Brass Bands:The Search for the Other

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by midwalesman, Jul 26, 2015.

  1. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    Hi All.

    A long time ago I frequented this establishment but then I found Championship Manager. I have now reformed, unlike the band movement.

    I am currently collecting/amassing odd brass instruments and wondered if they weren't listed as trumpet or French Horn whether I could form a band with this eclectic mix and enter the fourth section.

    I mean. People rewrite pieces all the time. Why not just have rescoring for marching band bass flugel and an ophicleide or two and what really is the difference between a valve trombone with a narrow bell and a slide with a narrow bell?

    Would this not just add something different to a contest? Imagine the crowd for a 4th section contest with this kind of band entered?

    I would really love to try this out in reality and see if you really would get DQ'D? Especially when local contests do not have rigorous rules.
  2. owain_s

    owain_s Member

    If the contest follows the example of the rules for the area contests, then the list of brass instruments to be used is quite specific.
  3. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    But do they state that in their info when they send it out or do they assume you will have the instrumentation everyone else has?
  4. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    Just think it's brassist to exclude those instruments! They are brass instruments and most of them probably appeared in contests until around 1910. For example the Ophicleide. Open it open and explore new sounds and frontiers.
  5. owain_s

    owain_s Member

    Indeed. That's why a 19th century contest ended in arguments, because the euph player switched to a valved trombone halfway through, and won two prizes as a result.

    That's why there's rules against playing more than one brass instrument unless specified by the score, and regulations about valve trombones!
  6. owain_s

    owain_s Member

    It'll be in the small print somewhere, they don't need to 'send it out' if it's a given for bands registered with their local association.
  7. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    Shame. Never looked at the rules much. Just think it would open up bands to evolution. Just like it did in Jazz and many other music forms.
  8. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    It's only a given because bands are sheep and don't test and push boundaries. My pupils loved playing on the variety of instrumentation I have and ask why they can't play it in band. I say because 120 years ago organisers decided to neuter development.

    I would say that the 1860 to 1900 was the hey day of bands and contests and in the time the instrumentation and number of players fluctuated.

    In that period conductors scored the parts from piano scores. Today they restore the score. I would get rid of 2 back row cornets and turn them into flugel horns. Get rid of a baritone or 2 and use 4 Euph. Maybe Phillip Sparkle could send out a piano score to bands and the conductors would have to score it for their band.
  9. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Words can't articulate how much I love this idea!
  10. euphoria

    euphoria Member

    Isn't that more or less how it works today??? :cool:
  11. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Active Member

    I'm waiting for 'best new arrangement' to be a prize at the Nationals, as it is in BIC...............
  12. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    We all know it happens and to an extent it's pushing the boundaries of brass band timbre and textures. As a great composer, not just in the brass band genre, does it infuriate you that the sounds, ideas, feel and even texture of the music is so altered from the written score?

    If the rules regarding instrumentation were relaxed and any brass instrument available would you consider using these?
  13. pedaller

    pedaller Member

    :oops: Now, now Philip - you know irony is maligned and misunderstood on here ! ( Speaking as one who "decomposes" your compositions by adding the occasional pedal ! ) :redface:
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
  14. Euphonium Lite

    Euphonium Lite Active Member

    Personally I think theres some mileage in this. Not maybe for the nationals - but why not for some local contests. Actually thinking about it many local contests allow you to "re-score" anyway because you're allowed more than the basic 25 - so an additional flugel here, a 3rd euph there, extra bass. Why not allow a sousaphone, a valve trombone or even a picc trumpet instead of a sop (or as well as)? OK it's not traditional, but in a time when many bands are struggling to get players, maybe we need to look at adapting.
    Or how about going the other way, why not make some testpieces a 10 or 12 piece score, but allow doubling up to a certain number? It would - theoretically at least - allow bands that are struggling to get numbers a chance to compete and bigger would not necessarily mean better.
  15. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member

    I can see where players could get tired of playing the same 'ol stuff. But then, on the radio station voting, "different" stuff is mostly voted down and/or voted off the station's playlist. I have 2+ weeks of brass band radio tracks about. I play about 2 days worth (I keep it under 700 tracks). I thought the album "This Land of Ours" which is Cory recording with Cantorian. It is a beautiful set of tracks. I put about 6 tracks on the playlist. About 4 have been voted off. and they other 2 broke the top 20 once or twice, but have slipped.

    Tradition Brass Band Arrangements are usually voted high on the monthly scale.

    A best new arrangement as a prize is a good idea. It would get more musicians to give it a go, and good pieces that are new would pop out. This would be even more true if you had more that one prize (best original piece, best arrangement, etc).

    The listeners in the US to the station are always AMAZED at the sounds a Brass Band can make. For example, if done right, a muted cornet can sound like a clarinet, etc. This thread got a little off track. If the voting is any indication, traditional arrangements are liked much more often than non-traditional.

    Counting the Christmas Tracks I have over 20,000 tracks with 700 on the playlist. I spend most of my money on new CDs. In the early days, UKCD was a big help. I originally played all kinds of brass music (brass quintets, etc.) but such tracks got voted off in a hurry.

    I think contests for best track or arrangement would produce some gems
  16. DocFox

    DocFox Supporting Member


    IMHO, The brass band sound is unique. To mess with the instrumentation, would somewhat be like calling a group without saxophone or bones a jazz band. Or call a mass trombone choir a brass quintet.

    Brass Band is a unique sound. I have listeners all over the world including the US, UK and the EU. Canada, Australia, Japan, NZ, Brazil, Mexico, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Philippines and many small countries. Not many, if any, from Russia or China. My point is, why change it? Be creative within the box.
  17. Cornet Nev.

    Cornet Nev. Member

    Why oh why should you want to create a new sound with different instruments, then waste a new sound on contesting. Get your ensemble together and do some honest concerts. Get the general public interested, not the heads up their own orifice contest wallah's. I have said this time and again, contesting is why brass banding is dying, folks who want to listen to music do not want to go to contests, or listen to contest pieces, they want music they can recognise.
  18. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Forgive me, I don't know your audience demographic, but aren't you in a sense 'preaching to the choir'? My impression (and a lot of the empirical evidence) is that those who listen to brass band radio programmes in the UK are staunch traditionalists - you would therefore expect innovation to be voted down.

    If you were to play the same 'different' tracks to a 'control group' of musically knowledgeable non-banders, might you not get a more positive reaction? And, to be honest that group of people - musically knowledgeable but unaware of brass bands other than the conventional cliches - are very much the ones that we should be trying to convert into an audience.

    The days when the mass public came out to listen to bands are gone, forever. Brass bands are now a niche, and a small one. We can either continue to reinforce that by playing the same ol' stuff to the niche audience who are happy with it, or we can reach out to new listeners who don't particularly want to hear marches and crappy pop song arrangements. Brass banding now = folk music in the 80s. Deeply unfashionable and dying on it's ar$e but up in arms every time someone tried something new. It took bands like Bellowhead, and Mumford (not by any means always popular with the folkie traditionalists) to revitalise it as a genre. Tredegar's ballet stuff, B&R doing folk gigs, Hammonds doing Indian music with Shri Sririam, Fodens and others doing gigs with British Sea Power - these start to look like ways that brass bands can become more interesting to wider audiences.
  19. Pauli Walnuts

    Pauli Walnuts Moderator Staff Member

    My band before I moved took a decision to reduce contesting to just 1 a year and to focus on good quality concerts with innovative content. They played last week to a packed house for a concert that included Henry V with narration. Previous successful gigs to full houses have included working with a barbershop choir, a modern dance troupe (with specially choreographed routine to Polovtsian Dances) and a local Soprano who is a Glyndebourne regular and former member of "Amici Forever". Love them or hate them, last night of the proms gigs fill the house too.
    The band is at its most stable ever and is a great example of what can be achieved if you remove the contest focus and think outside of the box (deliberate pun!). Kudos to Uckfield Concert Brass and Nick Morris, their MD.
  20. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    Brass bands around the world do have different sounds and many of the countries you have mentioned above actually have a brass band tradition of their own which is not of the British brass band model. Mexico for example has a brass band tradition, studied by American Helena Simonnett, and it isn't constricted by numbers or scoring. Similarly in the Philipines where they use different instrumentation (still a brass band) and have local songs incorporated into the traditional band stuff they take from here. The list goes on, bands in Ghana, bands in the Pacific Islands. How about the more than thriving brass band tradition in Eastern europe that has one of the biggest brass music festivals in the world.

    NONE of these are restricted by antiquaran concepts and ideals. Countries that have developed their own British Brass tradition does not have the baggage of tradition weighing it down. Without this conservative traditional outlook these countries are free, including the States, to be innovative or not, without negativity. Norwegian banding is highly innovative because of this lack of a traditional anchor.

    Using the Jazz analogy. What would have happened if Dixieland had not added players and orchestration of parts would there have been a big band genre? Without the big band would there have been an anti-movement calling itself Bebeop, hard bop, cool, free jazz. Through all of these changes there remained players faithful to the Dixieland genre. It meant branching of the music, not just a central trunk but branches that flourished and grew.

    Banding, like Jazz, is a minority genre, unlike Jazz, it resists any form of evolution. It is the tree trunk that has its branches cut whenever they show any sign of growth in a different direction.

    In addition, during a century of development why do we not have the ability to have people improvising in a contest or concert? It's quite frankly ridiculous that British bands are kept as a museum piece whilst everywhere else innovation occurs.

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