Dissertation Help Needed!

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by Liz Courts, Oct 22, 2007.

  1. Liz Courts

    Liz Courts Active Member

    I’ve got to do my dissertation this year and I really want to focus on brass bands, but my tutor doesn’t seem to think it’s possible to write an interesting essay on the topic!

    I’ve been given a week to come up with a few interesting ideas, and evidence that there are enough sources of information to base my research on.

    I’m the only brass player in my year, and I’m not really sure where to start! Any help would be appreciated!
  2. sunshine

    sunshine Member

    A guy in my band wrote a dissertation on the location of brass bands in the country in relation to the socio-econonimic status of the area - something like that. Basically it was about why there are so many northern and village bands and less in the big cities. His effort was rewarded as he got a good degree - either a first or higher second and was given a special award from the university he attended.

    Hope this helps

    Sunshine x
  3. What a clot - what does he know?

    I bet he's never been on here!
  4. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Have a look here to see if there is anything that might interest you. There might be enough resources to back you up in writing your dissertation.
  5. Ste69

    Ste69 Member

    I agree with Sunshine, I would focus on the distribution of bands from north to south and look into the history of the northern bands (e.g. mining bands and their decline or disappearance - Not all of course) and compare that to the village bands of the south and then look at the rise of more modern bands that are still relatively young in comparison. There is a great deal of subject matter on brass bands - Your tutor needs to get out more!!! ;) Theres loads of ideas to go with - you could even be controversial and look at the increase in the number of female players in bands. Some bands were not always so welcoming!!! (ours wouldn't manage without of course :) )
  6. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    There are also a list of brass band books (with some previews) listed on the Google books page ...

    - here
  7. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  8. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

  9. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    Hi Liz, it's been a while!!

    The topic of your dissertation will have to be tailored to the size of the work in question. A socio-musical study of bands in the north and south or between villages and cities has been covered in great length by Mackerness, J. H. Elliot and in the last decade by Russell in his chapter in Trevor Herbert's Socio-history-music book and in his own book on music from the early 19th to 20th century. The topic of musical instruments is very interesting but again, Myers, Baines and publications from the Galpin society have dealt with these in significant detail (also the works cited in the posts above).

    On a positive suggestion line:-

    a) For a small project you could look at the significance of your own local band to the community it has served and how this has changed as society has changed.

    b) Bigger project could involve an expansion of a), the change in significance of local brass bands throughout the UK by measuring their presence in town civic events. Or .... the disappearance of the community events to the dissapearance of bands from public view.

    c) The misconception and represenatation of brass bands as a secondary musical world to that of the academic/classical world. Think of the quotes that mainstream orchestral conductors have said about brass bands?? Some have defended banding...others have not. Brass band perceptions and lack of knowledge due to the band movement being defined as "working class" or serving a lower purpose than art music?? Research would involve looking at National press releases and the dissappearance of any mention of bands towards the early middle 20th century. Plenty ideas of that could be taken from Russell books in that sense.

    d) Does musical competition within the brass band movement encourage or smother innovation or is it a prize fight that perpetuates Victorian values that are now outdated and classifies the movement as a musical museum culture??

    e) Observe, record and take notes of band rehearsals, trips, concerts and social events with your own band and then explain why the people do it? How do they get on? How does interaction in rehearsal encourage or discourage certain players performance??

    f) Discuss brass bands in relation to gender studies and the change in culture?? Are there situations in a brass band that you may feel awkward as a female? How does mixed gender in your band compare to that in other musical societies (both western and n on-western), research that would undoubtedly need reading of books relating to gender studies, specifically McClary (spelling might be wrong) and many other academic scholars who have written on the subject. Also use comments from fellow female players and discuss their responses from your perspective??

    g) Where do brass bands fit in the hierarchical structure of western music?? Do bands fit in the classical world, folk world or are a marginal genre which does not associate or fit within any boundaries other than its own. In this research you will need to draw cross cultural comparisons to the functions of other groups i.e. do orchestras play in contests? No. Do they play concerts?? Yes. Do other musical genres based in the UK have similar performance conventions? Morris dancing (look up Jill Buckland who has written several books on contests and events). Choral singing which has been discussed by Himonedes and Durrant. There are plenty of things that could be argued about this point and could be controlled in the sense of how much to write and its content.

    e) Brass bands and the academic world. Universities and colleges that promote brass bands. Are they encouraging more players to play in local bands or do they encourage players to have a hyperinflated view of their own importance and expense as players. Numerous threads on this forum would suggest that local band organisers get fed up with the amount of money they have to give to students who play in their bands as deps. Is it a sign of the times or is it brass bands being influenced by the money for playing services that has been a part of the musicians union and orchestral world for decades??

    f) Does a movement progress from the influence of bands and individuals at the top or from bands and unsung heroes that do not get their mention in brass press releases?? Do local brass bands playing in fetes bring the music to a general audience or do the big bands that play in the Proms do the same job?? Or is it a case of both?? Does the fact that big bands get richer and the poorer bands poorer reflect the society that we live in?? Or is it a trend that has developed from a number of other reasons, the status of contest success or the importance of self promotion and exposure in the media.

    g) Concert audience musical preferences?? Do they want the Floral Dance and pieces that they know? A balance of new and old?? Long, short or medium pieces?? Are they of a specific age? Do the majority of concert audiences go to contests (do they know they exist?? Do they care?? Would they go to one?? What do they think of bands playing the same piece at one event all day??). Questionnaires and minidisk recordings using ethnographic techniques would give you a good sample of the results. Do the results represent the image within the banding press that contests are the best platform for the promotion of brass bands or do concerts draw a broader spectrum of the population??

    Just a few ideas that are newish but may have been done to some degree in undergrad dissertations. The biggest thing is to avoid doing a subject/topic that is just too big to fit the guidliness set by your supervisor. If the supervisor still believes that there is little resources on banding refer him A) to the harrogate web site B) the British Library on-line C) to me and I can reel off dissertation studies of undergraduates and postgrads from around the world and articles in periodicals like popular music, world music and many others.

    Have fun
  10. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    What's your degree in? Is it purely a music course, or is there a sociology/history/education part to it?

    That will narrow down your choices for a start. If you want a sociological perspective, it might be instructive to examine how the sociological make-up of the brass band has changed since the first world war from being an almost exclusively male, working class hobby in industrial areas to the more varied spectrum of banders that now enjoy it, maybe comparing that with other activities like football or choral singing. The demise (or perhaps transformation) of the "works" band isn't a wholly original topic but there may be mileage in linking this to wider socio-economic issues.

    From a historical point of view, it's instructive (I think) to look at how the end of the Napoleonic wars, when the country was on a war footing and prepared for invasion to an extent perhaps not appreciated today, freed up huge resources to drive the industrial revolution forward into the Victorian era while simultaneously making a lot of military instruments and uniforms available for embryonic bands to start laying some of the earliest foundations.

    From a musical perspective, how about examining the cult of the soloist in brass band music from the days of the Distin family with their new-fangled saxhorns, through Arban and the Mortimers to the present day start soloists? There's a fascinating progression which started slowly with Denis Wright's Cornet Concerto from solos which were technically very hard but lacking in musical substance to some of the meatier concerti that a good player has at their disposal now - not to mention the works for non-band instruments like piano or french horn.

    EDIT: a good starting point for this would be the "cult of virtuosity" that made superstars of Paganini and Liszt in the 19th century - the wider musical world moved on from the obsession with technical accomplishment at the expense of musical merit quite quickly, but it's arguable that bands still haven't!

    Anyway, best of luck whatever you decide.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2007
  11. nhrg

    nhrg Member


    What about something to do with the role of religious music in brass bands or something on the Salvation Army's role/influence in brass banding.
    Failing that - get some funding off Yamaha and do it on 'why on earth are there Brass Bands in Japan?'.
  12. Liz Courts

    Liz Courts Active Member

    Thanks for all of the replies so far. Hopefully one of the ideas will be enough to convince my tutor that brass bands are in fact quite interesting! I have a meeting with him on Friday so I'll let you all know what he thinks! :)
  13. tam-tam2

    tam-tam2 Member

    I think Bryony did her dissertation on brass bands but I may be wrong. Anyway, see you Thursday, can have a chat about it then if you are still undecided on what to say to your lecturer. Sounds like we need to educate the lecturer in brass bands.......perhaps he ought to come and listen to us!!:biggrin:
  14. Try to tailor it to your course - if it's music, have a look at the type of music that brass bands play and why it is suitable etc.
  15. cbridge

    cbridge Member

    Hey, I did mine on history of brass band contesting and it WAS intesresting...for me anyway!! richard jones helped loads, try smething like that cos it is interesting reading, especially if you include bits about ideas for adjudicating, theories why the adjudication system is not perfect etc etc!! is your tutor by and chance a woodwind player??

    Leisa x
  16. cbridge

    cbridge Member

    p.s if you do pick that or something like that i'll email you mine so you can have a look if you want!!

    Leisa x
  17. Liz Courts

    Liz Courts Active Member

    I was thinking about doing it on the history of contests - my classmate's husband is in the marines and has just completed his on the same thing and he said he found it really intersting as well...I'll see what my tutor says (yes, he is a woodwind player!), and I'll take you up on the offer of having a look at yours if the idea passes Mr I Hate Brass Band's standards! :)
  18. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - you could always write some historical stuff on how brass bands became more popular than wind bands (replacing many) and dominated the amateur music scene. ;)
  19. leisa

    leisa Active Member

    ugh! mine was a woodwind player as well, he'll prob never like the idea or brass bands, do it anyway, your the one who has to write/research it not him!!

    Leisa x
  20. meandmycornet

    meandmycornet Active Member

    Exactly which tutor was it?

    Can't have been Phil.... cus he wouldn't diss any type of music!

    Can't have been Uncle Bob.... he knows better!

    Was it silly I-run-a-samba-band-Howard? I don't like him....he didn't realise that my cornet was in a different key to all the flutes in my group (I am also the only person in my group that plays a proper instrument.... we have guitars, kit and umpteen flutes!) and wondered why it took me so long to transpose the piece we were performing as a group!

    Whichever one of them it was better stay clear of me, else i'll tell them exactly how amazing brass bands are, and they will regret ever having said that!

    When I do my dissertation next year, i'm going to try and link it to brass bands somehow... I'm sure it's possible!

    I have no ideas to help you.... but Mrwelshman up there (not you Timmy dearest!) had some very good ideas! I can be a guinea pig if required and if I can help just give me a kick and I will :D

    Good Luck xxxxxxxxxxxx

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