Should contests be judges on interpretation

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by Jonno, Jan 24, 2007.

  1. Jonno

    Jonno Member

    At a recent contest a band I was working with received their adjudicators comments.

    Reading the comments they were ALL positive (technically secure, tuning excellent,nicely played etc. etc.). The only slight negative was one comments saying one soloist was 'slightly insecure' on a cadenza, everything else was positive (honestly!).

    The last comment was "An accomplished performance however I feel your slow tempos were just a little too slow".

    What position do you think the band got ?

    4th FROM LAST

    We've looked at these time and time again and it would appear that the adjudicator placed us purely on a difference of opinion with the MD on the interpretation of the work.

    My question is this, should contests be judged on interpretation. When we do not know what the adjudicator's interpretation would be should the contest not be judged on band 'basics' first an foremost. I do know that some of the bands above us had negative comments about tuning, not being together and yet they beat us, we can't understand it.

    This is not sour grapes, if you haven't got a sense of humour then don't enter contests. The band that won the contest fully deserved it and there is no way we should have beaten them. Not even saying we should have been in the top three but what I am concerned is that it appears that contests are being judged on purely subjective points. I personally think this should only be used when two bands are 'level-pegging' on everything else.

    Your thoughts ?
  2. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    If you don't want a band to be judged on interpretation, what should they be judged on? I'm sure someone could write a computer program to assess purely objective criteria like splits, adherence to printed tempi, and intonation. Yes, these areas need to be right, but the final objective should a satisfying performance of a piece of music and for me this is the most important thing an adjudicator should be listening for.

    Too often brass bands obsess over technical perfection to the detriment of their musical performance; I'm quite happy for adjudicators to try to reverse that trend by judging interpretation. In any case, I would imagine it would be impossible for anyone to give an entirely objective assessment if they don't agree with the musical interpretation. Band contests, despite often resembling a sport, can't be judged in the same way as most sporting contests because there are subjective criteria involved.

    The only compromise I can think of is to have 2 adjudicators, one giving technical merit marks based on purely objective criteria (along the lines of Alan Morrison's ideas) and one giving artistic impression marks. But then there would be arguments about how these marks are weighted, and whether the artistic impression judge should reveal his preferences in advance.
  3. oddbod

    oddbod Member

    That question is so complicated!

    I can’t answer it properly – but nobody can without lots more parameters, and even then – that would just be their interpretation!

    Have you seen the thread running on here – “An Odd Question” with some brilliant responses by some of the most qualified people here- it’s sort of, but not quite related.

    If a piece is chosen that has little direction by the composer, a wider interpretation of it must be expected? – Just on the subject of tempo alone, there’s all sorts we find from “Fast” to metronome marks with circa, to metronome marks followed by preciso – Then there’s an adjudicator’s interpretation of those words – the tolerances of circa or “Fast” etc - and we are still just on the Tempo’s aspect!

    To make it worse, when old brass band arrangements (or even some new ones) of orchestral works are nominated as test pieces, we find the arranger often putting his/her own instructions on the score that have nothing to do with composer – some of these may be necessary if the original composer’s markings were obscure – so then if a conductor goes against the markings of the arranger, but within those of the composer – the conductor is musically correct but is using an incorrect interpretation of the score being read.

    Even well written and well marked brass band compositions cannot carry precise instructions! – say, a pause mark.. 2.345 seconds, or 3.17 seconds – and what’s the tolerance of right and wrong? (I know we used to be taught to hold it “Half as long again.. but that doesn’t feel satisfying in most cases).. etc etc.

    The judges often get it in the neck – but usually, when they are sent test pieces that fit the grade of band that’s playing them and when they are properly marked during composition – it seems to work a lot better.....?
  4. zak

    zak Member

    How long was that piece of string again???????? :confused:
  5. oddbod

    oddbod Member

    Hummm.. that would have saved a lot of typing Zak...

    I agree
  6. band_taxi

    band_taxi New Member

    yes and no sometimes thats all thats different in a bands playing of a piece
  7. oddbod

    oddbod Member

    Back to Zak's piece of string then! .... think we're getting to this one quite quickly?...
  8. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Also what effect does actually hearing X number of bands have on the adjudicators decision with regard to interpretation?

    Say for example they'd only seen the score and never heard the piece, it gets to a specific passage and the majority of bands play the tempo slighlty faster or slower than the score. Band Y comes along late in the draw and plays that part spot on the marked tempo. So is is possible that by this time the adjudicators thinking to himself "well I know most bands have changed the tempo - but I really like it played that way" - how does he then reflect that in his marking?
  9. timbloke

    timbloke Member

    I'd have thought most adjudicators judge on a series of criteria...

    First how good is the band - in terms of intonation, sound, dynamic range, balance, playing together, accuracy of notes (splits), quality and strength of soloists, and consistency throughout the peice and band.

    Second how good is the piece - if they cannot separate the above criteria either because a few bands have no problems with any of the above, or a few bands struggled equally with the above, then they will mark on intepretation, tempi, style etc.

    I think it is also the case that if a band takes it faster than the adjudicator feels is right, BUT pulls it off and plays it well, they may score better than one who plays it ok, but at the right speed. There are so many things to take into account in judging the music, I don't envy the adjudicator!
  10. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Active Member

    That last paragraph probably is true but shouldn't be. You shouldn't get any credit for playing a piece faster than it should be even if you get it right note wise. That just leads to every playing pieces fast.
  11. timbloke

    timbloke Member

    I was using faster as an example, could have read - "faster", "louder", "quieter", "smoother", "slower", "more rubato" etc.

    My point was that if a band plays it well but different to the adjudicator's interpretation, they may well be, and IMHO should be, marked higher than a band that plays it less well but to the exact interpretation. All the adjudicators mentioned this weekend the importance of getting the basics right (tuning in particular) across all sections - eg Colin Hardy on 4br podcast specifically mentioned "there were one or two bands at the low end who struggled with it a little bit, especially with the tuning and intonation, things that were inherent in the arrangement" i.e. it'd not matter if either your or my band had got a fantastic interpretation - we'd not got the basics correct so were placed last and second last. Which is correct and fair. Perhaps if your interpretation was better but our intonation/tuning was better who'd have come above whom?

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