The Beat Goes On - Adjudication

Discussion in 'The Adjudicators' Comments' started by LipService, Jun 3, 2003.

  1. LipService

    LipService Member

    Some time ago I posted a topic on 4BarsRest with regard to the adjudication system currently adopted in Brass Band Contesting. The reply I received was something along the lines of "don't worry your silly head about such things", but I wonder what the wider views on my suggestions are.

    Firstly, I do not play in a band, I can't even read music, but I am an avid follower and supporter of banding and contesting. Secondly, the reason I feel moved to make an opinion follows the almost laughable decisions made by some adjudicators.

    It is quite obvious to me that the adjudicators are very aware of who is on stage. Taking away the quality of the best bands themselves, they still have the reception of the audience to go by. So my suggestion is this...

    Why not have the same three adjudicators, but only one listen to each band at a time and the other two wear headphones for the performance. The major advantage of this is that the adjudicator doesn't hear the band before, or the band after the one he/she is marking. This not only eliminates the temptation to compare bands, but it means that they are marking only 6-8 bands rather than 20+.

    An obvious pitfall is that a band will be judged by one adjudicator alone, but after all, there is only one adjudicator at the Area's, some marking up to 30 bands a day. Maybe some would consider this unfair... but a tad fairer than the adjudicators being swayed by the fact all know who is on stage.

    The major hurdle in all this is that adudicators differ immensley on how they mark. Some look for clarity, interpretation or dynamics, some will stick rigidly to the score. I assume these judges are chosen on experience and indeed this is a most valuable asset, but how can someone who, lets face it, may not be as 'up-to-date' on the newer styles of music and far advanced players, be given the task of judging?

    With the massive diversity of music today, I feel this hurdle could be overcome if adjudicators were to be given guidelines on what they MUST look for and mark on. This not only lets the judges work alone, but would also give the bands themselves far more notice of what exactly the adjudicators are looking for (instead of the finding out on the day of the contest.)

    For example, we have all known for some time that the Nationals test piece is to be selected variations from Enigma Variations. You will get some bands that will try to emulate an orchestral style, but if you have two judges that are looking for a purely brass band sound... it's asta la vista!

    We all think in different ways, you will never get two judges give exactly the same opinion on one piece or one performance - however, if given a path to follow, I think you will find that there will be a lot more close decisions made, unlike what was experienced in the range of scoring at the Masters.

    It is more than probably that I have made some huge faux-pas and not taken into consideration some detail that will put my suggestions to bed for good, but these are the opinions of someone on the outside looking in.

    We have the best brass bands in the world in this country... so let's have the best adjudicators to praise them.

    What say you :?:
  2. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member


    Thanx for posting an interesting question and a serious concern.

    I have been in the band when the adjudication system in Cambridge has worked in our favour and times when it hasnt. However I feel that there is only one fundemental problem with the Masters system that being that the positioning of the boxes. Surely the ideal placement would be that the 3 boxes be behind each other rather than spread across the room.

    The idea that contests should remain with 3 adjudicators in a box is utter rubbish. I have heard many a time that one adjudicator has his decisions persuaded by the other two. If we want that to stop then you either have three seperate boxes, one adjudicator only or no boxes at all ?!?

    The WHOLE ethic of contesting is subjective. What one person deems a masterpiece is not necessarily another persons. By setting guidlines for adjudicators you are asking them to be almost robotic with their reports. I strongly believe that adjudicating should be looked at with a microscope, however such experiments have been done by both Boosey and Hawkes and a Norwegian University department during the 1990's. What can be done ? Well, very little since as with most aspects of brass banding time moves ever so slowly.. Sadly there are many who will fight tooth and nail to stop any movement whatsoever. When a piece is commissioned for a contest WHY don't we have the composer in the box ? After all, he knows what he wants, he knows his piece, he knows how his piece should sound. If the top bands don't come first they will complain, saying 'that bloke don't kno' wha' he's talking about, he ain't a bandsman'. I applaud using people from outside the brass band sphere, orchestral musicians in particular since those do not have an intricate knowledge of the brass band but still have knowledge of what music is all about.....after all a contest really should be about the music and not a day to see who split what and where.

    A musical perfromance is always going to be subjective, a Mahler Symphony conducted by Bernstein is always going to be different to that by Colin Davis but the main difference is that a split in one of their performances does not mean a grave error and so an unworthy performance of the piece. The contest drives for perfection, yet few pieces are ever played with perfection. Since perfection is not an answer then there are going to be errors but what errors are bigger than others ? Does each individual slip or clip warrant taking one more point off the performance ? Does the interpretation carry more points than the technical aspects ? I believe that music, especially in the brass band museum culture, is there to entertain but there is also room for art music which is often not 'programmatic' or have a lovely story and leaves the music speak for itself. How then would three adjudicators agree on what they think of the piece if it is supposed to mean something different to each individual. A piece of abstract tunes such as Prague was left to the listener and adjudicators individual impressions. The same was also true of McCabe's Maunsel Forts in the Open last year, yet people who voted with their feet that day I suggest did not give it a chance.

    Another point which I feel I must state is :- Having played many new commissions at the contest. I get the impression that the adjudicators probably have'nt had a clue of what its about? So bands 0ne to four perhaps have never got a chance of winning since the adjudicators are establishing their thoughts on what is percieved as their ideal performance. My hope is that in the future the adjudicators for the contest should have a recording of the commission from a band not at the contest so at least from band one they know what it goes like.

    With respect I feel that your system of one adjudicator listening whilst the others do not will perhaps work. But I feel even with strict guidlines the adjudicators will still have individual parameters and ideals and so it wont necessarily make much difference.

    By setting parameters/guidlines for adjudicators, will that not become predictable and bands could perform to those guidlines in the effort to win ? That would further inhibit the musicality of the performances, after all little come to a contest now with a variety of interpretation. A further slimming down of the variety in our contest performance will eventually see 21 performances of the same piece, with the same interpretation and, yes, perhaps at this point you would be able to accurately rate a performance by mistakes BUT is that what we really want ? Do players want to go to a contest with the pressure doubled because they know for definate that a clip by them will cost the band 1st place. Does the audience want similar performances ? Yes and No. Those who come to a contest in general are there for A) Family or Friends B) Bandsmen themselves and the majority as far as I can see are already armchair adjudicators who are there for the 'sport' rather than the music. Would the adjudicators benefit ? Hmm perhaps, they would have less pressure on them, they could only work inside certain perameters and everyone would know these parameters so there will be less heckling!!

    As for adjudicators knowing which band is on stage I agree totally...why not just open the boxes up like they do in Youth band festivals and competitions. In their competitive realm they have enjoyment and do not argue as much as the way we argue with the often archaic system that we continue to use...

  3. LipService

    LipService Member

    Thank you for replying! I had nightmares of sitting there with 'nil point'... at least I am doing marginally better than our Eurovision entry! :D

    Firstly, I agree in theory about letting the composer do the adjudicating. All well and good if the composer is still alive, I doubt many would fancy sitting in a box next to Elgar at the Nationals this year.

    Secondly, the point I was trying to get across is that about guidelines was trying and introduce some kind of standard marking system, so many points for clarity, so many for dynamics etc, basically giving the adjudicators areas they must mark on. Of course there will still be a varied opinions on a performance, people are individuals and nothing will change that. However, some adjudicators place more emphasis on interpretation than anything else. By suggesting guidelines it ensures that all adjudicators mark on all areas of the performance.

    Whether the bands involved in any particular contest know what the judge is going to mark on is neither here or there, the object is surely to be the best band/player you can be on the day, no one aims for second place. Bands are told what the judges will be looking for anyway, albeit too late in my opinion.

    Maybe the answer is to have those who still play and conduct the newer modern styles adjudicating. Who knows!!!
  4. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    no worries.....

    I can see your point quite clearly and to the extent where a contest should be about one player against another is debatable. Although I am a firm believer in an upgrade to the whole brass band ethic, contests and music, I regretfully have to look back to history to see where the contest had a good system. Looking at contest adjudication leading up to the 1960's there were three adjudicators of different backgrounds and even different ages. For instance a man from the Salvation Army, a man from the army bands and an ex-brass band conductor.....composers were also allowed in the box up untill at least the 1970's when Elgar Howarth was in the box for his piece Fireworks in 1975 I think. Today we normally have three adjudicators from similar backgrounds who most often than not are chosen for nearly every contest. History tells us what the system should be....Bourgeois himself in the 80's wanted to be an adjudicator when it was his piece in the Nationals but they said it would be can read what he believes in Elgar Howarths book :- What a performance - the band plays on...

    The only people who have contemplated a change in adjudication system are the Master. Phillip Biggs and Richard Franklin should be congratulated for at least trying to do something different...both in adjudication and in a consistent music policy. By no stretch of the imagination is any system perfect!!! For instance as I said before...if the boxes were separate and placed behind each other then the accoustics may be more similar rather than one box on the right, one in the middle, and the other on the left...on the right hand side there would be an overload of cornet on the left hand side there would be too much Trom playing! Theoretically the Eric Crees in the Masters this year had a better balance than the others so Sellers really according to him should have one!!

    Anyway I have a job tonight so I'm off to get ready..look forward to your reply..
  5. andywooler

    andywooler Supporting Member

    The idea of additional adjudicators often comes up but in the words of a very experienced adjudicator to whom I mentioned this

    " that's fine but often you'll then get 2 idots judging you instead of one"!
  6. LipService

    LipService Member

    My suggestion for the Nationals was to have the normal three adjudicators but for them to alternate, each only marking 1 in every 3 band performances :)

    So in effect that would be one wouldn't it?
  7. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I realise that the question of open or closed adjudication is never going to be settled to everyone's satisfaction, but to suggest that with closed adjudication the judges will not know which bands are playing is clearly naive. I would suggest that, with a large number of championship section bands, there will be individual players, or the general sound of the band, that will give away considerable clues within a few dozen bars, apart from the reaction that a band receives from the audience at the conclusion of the performance - particularly those bands whose conductors really milk the applause unnecessarily.

    If other national and international music competitions see no need to cage their judges to preserve their integrity, I do not see that we need to within the band movement. I am all in favour of the composer being one of the adjudicators, although it may be difficult if he has worked with any of the competing bands during the process of composition - allegations of inside knowledge etc.

    I do agree that it is unrealistic to expect too robotic an interpretation of the score, as that is not what music-making is about, but I do like the suggestion made by the organisers of the forth-coming Scottish Open that the adjudicators give some indication to the bands in advance of what they are listening for.

    As to the question of giving bands early in the draw a fair chance I don't think there is any easy answer. One possibility, however, would be to lower drastically the expected points totals - when the bands are generally all marked within a couple of points of each other, with the winners only a couple of points short of the maximum possible, there is so little leeway, and some of the marks we have seen recently have not been a very true reflection of the real quality of the performance. If the first band to play were given automatically a score of, say, 150 out of 200, then other results could be fitted around that, with much motre room for manoeuvre.
  8. Mike Saville

    Mike Saville Member

    I've often wondered about the points system. Bands I have played in have been awarded 180-190 points which means the performance must have been really good to get this close to full marks. The reality is that we have sometimes given a mediocre performance but still received good marks.

    The target of 200 points is raised and lowered for each section but an average performance within a section should result in an average mark -not a score of 90% +. (I would suggest 60% as an average score which equates to 120 points)
  9. Kari Anson

    Kari Anson Member

    Whatever adjudication system in in place there will always be room for improvement and at the end of the day when a band isn't in the prizes who is the best person to blame...................the adjudicator! People will always moan, regardless of how much effort is placed into the organisation.
  10. LipService

    LipService Member

    Why is it naive?

    If an adjudicator is only hearing and marking on every third band performance, they have no idea who has gone before or who has going after, no matter how much the conductor milks the applause! Obviously a lot of bands have their own distinct sound, but less hard to distinguish when the adjudicators power of comparison is eliminated somewhat. Don't you think?
  11. midwalesman

    midwalesman Member

    Naive ?

    A feel that was a wee bit harsh...The idea is an interesting one, practically, would it work? hmm..possibly. As people has said there is no certain cast iron system. But as I said...Youth Festivals are very popular, I wonder why...less competative don't wish other kids to split notes...they enjoy trips to contests whilst adults sometimes worry for about a month about one day. Going back to the point....I think open adjudication should be implemented. Whatever the result there is always people who moan about the result!! lol I've been there. Youth band festival system is the way has entertainment..less players under immense pressure...variety of pieces would encourage more people to the contests instead of blaming new music for poor attendence. Time for change is something that 100's of people have said and nothing has happened.....Sadly band systems will never change with the times...except for one contest...the Masters (at the moment anyway!!)
  12. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I do think your idea of each adjudicator hearing a band in isolation does have its merits, particularly from the point of view of avoiding direct comparisons with bands before or after, but still feel that a number of bands are so easily identified that the closed adjudication does not offer a fool-proof solution. That being the case, why submit the judges to the discomfort etc that being in the box brings?
  13. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    Re: Naive ?

    haha.. what youth bands did you play with ;)
    all the ones i played with were much more competative than any adult bands iv played with!!!
  14. Sellers_Bird

    Sellers_Bird Active Member

    yup, my old yth band were definately in it to win it!! the competitive element was good cos it made us work harder... lol :lol:

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