thing to consider would be a comparison of the quality of performance of a championship band playing Plantagenets in 1973 versus a second section performance today. My guess is that the gap would still be a gulf.
  6. ben16

    ben16 Member

    there are loads of 70s recordings of top bands out there - why not have a listen and see what you think?
  7. Gazabone

    Gazabone Member

    I think perhaps the evolution has been about the type of music put in front of bands today. If I remember correctly, Contest Music was thought to be too difficult when it was originally written (alternatively was too "alien" for brass audiences and/or players to appreciate). So I think that whilst they todays top players have comparitive technical ability to their predecessors, those predecessors may not have had the training to understand how to perform some of the more contemporary music we hear today.I also think that the volume and quality of recordings from top bands also helps todays players get to grips with more difficult music than 40 odd years ago.
  8. MoominDave

    MoominDave Well-Known Member

    A comment from a chap who played flugel for Morris Motors in the 50s also comes to mind as worth dropping into the mix - he suggested that today's rank-and-file players tend to be stronger than they were back then - that while end seat players have always been strong, it is only more recently that those down the line have also been comparable. That would go hand in hand with an increasing complexity of scoring technique - with modern writers at high level assuming that e.g. 3rd cornet = "low cornet" rather than "weak cornet".
  9. JR

    JR Member

  10. Nigel Hall

    Nigel Hall Supporting Member

    Brackley, Northants
    London River?
  11. John Brooks

    John Brooks Well-Known Member

    Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
    I also believe another significant change in the last 40 plus years is the stamina that bands of today have compared to the 70's. Have a listen to the first recordings of Journey into Freedom and Variations on a Ninth by Dyke and GUS. In my (very humble) opinion these are two examples when compared to more recent recordings (including live performances). As a second point, bands today also play much louder; not sure if that's evolution or something else.
  12. toby hobson

    toby hobson Member

    I think about this very question long and hard, all day all night.....well sort of!!! There are lots of issues surrounding the question you put these are the things that I have thought of over the years. I know I have strong views that are not to everyone’s taste but I am passionate about our hobby and passion tends to bring out real opinions.

    Is banding generally stronger than it was 30 years ago? No
    Are there as many "top draw" players as there were? Yes
    Has the upping of the technically tough pieces improved banding generally? No
    Has the sound of bands improved? Maybe but probably due to more consistently good instruments
    Are second section bands really at home with Spectrum and Comedy overture? No
    Can they get through them? Yes
    Has the squeaky music moved bands on to another stratosphere where we are compared to "professional" musicians? No
    Has the squeaky music generally been of a better standard than the more tonal stuff? No
    Has hard squeaky stuff in the champ section and too hard tonal stuff in the lower sections taken the eye off the ball in bands for my beloved basics? Yes
    Does the above make for more waffle in performances? Yes
    What could we do about it? Go to the library and pick out some classics and play them for the next 3 seasons, see if audiences go up at contests, if the quality of playing goes up, If players leaving banding improves, if contests become a contest as opposed to a three horse race, if lyrical playing becomes popular again, if doing our hobby becomes fun again!
    Are we asking the wrong people to write our pieces? Yes
    Is our strong youth band sector suffering from the same issues? Yes
    Are we suffering from a lack of pragmatic leadership in banding? Yes

    Where will this all lead to? The end is in sight! Ask any dep man in any band how easy it is to find good troms and good basses. How many players in top bands would of been 2nd section players 30 years ago? How many lower section bands have full rehearsals? How many middle order top section bands have a full band a couple of rehearsals before a contest?

    Teaching is still strong in our country (for now) Youth bands are strong (for now) the love of a good band has never gone away yet our bands are struggling. Something somewhere is going wrong!!!
  13. nethers

    nethers Active Member

    Brisbane, Australia
    Tiny bit off-topic...

    When I listen to some old recordings of bands (ie 1980s or earlier) I'm often a bit horrified by the intonation and balance. Is this just a symptom of the recording equipment and techniques available at the time? Were they in fact, as good (or better) than today?
  14. marksmith

    marksmith Active Member

    I totally agree with this statement, Dave.
    I can remember well that in 1972, when I joined my first Championship band, few players had the fortune to have been tutored to grade VIII standard.
    Today, the opportunities for such tutoring have broadened, through schools and bands themselves.
    When I sat on the end seat at the time, it was generally expected that I be a more accomplished player than my assistant, and in general, that was the broad expectation of solo players.
    However, when pieces such as 'La Forza del Destino'/ 'Prince Igor' etc were regular Championship favourites, it was hardly as challenging as today's acknowledged highly technical offerings.
    Scoring today expects third cornets to have this same technical grounding, no player is safe from the adjudicator's ear by being allowed to be 'carried' by a supportive, higher ranked player.
    As individuals, I think even we, expect all players to be able to cope with their own parts (not always the case!)
    Thankfully, there have always those players that are outstanding, important in the process to give us something to aspire to (for me; Trevor Groom, John Clough, Lyndon Baglin, Barry Perrins etc.)
    I have played most of the pieces mentioned in earlier posts, though challenging at the time, they no longer appear to offer the technical challenges of more contemporary works.
    As a Euphonium player, I must add that the works of both Gilbert Vinter and Eric Ball have given me the most pleasure and satisfaction.
    So to summarise, yes, I believe that bands - and players in general, have evolved greatly over the past 40 years.
  15. Everything moves on, in sport records keep getting broken, coaching/training/teaching methods evolve and improve as does the technical ability in both spheres. So as say - football teams are much fitter and technically able than 40 years ago, the same must apply to brass bands. However, 'musicianship' is a different matter, I'm convinced that had all the top players of back then had all the tools at their disposal that modern day players/bands have, then the standards would be very similar.
    To sum up, bands are obviously better these days - at the very highest level that is.
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