Test Piece rewriting a cop out??

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by JonP, May 9, 2006.


Rewriting testpieces, should it be:

  1. Accepted in any form, including complete rewrite, to ensure contest victory

    13 vote(s)
  2. Accepted, but not as a complete rewrite, for lesser players or conductors.

    5 vote(s)
  3. Accepted in minimal (maximum number of bars) form, only as a last resort, but should be avoided.

    9 vote(s)
  4. Not Accepted. (points deducted or disqualification for doing it.)

    9 vote(s)
  1. JonP

    JonP Member

    I refer to no-one in particular but I put to you:

    1. Composers work should be respected and performed the way they intended (even if that be overly complicated for contest reasons).

    2. Conductors that need everything in 4/4, 3/4 or 6/8 surely should not be respected by our movement which has some cracking musicians in it.

    I argue, Simon Rattle, Bram Tovey or even Ilan Volkov would not rewrite John Adams "Fast Ride" or Bertwhistle "Punch And Judy" in 4/4 even though they would be much easier. Its artistically not acceptable. We should not accept it and further more it should be ruled that complete rewrites are not allowed.

    Should we not have to play off the parts that are published?, with rules dictating maximum amounts of changes? Would that not stop the re-write fad??

    Or perhaps its really not important and we should all rewrite our finest exponents works in easier form for our convenience. The publishers could just email them to us and we can change them however we like??

    What do you think?
  2. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    Jon, your starting to sound like me or are you gathering research for something.

    I've seen pieces by other bands rewritten, I've re-written my part on occasion to change demi semi's into semi quavers so that my brain can cope with the amount of black on the

    However I think your main point here is about conductors, and many actually do not have a clue sometimes about time signatures, that go beyond those mentioned. In those extreme instances they tend to rewrite everything in 3/4 or 4/4 etc which is quite baffling because the composer wanted a specific emphasis on certain notes and changing the time signature alters this feel. It is sad that this is not particularly evident to the unnamed in the box! Perhaps there should be an external adjudicator that asses the performance of the conductor and whether he "cheats" by changing the time signature?? Deduction in the amount of points given to the band in question after those in the box have made their decision.

    I think it comes down to the basic point, do you do what it takes to WIN or do you do what is ethically right by how the composer wishes his music to be expressed?
  3. JonP

    JonP Member

    My main point was about conductors but i suppose the topic goes much further really.

    It just seems a bit daft to me to re-write peoples music to make it easier when it has been composed sometimes with the express intention of being diffucult, which after all is what you need for the open or nationals.

    Can you imagne the fuss if the next Open testpiece is in 4/4 from beginning to end, everyone would be screaming its too easy, even if its rock!! I would like to see all the MD's scores before they go on stage, just to see who is using the Sibelius cop out score!!

    Its like a trumpet player writing all their parts out in Bb. It just isnt how its done. If you cant do the transposiion you dont get through the audition. Trombones dont write their parts out in bass clef they read alto, Treble and Tenor. Its just not the done thing. I dont think we have to accept it really.

    It is obvious from the audience for the listener though. I saw a piece played at the open a couple of years ago and my part was not in 3/4 like the performing bands obviously was.

    If i was in the box though i could never have spotted it. It worked, but i have no respect for the MD. What a cop out.

    Ps they didnt win anyway. Lol
  4. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    What you are pointing out with the trumpet player is a performer who is doing an audition for a life, professionally wanting to use the correct performance practice issues. However in bands the performance practice is somewhat different, as are the outcomes and their consequental influence on future events. The trumpet player will have to learn transposition to get money whilst these conductors will still get paid irrelevent of the result. In that case, changing the time signatures to make it easier means an easier life for them, ignore how the players feel because he is in charge at the end of the day! I often feel that conductors and adjudicators are much the same, neither really has accountability, the adjudicators panic if they are put in seperate boxes (no place to hide then) and conductors rarely get criticised in adjudications, its 99% the fault of the players.

    Sadly the sporting aspect of contesting is the main fault in banding, a total preoccupation with winning irrelevent of the consequential "prostituting" of music in the process.

    Playing any piece, in any context should require the player(s) to play to the best of their abilities. Sometimes however, the composers need to take note of the limitiations in techinque of playing and not write impossible runs, unless they state, "this is an effect" much as Peter Graham did in the Area test piece. So there is an onus on the contemporary also. I bet Birtwhistle's Grimethorpe Aria would be an absolute beast to play in a contest, yet it doesn't have a million notes in it.....then again, I guarantee conductors would rewrite something in that piece!!

    Good topic Jon, hope you get a good discussion going. Look forward to a few beers with you again soon.
  5. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - I have suggested from time to time that in a contest such as a National or Regional event, players and conductors should read from a set provided on stage. Only time when circumstances would change that is if a player has to have a part enlarged because of impaired eyesight. I honestly believe that problems should be solved at rehearsal level (although this opens up a can of worms again regarding bands that have not got a full compliment of players).
  6. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Sorry, I don't see what the fuss is about.

    I know plenty of players who re-write accidentals or change keys or pull their tuning slides right out to make tricky runs easier, or chuck in a few extra bar lines to make counting easier, and I've never come across an orchestral brass section that didn't have transposed parts or "wrong" instruments. Its not like we're talking about actually re-writing the rhythms or notes, just making things a bit easier for the performers. If the end result is musical and sounds as the composer intended, does it really matter how we get there?
  7. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    My gripe about this whole matter is this ... I cannot think of any other type of game or contest where the competitors can get away with changing the parameters and rules set by the organisors as much as they can do in brass bands. One may argue that the end result is the music performed and what the judges think best in their opinion, but who is refereeing how these objectives are met? Composers are only too glad to hear their compositions performed as it can be tough to be selected if they are not particularly recognised by peers. It is unlikely under these cirmcumstances that they are going to object publicly to bands rescoring aspects of their original work. Musical works are selected for competition as perceived tests for the qualities of technique and musicianship for players and musical director. Is it the same test if the original score and parts are changed for inadequacies of the band or conductor? Is it really fair for the bands they compete against? Is it not deceiving adjudicators who are expecting to hear what they have printed before their eyes? Just my tuppence worth.
  8. theweeprofessor

    theweeprofessor New Member

    Who you talking about?
  9. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    At the pre-contest talk on "Harrison's Clocks" Peter Graham admitted that he had deliberately complicated the time signatures because it was the Championship Finals test piece, and was full of praise for the MD who had spotted this and rewritten it accordingly.

    I would personally have fewer objection to that sort of alteration, providing the accents etc still fell at the right points, than I do over the farming out of parts to other instruments, which is one reason why I am in favour of open adjudication or, failing that, someone in the open to monitor whether parts are being played as written.
  10. HBB

    HBB Active Member

    "Harrison's Dream" Peter?
  11. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Right Ben - sorry!

    (Harrison's Clocks is a Birtwistle piece - now that probably would present a few problems!!!)
  12. Sonny Barker

    Sonny Barker Member

    I agree - why all this beating about the bush?

    To be honest though, as long as the music hasn't been altered, I don't see a problem. I watched a band take the stage once and the rep players parts had obviously been intefered with. There were bits of paper everywhere.
  13. What a load of tripe. The purpose of written scores and parts is to allow the musician to understand and produce a faithful performance of the music in the composers head. To suggest that we should leave parts in a state that would result in a poorer performance just because that's the way they happened to be printed is ridiculous in my opinion. The parts you refer to aren't the music, the music is what the performer produces, parts are just there to facilitate that communication between composer and performer, what the performer does to them is irrelevant. Are you suggesting that pianists who perform from memory are somehow 'cheating' or not doing the composer justice? Maybe we could make championship pieces harder by printing them on postage stamps? Perhaps we could write the music backwards from the bottom of the page to the top? How musical!
  14. JonP

    JonP Member

    I couldnt possibly say.

    That would be professionaly unacceptable.

    Im sure if they read this they will know who the are!

    PS Who are you??
    Last edited: May 10, 2006
  15. Brian Bowen

    Brian Bowen Active Member

    Sorry brassneck, but your suggestion sounds crazy to me! Amateur and professional players (and singers) are expected to mark up their personal parts (usually in pencil) with conductors' interpretations etc. And what's wrong with players reminding themselves of accidentals or fingerings, etc? It would be foolish to expect players to read off parts they've not seen before, especially at a contest. I very much doubt composers would be happy with that either - they want their works to be performed confidently and well.

    William Walton's exciting "Portsmouth Point Overture" abounds with constantly-changing times signatures and it's said that Constant Lambert -- himself a composer, fine conductor and colleague of Walton -- made a "simplified" piano transcription in the same time signature throughout (4/4 I think). That probably was a bit naughty!
  16. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    - But I am talking about contest, not concert performance, unfortunately! What I am referring to is the deliberate doctoring of parts ... moving phrases to other players/parts to cover shortfalls in performance to deceive adjudicators! Honestly, would you be happy if you heard 4 or 5 adapted performances of any of your works? Or would you be happier if the conductor contacted you prior to making any changes?
    [post-edit addition:- regarding accuracy of interpretation (and usually it is only that), perhaps clearer instructions on the composer's score would help here.]

    - I would love to hear the Walton played by a brass band ... heard it as a teenager and still a great overture! (even if I thought it was Copland at first on a blind listen)
    Last edited: May 10, 2006
  17. JonP

    JonP Member

    This makes some sence, however band contsts are not stricktly art, they are also sport which is a massive problem, because in a grandprix for instance you cant use a car lighter or with a larger engine than specified in the regulations. That would be unfair.

    Similarly in tennis you play on cirtain surfaces with a ball supplied not by you and you play until the best player wins. All you bring is a raquet. If your Pete Sampras you win, simple.

    If we can change the pieces to our own requrements then the playing field is no longer level and we have to make decisions with regards to this:


    1. It is expressly allowed and expected that you may alter anything you like about the piece, except the number of players, instruments used (and the other existing regulations) to make the piece as easy as possible for you to deliver. (this would of course be TO WHAT SOMEONE OTHER THAN THE COMPOSER THINKs may be the composers wish, or adjudicators expectation.)

    2. What kind and level of changes are acceptable.

    My opinion is that if we have people composing music, expressly for our movement,by our commison, we should have to use te music they compose. Whats the point otherwise of the compsers choosing how to write thier piece? We may as well have a meeting and tell them what we would like. Or as my origional point was, what the worst of our conductors are capable of managing.
  18. stevetrom

    stevetrom Well-Known Member

    To keep the sporting analagies going, in football does every team have to play the same formation?- No, so long as they only have 1 goalkeeper and 10 outfield players they can line up in ant formation they choose. So long as a band keeps within the rules regarding number of players they should be free to move parts around as much as they want to to achive the best results.
  19. Charmed

    Charmed Active Member

    If it's not noticable, what's the issue? This just shows the band has an excellent MD, and the team to perform this unnoticable change, to get the best performance from a band. TEAM WORK. :clap:
  20. BeatTheSheep

    BeatTheSheep Member

    All the bands in contests have different strengths, and must rewrite parts in sectionals accordingly. I've never played in a contest for any band where a part wasn't rewritten. Nobody has a perfect band.

    How about a different playing field, and giving extra points to bands that don't pay retainers to players? thats more of an advantage surely?

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