the elvis theory... or the problem with bands today

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by lynchie, Jan 10, 2004.

  1. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    Just a theory that developed in my mind after a few pints...

    If pop bands today were all doin elvis imitations, or copying other artists from 50, 60 even 70 years ago no one would bother listening to them. There wouldn't be any point, we'd have heard it all before.

    And yet we in the brass band world still insist on playing pieces that were written up to 100 years ago, and have been played by the best many times. Why would anyone want to come and listen to us play them again?

    What we need is to stop running out these "old favourites", and take a bit of a gamble on whole sets of new music from todays composers. I think that's where bands with resident composers have a real advantage that they should use to full effect. You could have a whole new set of music every year (I'm not saying the resident has to write it all, but its a good head start) so people would want to come to see your band to see what you're up to these days.

    This way we can go from being the equivalent of a pub singer knocking out a few old covers, and become the equivalent of a serious rock band, always moving forwards and evolving (not status quo).

    And if you all want to get together to burn those yellowing old copies of death or glory, clog dance etc, i'll offer to buy a ceremonial lighter...
  2. Euph-Bari

    Euph-Bari Active Member

    I agree with you partially, but i think we should play more newer music but still carry on playing the old stuff (and i don't mean things like clog dance and death or glory - were this are good music they have been over played) because it is just very good music and shouldn't be forgotten.

    And alot of poeple who come to see bands won't come to every comcert therefore there still is alot of the older music they have not heard, so it is well worth playing still.

  3. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    Very good point - you obviously hadn't had too many pints.

    This is illustrated perfectly by the condition of a lot of the music in most bands libraries - sepia coloured with moth eaten edges where you can hardly read the notes where the ink has been rubbed off from the past 40 years of use.

    Perhaps one of the reasons is that there are squillions of wannabe pop composers out there but very few composers/arrangers for brass.
    The technical demands of writing a new piece for a brass band is a lot more daunting than coming up with a new bland pop tune by strumming a few chords on your guitar with your mates.
    The same problem obviously affects Orchestras, Jazz bands, etc who always play old standards and have very little new repetoire.
    The job of writing new pieces must be far easier than it was though, with all the computer based music packages available. So perhaps you are right and the movement has become a bit complacent and stuck in its ways.
    One thing that the movement is very guilty of is navel gazing. We tend to play stuff that we like playing rather than what the audience wants to hear. Audiences seem to really like the pop covers and the cheesy novelty pieces whilst many players abhor them.
    Should we exist just to please ourselves, judging ourselves against each other in contest after contest playing the same old pieces that have no appeal to anyone else.
  4. Dave Payn

    Dave Payn Active Member

    Sort of agree with you lynchie. I'm certainly all for taking risks in trying new music from today's composers, but quality music from years gone by still has its place. After all, orchestras, chamber music groups etc. still mix new commissions with recognised works by Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Dvorak, Schubert, Ravel etc. etc. in their programmes

    The main difference, I think, between the orchestral world and brass band is that the bands have a bit of a history of 'rejecting' some new music at first, even today (Think Prague). Even pieces like Life Divine, Moorside Suite (one wag said is wasn't very good because it didn't contain a single semiquaver...), Spectrum etc weren't universally accepted when they were first produced. The aforementioned three have now been generally accepted as fine examples of the genre. There is also still a 'tradition' with form in newer brass band works (obviously not applying to all) of a big opening section, a development, a quiet section and a wham bam thank you maam tour de force to finish with (I believe there was a discussion on this very board regarding 'test pieces with quiet endings' not too long ago).

    Having said that, that's an opinion based very much on the fact that I'm not a composer and don't have anything like the talent of today's band writers (or indeed, any of those from the past!), so I'm certainly not rubbishing any of today's music, but I hope that in time a little bit more variety in form might creep its way into our newer pieces in the future.

    Finally, the one thing about the 'pot boilers' which have been played by the best bands, is that they still represent a challenge to lower section bands and are a good exercise for them to improve and hopefully eventually get to a standard whereby they might leap into the top section and get a chance to play these new pieces!

    Good topic, though, lynchie. You (as ever) make some very valid points. Not sure, I've had enough beers yet... :) :)

    Cheers (hic! Getting there... ;-)
  5. BottyBurp

    BottyBurp Member

    I can see where you're coming from, but quality lasts. On the subject of buying rafts of new music from today's composers, unless your band is in the happy position of having pots of dosh, some bands simply can't afford it. I wanted to get Windows Of The World (£75) for example. Our Area test piece (£70) etc...

    And on the subject of playing new music, I need my audiences to come back, time and time again and my audiences aren't yet ready for some of the new music that's being published. Whilst I'm not decrying new music, it's a fact of life.

    Anyway, what's wrong with Clogdance??? :wink:
  6. lynchie

    lynchie Active Member

    I understand the cost issue, and I agree that it is a major factor in holding bands back from moving forward. That's why I think bands with resident composers have such an advantage. Then again, if it means an increase in attendances then a few bits of new music could be seen as a good investment. I just hope that the bands that do have the money to spend (some of these sponsorship deals ain't half bad!) will lead the way!

    why not? maybe a few would complain that you didn't played "that old tune that reminds me of the war" but new music could help to attract back the swathes of people that will go once or twice and never come back... these people are more often (although I dislike stereotyping) younger and more sociable, and if they can get a couple of mates to go down to a concert, we could actually increase our audiences, but the only way we can get people like that to come back time and again is to vary our music and play things that are a bit more modern and interesting.

    I take it you don't want me to answer that one...
  7. floral_dance

    floral_dance Member

    I think you make a very good point Lynchie. I have been with my band for 1 1/2 years and the only new music we have bought has been the test pice for last year and this year. Never mind the audience but the band itself get bored playing the same music.

    I do agree with other posts in that some of the old music must be kept because a lot of our audiences come along to hear it, but lets introduce them to some new music too.
  8. Okiedokie of Oz

    Okiedokie of Oz Active Member

    The catch is the 2 genres of pop and brass band are so completely different in nature, that to churn out as many BB hits as Pop hits would take a lot of pople a lot of time.

    For instance -
    I am going to write me a pop song. All I need is a chord progression and a style to imitate. Turn these into a suitable catchy riff. Play over this a cheap tacky melody and Tadah! I have Brittany's next #1. Oh yeah, cheesy saucy lyrics too.

    Now I am going to write my BB hit. It'll take time, consideration on the players, much checking on the harmonies during the polyphonic sections because we cant't have everyone in the band doing the same thing. I need an imaginative melody that captivates the soul of the musician and the audience, nd finally I need someone to mass produce it to the bands out there and a conductor to take a chance on me at the next British Open.

    I am all for the pushing of new music for brass bands. My big fear is I spend $100 or more on another "Seven Wonders," Last year's C grade test piece which I reckon the composer took a couple of nice motifs and slapped them side by side in Logic. It was nice, but the sefgues into each theme were none existant.
  9. cornetchap

    cornetchap Member

    I think most of the points I would raise have already been stated.

    One of the key things a band, particularly those in lower sections, has to address is how to maximise their audiences. In order to do that they need to look at what their typical audience is and what they like to listen to and produce a programme to fit that bill. Now that leaves a dilemna for the composers because these bands would like to play new music but it needs to be in similar styles to the music that's gone before that we know audiences like. And I think this is why people like Britney and Westlife are popular in the pop world, it's nothing to do with how good they are, it's all to do with doing stuff that their producers know the public will like.

    "What's wrong with Clog Dance?" Nothing, in my opinion, it's one of my favourite pieces. But it needn't be churned out year after year if there are similar original alternatives. So the challenge is for the composers, MDs and buyers to produce, fetch out, or buy those pieces of music.

    Another supplimentary question is: How many bands publicise concert programmes before the concert or even an excerpt of it? This may be another factor that could contribute to audience figures (in either direction). May be bands should advertise their programmes with things like "Featuring new works by our very own <insert resident composer> plus many old favourires", or "Including the world premiere of <insert new work> by world famous composer <insert world famous composer>".

    Just some thoughts.

    Cheers, Greg.
  10. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    Again, I agree with the points that have already been made but I also think that 'bands and the brass band movement' do not like change. Whether it be Adjudication, Uniforms, Seating Arrangements, Instrumentation, Repertoire etc. the format has remained basically unchanged for years.

    How many bands can honestly put their hands up and say that they bought and featured a 'New' Christmas piece in their recent concerts. Not many - most bands preferring to stick with the tired old arrangements of the traditional Christmas Fayre. But if you look around the publishing houses there is quite a lot of new, reasonable priced Christmas music available.

    New music is constantly being produced, and it doesn't all cost £70! so I would certainly encourage bands and MD's to give more thought to the programmes they will choose this year and use the concert platform as a place to advertise their 'products'. As stated earlier, new music not only keeps the players interest, it also gives us a chance to 'educate' our audiences. And if you are worried about where to place the 'new' piece, slip it in between 'Death or Glorly' and 'The Clogdance'!

    Let's be honest, in twenty-five years time our audiences will have changed, they will still consists of mainly OAP's, but the era those OAP's come from will be more familiar with the music of the Beatles, Meatloaf and 'Les Mis' than that of Frank Sinatra, Howard Keale and 'The White Cliffs of Dover'.

    As a 'movement' we need to chance and what better place to start than our repertoire.

    Excelent thread Lynchie - keep up the good work.

  11. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    Great thread Lynchie, and you make some really good points, most of which I agree with. A previous band I was with had pretty much the same music out for 3 summer seasons - there's no way our audience was that old or forgetful enough to justify that!

    most bands I've been involved with can't afford to keep gambling (or spending hard earned cash) on new, unknown music. The obvious benefit of going for old favourites, or copying the "elvis" bands by going for stuff thats already been recorded, is that you know what you're getting.
  12. Roger Thorne

    Roger Thorne Active Member

    A handful of Publishers have taken this into account and now have a unique facility to View and Listen to music on-line via the Sibelius Scorch facility.
    Again this can be seen as 'change', and not everyone agrees with it, as we've already discussed on tMP before, but it does give the customer the opportunity to see what they are getting before they part with their hard earned cash.
    I've lost count of the number of times I purchased music from a website or catalogue 'blind' only to find that it wasn't suitable for my band. Admittedly the music on offer might not be what you are looking for, but at least you've had the opportunity to 'see and hear' it.

    Check out some of the sites listed below, you might be pleasantly surprised:

    Dragon Music

    Lakeside Music

    Thornes Music
    (see links below)

  13. Straightmute

    Straightmute Active Member

    Thanks for the plug Roger!

    This is a fascinating topic: all aspects of music making involve looking backwards as well as forwards. It's good to commission new work and it's essential to innovate and develop. But we also have a wonderful rich heritage of original and transcribed music, much of which is still well worth playing and hearing. Deeper investigation of the dusty corners of the library can turn up some surprisingly good and very much neglected music.

    Building a programme is a little bit like composing a piece: if you constantly introduce new material the listener will be confused and find it difficult to perceicve a sense of direction. On the other hand constant repetition can be boring, so composers strike a balance between the two using repetion of ideas to create a sense of structure and order.

    I do enjoy playing new pieces but would be quite disappointed to be told that in future we wouldn't be able to play Severn Suite/Triumphant Rhapsody/Resurgam/Year of the Dragon/Contest Music etc. etc. because they had become too familiar.

  14. timbloke

    timbloke Member

    I've not really read all of the responses cos you lot sure have a lot to say. but one point i would make is this....

    a couple of years back Blur (as in Damon Alburn and friends) played a gig in Glasgow where they performed a completely new setof some of their new experimental stuff which Damon seems to be so fond of doing. I went down like a lead balloon... people had paid decent money to see Song 2, Beetlebum, Country House, Parklife and the rest. Fair enough you want to see some new stuff but you want to hear your favourites as well.

    Likewise bands need to get a balance between the traditional music everyone can relate to and new, sometimes challenging to listen to, or different styles, music.

    All the bands I've played with have done this well, getting a good mix of traditional and new. I think that's the key, otherwise, as Blur found out, you alienate your audience, who after all are the ones who enjoy listening to us and give us our money.
  15. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    you do have to remember that we play to a very select breed of audience.. and no matter what tosh we play, other people arn't going to wake up one day and like brass band concerts. We will always have the same breed of audience.

    Lots of people do attend Elvis tribute concerts too ;)
  16. timbloke

    timbloke Member

    Could we create the first tribute brass band? how about a ybs tribute band? or a 1980's desford tribute band?

    We could all get silly wigs to look like the people we are immitating, get replica uniforms, even replica instruments......
  17. Aidan

    Aidan Active Member

    just use more vib :) sorted
  18. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    Some very good points made in this thread. Just one or two observations: firstly, I suspect that, on average, SA bands would tend to include quite a high proportion of recently-published pieces in their programmes. This is largely because we buy our music on a subsription basis, with a number of sheets issued in any one year. I know at Hadleigh we usually play through most of the new music as soon as it arrives, and any that the BM feels he wants to use tend to remain in the pad and are programmed fairly quickly.

    If anything, I think a number of SA bands can go too far in the other direction, and it is not too rare to find a programme consisting of nothing but music published within the past couple of years, whereas a balanced programme is likely to be more attractive, especially when there is a wealth of fine music from the past. As I've said elsewhere, I think it is easier to introduce people to new music if you start off with something that is familiar - once an audience feels comfortable and relaxed they are more likely to be receptive to new ideas.

    Someone mentioned the idea of advertising at least some of the programme content in advance, and I am all in favour of that, as you often have no idea what to expect when a band concert is announced. What I would say, however, is that pre-announced programmes should never be changed without very good reason. I for one have been disappointed a couple of times at the Birmingham Sunday concerts following the Open when items printed in the programmme, which I was looking forward to hearing, have been replaced by something that is, to me, far less appealing.
  19. Accidental

    Accidental Supporting Member

    I think this facility is great, and its a shame more co's aren't using it yet - at the moment the only "safe" way to buy is through the enlightened minority who do use Scorch, or ploughing through the trade stands at a contest..... so its hardly surprising most people find it easier to stick with the tried and tested stuff!

    With ref. to Peter's comments, I've always wondered why other BB publishers don't produce a regular selection of new pieces the way SP&S does - surely it would benefit "poorer" bands and new composers.
  20. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    I like Scorch because you can actually see the parts, as well as hearing the music, which gives a better idea whether it would be within your capabilities.

    Regarding music on subscription, one thing to bear in mind is that each band will have its own requirements, which is less likely to affect SA bands to the same extent, given the ultimate aim of our music being to be used in worship and evangelism settings. Even though it does give good value for money, it is not exactly cheap - our senior band purchases all the music on subscription on behalf of ourselves and the junior band, and it is quite a considerable outlay each year.

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