British Open - Bands to be penalised!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Roger Thorne, Jul 30, 2005.

  1. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    The comments made in the score by this years 'Open' composer Bramwell Tovey make for interesting reading, but raise several questions on how it will actually be implemented and controlled.

    The main comment refers to the bass section and the 8va parts, but how will an adjudicator know if a band has altered the scoring elsewhere in the piece?

    How does a conductor interpret the comment 'alterations to the scoring of the work'? Does this mean that bands who play a 3rd cornet part on the front row will be penalised? Does this mean that a conductor who maybe 'stengthens' a chord by adding another instrument will get points deducted?

    If such a comment has been made within the score, would it not be better to check each part before the band go on stage and then inform the adjudicators of any 'foul' play?

    These alleged 'alterations' are easy to spot when you are familiar with the music and sat as a member of the audience, but I really can't see how an adjudicator will be able to assess whether other 'subtle' alterations to the score have taken place when they are confined within a wooden box. Cast your mind back to the areas when an adjudicator announced from the stage that he had accused a band for 'altering' a solo passage, when infact they hadn't!

    I know bands have been penalised in the past for 'sharing' cadenzas and using excessive 8va on the bass sections, but it will be interesting to see whether or not the adjudicators will be following Bramwell Tovey's instructions.

    I can see some big worms emerging from the tin when the band that has 'allegedly' altered the score are announced as winners!

    I look forward to your comments . . . .

    Last edited: Jul 30, 2005
  2. brass journo

    brass journo Member

    I don't think it's a case of who plays what part, after all, whoever plays a part best plays it on the day (within the ranks of the same instruments).

    I think it's more playing with the score in terms of changing octaves, playing open passages muted, dusters to quieten et al, and I suppose rightly so, after all Bram has written the music how he wants it to sound, it's not up to the bands and MDs to re-score the music - they did not craft it originally.

    However, adjudicators can only penalise what they hear, so it will be interesting if any subtle changes are made by bands hoping they can get away with it and if the adjudicator is not sure that he has heard one of these embellishments to the score then he can't penalise - or can he?

    Could be the lowest scored points at a major contest for a while!

  3. Steve

    Steve Active Member

    Thats the composers perogative I guess, I dont know if I wrote to this standard that I would want to restrict performances and interpretations of my music but at the same time would I really want someone re-writing it.

    Why re-write it? Because you think it sounds better or because the players cant play it? The first I think I could accept but the second would drive me nuts.

    In doing this, at least the bands and adjudicator know from the outset what is required, is a similar comment going to be made on the tempos that Mr Tovey expects as well???????
  4. Andy_Euph

    Andy_Euph Active Member

    Too right!

    The composer has put time and energy into the work and then people just go and alter it, if he'd wanted octave bass parts (as the main comment is about) then he would have wrote them. Certain discretion for interpretation is fair enough but changing parts ultimately changes the essence of the music.
  5. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly Active Member

    Personally, I think that's fair enough. If Mr Tovey had wanted the basses to play an octave lower than written, he would have written the part an octave down in the first place. As a former tuba player himself he is probably more sensitive on this issue than most.

    If you really think that re-writing parts of a piece would improve it, then you can do it in concerts (though if a piece of music needs a lot of such "improvements" maybe you should think again about playing it?), but I don't see how you can do that sort of thing in a contest and not be penalised. After all, you're being adjudicated on how well you play what's written in the score. Playing something which is not written in the score, either because it sounds better or to make it easier, is like sitting an exam and answering a different question to the one set on the exam paper.
  6. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    The problem is, as Roger has already mentioned, it's sometimes impossible for the adjudicators to be certain they've really heard it.

    We had an adjudicator's comment once along the lines of: "Bb Bass be careful of the added pedal notes; some adjudicators don't like it (However it's fine with me!!!)" or words to that effect. Thing was, he wasn't actually playing pedals, he was simply overblowing (big time!) on ordinary low 'C's, to the extent that, by some trick of the acoustic, the adjudicator was fooled into thinking he'd heard an octave lower. This 'false' pedal effect can also sometimes be created by very slight tuning discrepancies. 'Real' pedals can also be added so subtly that even an experienced adjudicator couldn't be absolutely certain. How many adjudicators are going to be prepared to "stick their necks out" and penalise bands on this basis?

    So far as the rights and wrongs of Mr. Tovey's comments are concerned, the arguments were discussed here in depth a couple of years ago when the same composer issued the same instruction on the score of "Coventry Variations". I'm not going to repeat all the points made then (maybe someone with more patience than me can find the thread?), except to say that, essentially, I think Mr. Tovey is out of order in, effectively, trying to tell adjudicators how to do their jobs. I don't subscribe to the "deification" of composers and the implied infallibility of their scores; composers can make mistakes just like the rest of us, and I believe the conductor has a responsibilty to make the score "come to life" in whatever way he can, and if in all musical integrity he feels it necessary to adjust the scoring, then so be it.

    As the respected conductor Vernon Handley once said, "If composers had any idea how their music was supposed to go, there'd be no need for conductors at all." ;)

  7. jingleram

    jingleram Active Member

    I think this is exactly right! I'm sure there will be some pedantic person on here who will nitpick and tell us the ways in which it is different, but essentially, this is right. It is written the way the comoser wants it written! The very fact that he has specifically mentioned the octova bassa parts means that it is not something he has missed out, it's not a mistake he missed when proofreading, he wants it to sound this way! If it is a matter of difficulty, and your bass players can't play it, then either risk being pernalized and put the octaves in, or lose out on points because you can't play it, because that is exactly what the contest is for, to judge how well you play it!
    Comments welcome, but no pedanticism!!!
  8. brasscrest

    brasscrest Active Member

    I agree that, in a contest situation, the goal should be to play the notes as written. Taking things into different octaves should be a penalty (and if you're going to penalize the bottom end, the same thing should apply to sop players who take things up the octave when it's not written).

    However, I think that things like tempo and dynamics are subject to some interpretation by the MD. I've seen statements by some contemporary composers (I can't remember where, it may have been on this forum) that metronome markings should be followed exactly - this is, I think, going a little too far. I'm not saying that it should be OK for a conductor to take a section marked at 120 at 60, but taking that same section at 112 or 128 might be within the bounds of interpretive license.
  9. jingleram

    jingleram Active Member

    Undoubtedly this is true, it's all about boundries and how far the band push it and how much the adjudicators take note!
  10. Griffin

    Griffin Active Member

    It happened at last years areas... Another Tovey composition too, where some bands used the Tenor Trom. to play the opening Bass Trom part (the trio bit w/ Flug and cornet)

    Well, they did in Yorkshire.

    The adjudicators even remarked about the importance of the Bass Trom part, even though it was actually a Tenor Trom!
  11. Dave Euph

    Dave Euph Member

    I personally find these comments regarding bands being penalised for 'fiddling' with the scoring a little harsh to say the least. Surely each and every bands primary objective - whether on the concert or contest stage - is to recreate the music on the pages in front of them.

    Every band is different and no one is going to be able to produce exactly the same every time, part of the magic of live performance perhaps; but if collectively a band decides that they feel they can recreate the composers intentions more effectively by altering the scoring slightly then minor changes should be forgivable.

    I play in a band where - sometimes not to my liking - we alter parts to help producing the effect of the composers intentions easier. Banding is a team effort, and if using more than one player, for example, helps produce the effect of the music where only one player may have been otherwise involved then surely there should be a realisation of common sense?

    There are limits, naturally, but basic fundamental changes should be expected in my opinion by the adjudicators. I would much rather hear a band play an altered version of a piece of music (and as a result be able to much more effectively fulfil the composers intended effects) than struggle through the original and not be able to do the piece justice.

    I'm speaking also here as a composer myself who is receptive to players input and ideas to play the music differently.
  12. JR

    JR Member

    Have they Roger? - when was this then? I've been present on several occasions where judges have commented on excessive pedalling but never have i ever seen it openly penalised
    Sorry to keep reminding people regarding part swapping - I brought this up as a matter that had got out of hand 3 years ago at the ABBA AGM and got no support whatsoever from the floor (though some colleagues privately agreed with me)
    It's time to re-visit this. We're into extreme banding 21st century style at the top level.
    Perhaps test pieces should be evaluated in 2 different ways i.e. the hard version and the easier option - bands could then decide which category to enter and be adjudicated accordingly - here's an idea - all bands ranked in the top ten should be required to opt for the hard version...

    john r
  13. jingleram

    jingleram Active Member

    Sorry Dave Euph maybe I was a bit harsh, but I think in this case, where the composer has mentioned it, it should be followed.
  14. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    But surely it's then a question of whether the piece is too hard for the band if they can't play it, and have to alter it to make it playable?
  15. Dave Euph

    Dave Euph Member

    And here we come full circle (I was thinking your exact point as I typed my reply). Jingler has mentioned boundaries, and so have I, where do we place them? Is the alteration for enhanced musical effect or just so it's easier to play?

    Heavy alteration of the parts does make me uncomfortable, but basically if light re-scoring aids the interpretation, should the band be penalised?
  16. drummerboy

    drummerboy Member

    I think it depends what's being done! I must admit I was quite annoyed when I heard that Nick Childs had moved the horns at the start of Cloudcather Fells at the recent Masters, and muted one of them. Much as I admire Dr Childs, I don't think that kind of thing should be allowed. Why do that? Could they not play it quiet enough from within the band?
    Problem is, where does light re-scoring end and seriously altering it begin? Surely if you change anything it's seriously altering it?
  17. Bones

    Bones Member

    But surely, ability to play the music is the basis of the divisonal split we have in the movement. The music is written with the understanding that the bands will have the players to play it in the relevant section.

    We can't turn round to composers and say to them that "sorry we can't use your test pice because Gravel Gob methodist band have only got 1 percussion, or their Bb Bass isn't up to it, so can you make that part a little easier.

    If that was the case we'd all be playing Little Suite for Brass for every contest.

    Note: I really like Little Suite for Brass and Malcolm Arnold is one of my favourite composers....
  18. Mrs Fruity

    Mrs Fruity Member

    The Bb bass part is already written an octave down on many many occasions (apparently- according to my live in tubist) and some of the written pedals are pretty fruity already!!!! (i.e. quite low enough thanks)
  19. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    Thanks for a great debate so far regarding opinions on altering parts, but how do you think Bram's comments will affect the Conductors and more importantly the Adjudicators.

    My sentiments exactly! Another question which has already been touched on, is should Composers be setting guidelines for Adjudicators?


    TIMBONE Active Member

    This topic reminds me of something in the orchestral world, which is not totally unrelated. The conductor in question was heavily criticised, and in a contest situation, I wonder what the result would have been. I am speaking of Leopold Stokowski,(the one in the film Fantasia), and I think it was the Phildelphia Symphony Orchestra. The first example is Mars from Gustav Holst's Planet Suite. In the closing bars of shock chords, the gong is scored on the final pause. Stokowski however, changed this to a roll beginning earlier, very quiet, crescendoing to the final pause. My second example is the glorious ending to Janacek's Sinfonietta. The thirteen piece fanfare team repeat the fanfare which is the first movement of the piece, but now joined by the full orchestra. The team were not however scored to play the final chord, (I think this may have been altered in later editions!). Stokowski scored them in. In both cases, these minor alterations were very effective. I am neither supporting this, neither am I criticising it. One final note. The musical establishment who attempted to rubbish the name of a very successful and effective conductor, were the same ones who said nothing about an alteration to Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance No. 1, (an anonymous change to the published score). In the 'Land of Hope and Glory' bit, Elgar had scored a Turkish Crescent - a magnificent European percussion instrument used in marching. This was changed to a far less effective tambourine.

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