Where are all the characters? Brass Band Blandness?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by spufferoo, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. spufferoo

    spufferoo Member

    I have been a little disappointed of late when listening to some of the more recent brass band recordings and contest/concert performances at the moment, I am finding a lot of the top level banding to be a bit 'sterile'. The technical pyrotechnics are played with a clinical style, huge band sounds seem to just be loud and lacking in a warmth, the whispering pianissimo sections infrequently are mute assisted. Some test pieces seem to be music for music sake, which I'm sure are rewarding to play well but leave me feeling somewhat cold.

    Which leads me on the thread title, in the same way that football is a slightly poorer place due to the larger than life characters, (Best, Gascoigne to name a couple) where are the banding equivalents now - greats such as Clough, Sheppard, Whittam - larger than life figures. (I’m not trying to start an argument about who should or shouldn't be included here...). Will we still be talking about say a performance by David Thornton or Glynn Williams in 15 or 20 years time in the same way that Geoff Whittam’s performance of Le Roi[FONT=&quot] [/FONT]D'Iys has and still is? What will be the next moment that sticks in the memory like Alan Morrison’s Albert hall performance in the gods for Grimey. Is it a society thing where it is now a case where a win by percentages is more important than taking a risk and trying to lift the music of the pages by being slightly more expressive?

    Hopefully we are seeing a bit of a seed change at the moment where musicality has won over the technicality in one or two contests of late and long may it continue.

    I only play at a level where I can only dream of being as technically good as the names mentioned above and the post is not meant as a personal slight on anyone but just my feelings on listening to top level banding nowadays.
  2. iancwilx

    iancwilx Well-Known Member

    What an interesting post.
    I shall read the responses with interest.

    On a lighter note, (Sorry for that !) I'm larger than life; about 2 stone larger !!

    - Mr Wilx
  3. floppymute

    floppymute Member

    I see this as something of a generational thing.
    Looking back with rose-tinted spectacles becomes so much easier as you get older.
  4. spufferoo

    spufferoo Member

    I'm only 32...

    It's more about the 'robot' feel of some of the performances and in some cases a lack of lyricism
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2010
  5. floppymute

    floppymute Member

    But my point is that your view is likely to 'mellow' as you get older
  6. winterman

    winterman Member

    I have to agree, most of banding (especially in the UK) these days does seem to lack flavour, passion and understanding of the music. Everything seems to be all the right notes in the right order. There aren't many performance or even compositions/arrangements that make the back of your neck tingle these days.

    Coming from a Sally Army background, I was always made very mindful of the lyrics and meanings behind a piece of music and encouraged to play a melody of a song as though I was singing the words, or imagine the scene being set out out by a passage of music. This doesn't seem to happen these days sadly.

    I do try and encourage my gang in the Youth Band to try thinking this way when playing, which isn't easy without a computer or Bluray Hollywood blockbuster to bring it to their level (kidding, they are great), but does work in getting their minds working on stylistic playing. When we play a piece I try to get them to imagine the surroundings, sounds, atmosphere that would go with the style of music being played, the emotions they would be feeling in the situation being described and so on. The notes aren't always right but the style is getting there, the rest is up to them.

    Most of the time it works, now they just need to work on how to technically produce the equivalent sounds and styles to match the images in their head.
  7. marksmith

    marksmith Active Member

    I am interested in this thread for several reasons.
    We have tended to become robotic in society, even in teaching, lessons are more and more prescribed, designed to fulfil exam requirements, rather than inspirational and exciting teaching/learning experiences.
    Playing at major contests seems to be following a similar pattern, analytical interpretations, designed to satisfy the adjudicators' known requirements, rather than exciting personal interpretations of the musical text.
    As a soloist, I find that more and more M.Ds, want us to play just the notes, rather than a personal interpretation of say a cadenza, or soloistic passage/phrase, making our performance practically identical to the bands before or after us - then wonder why we end up outside the prizes, in the grey masses of forgotten performances!
    Also, being a 'character' is also more and more scorned upon. You are more likely to be labelled a 'trouble-maker', unless you totally adhere to the 'norm', which in my experience means keeping quiet and leaving little to question.
    The 'larger than life' label is now often used to refer to body mass, rather than outstanding character, which in itself signifies the way that we want everything dumbed-down to it's simplest form, which in again is robotic and vacuus.
    Outstanding performances are still out there, and I suppose that we all wish to produce one at some time, but unless we begin to celebrate the differences, we are all going to become sterile and uniform, just like the education of our children.
  8. David Mann

    David Mann Member

    I'd suggest that if you have a musically "larger than life" character these days you're going to get more satisfaction playing in a jazz band or playing lead guitar in a rock band than spending 3 months each year note bashing the area test piece. 60 years ago there might not have been the same choices available.
  9. masterharper64

    masterharper64 New Member

    An interesting comment was made expressing similar sentiment on a programme on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire a couple of weeks ago.The discussion was regarding sales of recordings of various instrumental genres and one listener commented,with the presenters agreement,that if you purchase a recording of a brass band piece,it doesn't matter who recorded it,the piece will sound virtually identical - a trait which he had not found in any other genre.If this is typical of the view of those outside the brass world,one has to wonder how much the pursuit of perfection is harming our overall popularity.
  10. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    Hmmmmm! I would suspect that the person making that statement doesn't listen or know much about bands. Step into a little known genre and many artists may sound similar because style and sound are the only benchmarks. :-?
  11. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    It's like those people that say that all techno or dance songs sound the same ;)
  12. brassneck

    brassneck Active Member

    and pipe bands, heavy metal, reggae etc. etc. You understood my post, Jan! :)