Brass Band Dissertation

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Andycs, Feb 9, 2008.

  1. Andycs

    Andycs New Member

    I’m writing a dissertation on banding 'Style, Technique and Gesture in the Brass Band Test Piece', currently looking at Spectrum. I saw a thread in the archive of this website where people had written of their previous work on banding, in particular Vinter (although I’m also looking at Labour and Love, Moorside Suite and Revelations).

    So this is a request for any information/past dissertations on or around my subject which could help me, There is so little written on these test pieces and primary research is so time consuming!

    Any info would be most appreciated.
  2. dizzy068

    dizzy068 Member


    It might be worth you getting hold of the book Colour and Texture in the Brass Band Score by Ray Steadman-Allen, you may be able to apply some of his principles to your analyses?
  3. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Yes, that's why they give you a degree for doing it!

    Can I suggest a few books that might help?

    Arthur O. Taylor: Brass Bands (Granada?, 1979?)

    Arthur O. Taylor: Labour and Love: An Oral History of the Brass Band Movement (also Granada? 1983ish)

    Trevor Herbert (ed.): Bands: The Brass Band Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries, 224 pp., Open University Press, Milton Keynes, 1991, ISBN 0-335-09703-0; ISBN 0-335-09702-2 pbk.

    Trevor Herbert (ed.): The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History, 369 pp., Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0 19 816698 2.

    Elgar & Patrick Howarth: What a Performance! The Brass Band Plays (Robson Books, 1986?)

    Also the bands who played Spectrum and finished in the top 6 on the day were:

    1: Grimethorpe Colliery, G. Thompson
    2: Carlton Main Frickley Colliery, J. Atherton
    3: Fairey, K. Dennison
    4: CWS (Manchester), A. Mortimer
    5: Ransome & Marles, D. Masters
    6: GUS, S. Boddington

    Why don't you try contacting surviving members of one of the bands to talk through the impressions of the band/MD when they first got the piece? There's an apocryphal comment about some of the conductors on the day threatening never to return "unless the music was improved"; might be interesting to find out how bands felt about it the first time they heard it.

    Just my two penn'orth ;)
  4. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    There was another thread covering this topic here (... saves me repeating any information again ;) ). However, I do have the Grimey LP with which they recorded Spectrum on after they won the 1969 Belle Vue Open in front of me. Unfortunately it doesn't add much to what was covered in the earlier thread.
  5. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    Hi. There have been many great examples of literature on this subject, in particular the post with references. For the look on performance practice issues i.e on test pieces you should concentrate on the book edited by Professor Trevor Herbert,

    The British Brass Band: A Musical and Social History, 369 pp., Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0 19 816698 2. .

    I believe that its the last chapter in that book. Alternatively the Howarth gives views on music by himself and others whom he interviews, mainly the people deeply involved in the banding movement at some level. The Steadman Allen is also a good call on the actual scoring and textures of composition and performance of these. I believe that there are other scoring books for brass band and wind band. If you research yourself on the net you will find these. However, I believe one is by Dr Denis Wright and the other could be by Farmer? The easiest and best way to utilize your research capabilities is going on the international bandsmen's within website which actually lists the articles, books or conference papers that people have written on all banding topics. From there you can search for the material yourself.

    As a thought on the title of your work, if you haven't already, I would look in your respective uni library for books that deal with gesture, meaning etc of music in performance settings and conventions in other music traditions. This could lead you to these referenced books:-

    Small, Christopher. 1998. Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press

    Rink, John. 2002. Musical Performance: A Guide to Understanding. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.

    Nannyonga-Tamusuza, Sylvia. 2003 “Competitions in School Festivals: A Process Of Re-inventing Baakisimba Music and Dance of the Baganda (Uganda).” The World of Music 45 (1): 97-118.

    Dunsby, Jonathan. 2002. “Performers on Performance.” Musical Performance: A Guide to Understanding, edited by John Rink, 225-36. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.

    Cottrell, Stephen. 2004. Professional Music-Making in London: Ethnography and Experience. London: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

    Those are books that may or may not help. Your title could be interpreted in several ways, is it a music analysis essay or a general look on style, gesture etc as perceived and performed by the players i.e performance practice issues. The type of references that you will use and the style of your writing in the dissertation itself will be determined by the answer to the previous sentence.

    I sympathise that there is no one book that covers the topic area in question but that would result in dissertations being easy to complete. My main point would be, as much as we respect the composers that write music for our contest performances it is our beliefs, attitudes and historically constructed views that ultimately define how a player or band performs the instructions on the page of music. In this respect you have an interesting dissertation ahead!
  6. Andycs

    Andycs New Member

    Thank you for all your detailed suggestions and thoughts. I have primarily been using the Herbert and Newsome Books plus the Taylor and Brand, so much of the literature, like the Howarth is primarily anecdotal and of little help.

    So far I’ve been looking at the history of the National and Belle Vue contests leading towards analysis on the four test pieces I will use to illustrate my findings. In a way the piece is also becoming a defence of banding’s value in modern music making.

    The books suggested on the meaning of music in performance sounds like a fascinating tangent. (and one which the musicologists marking my work will no doubt be more interested in…!)

    So again, many thanks.


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