No musicality?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by alks, Aug 10, 2006.

  1. alks

    alks Member

    Just Surfing around the net and noticed a post on an american forum about brass bands....... it read.....

    " Never heard any Band that could trash a symphony orchestra in musicality and musicianship... And I've heard a lotl!

    But the lack of musicality and musicianship in british brass bands makes it a musical joke compared to a real orchestra...! "


    "Brass Band VS Symphony Orchestra...
    And when it comes to musicality and musicianship the Symphony orchestra is a Mercedes Benz compared to a Lada = a brass band.

    And we do have great brass players in Denmark... Mainly in the Orchestras!
    Maybe we don't have Maurice André or Maurice Murphy... But there are very good brass players here.

    And a story from the real life:
    Recently a top 10 British Brass Band needed a Eb Soprano for a major competition... And they called a soprano player from a Danish amateur brass band to play with them..."

    Is this what people really think of brass bands outside of the brass band movement??

  2. matti_raz

    matti_raz Member

    Send em all a YBS CD!!!!!!!!!

    Sadly, it's a true canvas of what most people outside the movement think.

    Contesting is another foible of ours that mosty outsiders dont like one bit.... but if it betters our musical ability why not???
  3. timbloke

    timbloke Member

    There are hundreds, thousands of brass players in bands and only a handful in orchestras, those who play in orchestras tend to play in a number of different ensembles, including sometimes bands. And due to the way an orchestra works most of the playing and interpretation is down to the individual. And speaking as one of them there is a very different attitude to musical approach between orchestral musicians and all but the top end band musicians (eg YBS).

    Whether this means a lack of "musicality and musicianship" in bandsme and women, I don't think it does. I think it means they approach it differently because they can and need to.

    For the comparison of transport. The orchestra is surely more like a tall ship, impressive to look at, lots of crew who probably helped build the thing and know everything there is to know about ships. Banding is therefore a racing yacht - smaller crew, competitive, perhaps not as impressive stood still but packs a mean punch when its going. Not all the crew needs to be expert ship builders or sailors, they need to be highly tuned athletes fit for the role they play.

    But, I ask you to consider... If you took someone out of a band and put them in an orchestra how well would they compare to the other orchestral musicians? If you did it the other way, what result would you get? If you're bothered by things like these, rather than ensuring you enjoy what you do, I suggest you try "the other side" whichever that is, then think about the difference.
  4. TheMusicMan

    TheMusicMan tMP Founder Staff Member

    Very good points made there Tim, but personally, I don't think you can or should easily compare Bands v's Orchestras - there's a world of difference. Not in the least that orchestral players are more likely to be professionals i.e. earning a living out of their playing. OK, there are many thriving amateur orchestras out there, but I guess brass players probably find that they have more to do when playing in a brass band than perhaps when playing in an orchestra.

    They are two different mediums and we shouldn't compare like-for-like, that's just not possible.

    This isn't to say either that there are not the same level of player (ability, musicianship, talent etc) in bands as orchestras - of course there are, and many of them. But I guess that there are more better players in orchestras than there are in bands.

    We [ie the BB movement] cater to a different audience, and I feel, to a different breed of brass player. Maybe the comments in the first post in this thread are posted on whatever site as a result of the person listening to a 'lesser' band and not one of YBS/Cory/Dyke standard. I am aware though, that of recent performances at the US Open (most notably by Fodens), most people who would have heard them reported being blown away by the sound, quality and music.

    I guess those who posted that have a blinkered approach to what they see as their music and perhaps they should open their ears and remember that regardless of their current standard, they too, were at one stage, learners.
  5. DublinBass

    DublinBass Supporting Member

    I agree that the percpetion in the States is that orchestra's are a higher class than most brass and wind bands.

    However, I think the stereotype may not be so much the medium as the fact that some players get paid. I think people tend to give mre credence to any "professional" group over any "amateur" group even if the amateur group is better because of the perception that the professional group has better players. Personally, I'd take our top two percussionist, top two cornets and lead trombone over our local symphony any day...but because they get paid, they get much more arts funding and charge much more for concerts.

    There's the old saying, higher price implies higher quality(or something)...which I do not believe to be true.
  6. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    There are many things said out of ignorance, or because the encounters they have had with other groups have coloured their thinking. It is probably also true that for most people their experience of hearing an orchestra has been a top class ensemble on TV or in concert, whilst the band may well have been a casual encounter in a park or on a parade.

    There are those out there who are complementary towards the best of brass band playing, as has been seen in reviews of recent Cheltenham Festival concerts by BAYV & Dyke, and reviews of solo recitals by such as David Childs, where previously blinkered viewpoints have been changed by the quality of both music and musicality on display.

    One of the greatest advocates of the brass band in the wider orchestral fraternity is Doug Yeo, who has gone on record as saying that he feels the best brass players in the world are to be found playing in brass bands.
  7. dickyg

    dickyg Member

    An interesting discussion!!!

    Having played in both orchestras and brass bands all my life, I think there is a certain amount of 'snobbery' on both sides. I have often thought sitting in a good amateur orchestra that generally the playing is not as accurate as in a good brass band (particularly in string sections) but the nature of the section sound means they often get away with it as long as it is in tune.
    Contesting seems to help to make the majority of brass bands play very accurately and I think if your average orchestral (only) musician heard our contest performances, they would be very, very impressed and no doubt have a very different opinion of the medium. However, I suspect they don't! What they hear is bands in the park 'going through the motions' between the contests that they enjoy more, playing the same old repertoire (that is often probably a bit of a joke to their ears - especially bands trying to play mediocre 'pop' arrangments). Is it any wonder that many orchestral players think we are still part of the old cloth cap era?
    Apologies to all the many bands that I am sure rehearse as thoroughly for concerts as they do for contests and play to the same standard, with quality repertoire all year round!
  8. Jacob Larsen

    Jacob Larsen Member

    Where did you find this ?? It´s two different worlds and can not be compared in any way.. During my time at the conservatorie in Denmark I had to put up with comments from my fellow student about me being a brass band enthusiast... Some of them totally changed their mind when they heard my band..... But I´ll like to find out who the Danish guy is...
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2006
  9. alks

    alks Member

    It seams that people automatically assume an Orchestra = the best you can get. I find this an odd point of view. There are many lesser orchestras, even county/ school ones that are no where near as good as the LSO etc. Why should the word 'Orchestra' automatically mean the highest level of musicality? If you put a bunch of brass orchestral players in a brass band setting does that automatically mean that they are somehow "less musical?"?

    I doesnt really what what setting your playing in, it doesnt automatically give the right to be more musical does it. ? I have and listen to many orchestral cd's and think their great and dont see them as any better or worse than our 'top brass bands'. And i for one dont go around bashing Orcestras and the like either.

    Of course theres a big differece between the top 20 or so brass bands than the other sections, just as there is with bottom end orchestras and top end ones! My point is that the medium you play in does not make you more or less musically aware. So really people shouldn't bash a perfomance medium for no real reason should they? (as the poster on the american forum suggested in a 'blanket fashion")

  10. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    IMO it's just musical snobbery with regards to orchestras being better. When I was at school, the county had an orchestra and a wind band but no brass band. When a few of us asked why no brass band, after a bit of digging and not accepting the first answer was because the education authority believed that the orchestra was deemed to be the superior force as was to be seen publicly that way. At the time they also knew that the quality of musicianship amongst the brass players was generally of a higher standard mostly due to the brass players playing in their local bands. The authority deemed that it couldn't have a brass band for this reason.

    I'm glad to say that a year after I left school they relented and started a brass band due to pupil pressure.
  11. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    How can you compare?

    Ask a top orchestral trumpet player to razz out an improvised jazz solo half as well as Dizzy Gillespie and he or she would definitely struggle.

    Ask Diz (when he was alive) to knock out a bach trumpet concerto, (or similar) and he would definitely struggle.

    Same instrument, two completely different skills. And that's not even bringing brass bands into the equation.

    Too many people confuse musicianship with being able to play the dots on the page. What's written on the paper tells you what to play, but the how and the why come from inside the musician. and as louis armstrong said "If it ain't in you, ya can't blow it out."

    At the top level of musicianship, very few players are any better or any worse than others. They're all just different.

    That said, I do hate the pompous attitude some orchestras (even amateur) seem to have toward brass bands and bandsmen. "Oh you're in a brass band? Oh I say... how quaint. Do you have a flat cap and a whippet as well?"

    I'm no Dean Morley by any stretch of the imagination, but I could keep pace with any player there. Yet I was somehow regarded as inferior, because I was a dedicated brassie. Certainly the last time I help that particular orchestra out!
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2006
  12. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    Always good to provide a link so that people can read the full story (at least I would have thought that this was a good idea) -

    You will notice that the majority of the posters are not in favour of this view.

    It is certainly a view that will be encountered, especially by those who are not familiar with the standard of musicianship that now exists in many of the top bands.
    One of the funniest moments I have had in an audience was at an ITG (International Trumpet Guild) Conference (Manchester) when Black Dyke were performing. I had been chatting to a couple of Americans who were very dismissive about the term "brass band" - their reaction (not repeatable on the public forum, but was accompanied by a jaw dropping expression) was one of the funniest moments I have seen. It made me proud to have played in brass bands.

    How true - these are two very different musical ensembles, comparing them in any way is much like saying that cheese is not a good match to a steak - both food, but very different in every way.

    In this country, many of those players will have learnt their trade in the brass bands - Muarice Murphy, Denis Wick, Rod Franks, the list is almost endless.
    Without the brass band movement (especially in this country) I doubt that the musical standard of brass playing we are lucky enough to have, would exist.

    The vast majority would have serious problems even reading the changes, let alone putting together a decent solo - however, there are a few who would manage to put something cohesive together. The number of players who are now impressive performers in multiple genres are growing.

    Just nitpicking here - he would have great trouble performing a Bach concerto, as would any trumpeter - Bach didn't write one.

    Well said - there are great musicians playing in most areas of music, it is just a question of finding them.

    Without starting a major argument here, there is negativity working both ways. If I go into a bandroom and there is a trumpet in my bag (alongside my cornet) many of the players will assume that I can't play cornet. It never occurs to people that it is possible to do both.

    The orchestra certainly has a wider tonal pallette than a brass band, but that is by no means saying that there are no musical performers in the brass band world.

    The biggest problem I see is that the great musicians in the brass band movement are not often given as many chances to demonstrate their musicality as those in the orchestral world. The number of great orchestral pieces compared to the number of truly great brass band pieces is (in my opinion) vast. The brass band is sadly missing a great wealth of concert pieces. There are test pieces, but many of those have been written purely for the contest environment - the musical value (again, personal opinion, apologies if you feel otherwise) of many of them is quite questionable.

    There are great musicians working within the brass band movement - they might not be getting the attention that their orchestral counterparts are getting on the worldwide stage, but they are most definitely there - and there are many of us who appreciate what they are doing (as can be seen on the TH discussion).
  13. ronnie_the_lizard

    ronnie_the_lizard Active Member

    Some fantastic posts elsewhere on that thread too (which I think sets the tone of the thing) such as.......
    "Most British Brass Band players play on a B & H Sovereign. The vibrato comes with
    the instrument."

    .....and similar posts discussing the special "Vibroselector" that a certain cornet solioist must use to maximise the effect.... ;)
  14. trumpetmike

    trumpetmike Well-Known Member

    We apologise - the trumpeter's sense of humour can be a little subtle at times:wink:
  15. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    There is a basic reason why many musicians outside Brass Bands believe that we aren't as 'musical'. It is because we lack one of the three tiers which all art forms have:
    1) Amateur organisations of varying levels which are there to provide people the chance to play music at whatever level - (lower section bands, school bands etc)
    2) groups of excellent players who make wonderful sounds and are amazing to listen to - (Top flight bands, grimethorpe, YBS etc)
    3) musicians who go beyond the boundaries and explore new forms, new sounds, constantly pushing limits (this is the level that Brass Bands don't have)

    The brass band movement can't really have the third option as the entire structure won't allow it. contests, sections, tradition etc etc.

    Technical excellence is not necesarily the same as musical excellence. There are some truly terrible orchestras, and many orchestras who would not consider playing beethoven any other way! But there are also those who wish to experiment and they have audiences who are willing to go with them. This is why they are constantly developing - the movement has lasted hundreds and hundreds of years and keeps getting stronger. Brass Bands have been around for the century and (other than the technical ability) haven't really changed that much.

    This does not take away from the amazing playing and musicians who are within brass bands, and the wonderful sounds that a band can make. but the snobbery from other groups does have a basis in fact.

    If you ever sit in a rehearsal of even the greatest brass band, you will notice that there is a very set way of doing things. Increase the dynamic range, play faster and slower than anyone else, have explosions of sounds, get the balance right, get every note starting and ending EXACTLY where it should be etc etc. This produces amazing sounds and I'm not suggesting things shouldnt be done this way, but it is an advanced version of painting by numbers. Listen to top groups in other areas and you'll find that they may be no where near as technically adept, not as tight, but that is actually their saviour. I've heard many brass band afficionados listening to a top jazz player stating he can't be very good as he split some notes or didnt fit in with the basic chord sequence!

    By being so rigid, Brass Bands lose some of the musicallity that other areas allow to develop. It's a little like comparing Whitney Housten to Pink Floyd. Whitney has an amazing voice, technically brilliant, sounds lovely and can do things none of the rest of us can... but is it necessarily great music?.... Floyd may not be everyone's cup of tea, but at least they push musical boundaries. Actually, music needs both types, so Brass Bands shouldnt be frowned upon so much, but we should accept that we are not on the cutting edge of music (except maybe technically)
  16. John Brooks

    John Brooks Well-Known Member

    I may be wrong here but I believe part of the issue in the U.S. is that, until fairly recently, brass bands existed only within the Salvation Army. Very few of those bands were musically competent and most played poorly and out of tune.

    I think you can still count the number of excellent bands in S.A. circles in the U.S. in single digits, including the two staff bands. I haven't heard the National Capital Band or any of the California bands (eg: Pasadena, Santa Ana) for a long time.

    Is this a valid comment?
  17. Anon_User

    Anon_User New Member

    Unfortunately the comparrison between quality of playing between bands and orchestras will more often than not come out with a bias towards the orchestras.
    Let me ask you how many players within the brass band movement actually earn a living playing their instruments? Its fundamentally an amateur pastime whereas on the other hand how many amateur orchestras do you know of? Granted there are going to be some am orchestras but they are predominantly pro and as such will be populated by extremely talented and dedicated players (dedicated in as much that if they dont show up they dont get paid!!!).Ok some top bands are sprinkled with the odd pro musician but stack them up against an orchestra and I bet theres not gonna be much difference in quality.Style and personallity yes but playing quality? I doubt it.
  18. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    There are at least as many amateur orchestras as professional, possibly more, especially if you count school, college and "county" orchestras. There is a definite snobbery amongst orchestral players even at the most basic amateur level and always has been. I was a dogsbody at the Halle for a while and except for a few players "in the know" like Gareth Small, Andy Duncan, Andy Berryman etc. the majority would have been absolutely floored by something of the quality of BAYV's performance of Gaia Symphony at the RNCM.

    However, I wonder why anybody is surprised by this. In many ways the brass band tradition (and don't get me wrong, I love it) is archaic and insular. No musical group is as inflexible in its instrumentation or repertoire. Almost no musical group is as obsessed with competiton. We tend not to welcome outsiders, so bands are almost always conducted by former players and contests adjudicated by conductors. Only rarely do we welcome new composers who are not already associated with the movement in some way. Take for instance the English Championship. The BFBB could have commissioned anyone they liked - why not go for someone new to brass band music and make a real statement of intent? But they commissioned Philip Sparke, because he is seen as a "safe pair of hands" - in other words guaranteed to writie something that everybody would enjoy. This is not to denigrate Mr Sparke, or Dance and Alleluias which I thoroughly enjoyed (and bought the score of); it merely illustrates that we don't encourage "outsiders" to get involved for fear that they might take us somewhere we don't want to go. Is it any wonder, then, that the brass band world is seen from outside as a bit insular, quaint and old-fashioned? Is it any wonder that many otherwise well informed, educated musicians have no idea of the talent that lies in a championship band?

    Couple of examples for you. When I was a student my best mate (far cleverer than me, but lazy!) was widely educated musically but had never heard a brass band other than Hovis adverts and parks. I played for Nottingham City Transport at the time and we had a good band. I invited him to a concert and he was blown away by it. His only complaint was the conservatism of the repertoire. My dissertation was on "Contemporary non-contest music for brass band" - i.e. no test-pieces but including stuff like Grimethorpe Aria, the Alun Hoddinott Symphony for Brass and Percussion, The Trumpets, some SA repertoire, etc.. My tutor, a widely respected musicologist and the world authority on Brahms, had no clue that music like this even existed for brass band. It astonished him!

    One final point to make - two of the movement's most most recent favourite composers were first commissioned to write brass band music by youth bands. Philip Wilby by the NYBB and John Pickard by the NYBBW. There's a thought for you.
  19. brassintheed

    brassintheed Member

    Excellent post this. Entirely hit the problem dead on.

    My favourite example of the above is when the BB committee had the guts to bring in Judith Bingham and Prague. Judith is a highly respected composer in other musical circles (I've played some of her wind band work which is spectacular), but Prague was met with a large amount of disdain and many officials had their hands slapped for going in that direction. From what I can gather, it was a catalyst for certain high ranking officials to leave their posts. Prague isn't everyone's cup of tea, but at least it was fresh. It was exciting for a respected classical composer to bring something new to our little retro world. Since then, there's been nothing but 'safe' choices.
  20. 1st Position

    1st Position Member

    Obviously you have never visited 'Farmer Platts' in Aysgarth, North Yorkshire. A steak gently cooked, topped with black pudding, then topped with Wensleydale cheese and lightly grilled. Highly recommended.

    Back on track, some respondants to this thread have mentioned musical snobbery - in many areas I think it is just plain straight forward snobbery. It certainly was in the first orchestra I played for - the string and woodwing players, all arrived at rehearsal in cars driven by their surgeon/solicitor/dentist parents, whilst the brass players came on the bus, and were given their fare by their butcher/policeman/docker fathers. There was an incredible barrier put up by the orchestra towards the brass section, which only came down when we went on a tour. The brass section (obviously) had more fun, and suddenly everyone wanted to be our friend! Just to add at this time I hadn't played in a brass band outside of my school brass group, so I wasn't going in with any preconcieved ideas. Over the years, I have played with many orchestras as a semi professional, and have come across several that still have a 'look down upon the brass section' mentality. Yes, there has been as much variation in the standard of some orchestras as there is in brass bands, good and bad players/poor musicians, but I have always been welcomed into bands, not so into the orchestra.