2009 British Open

That's the nature of art ... subjectivity! But ... most can agree that there are technical aspects of musical performance that can be assessed clearly. The difficulty is balancing the level of musicianship (including reading by MD) shown against these basic principals.
And therein lies the root of this whole debate which CANNOT be solved because one man or more will "like" something better than another. Unless ever musical instruction on a score is to be followed exactly you cannot take away the interpretation aspect and someone will always like it that bit slower or faster etc. I guess that's what's called music eh??
But if adjudicators were required to justify at least some portion of their marks against these set criteria, it would mean a well played performance couldn't be entirely discounted because they didn't agree with the MD's reading.
 
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brassneck

Active Member
But if adjudicators were required to justify at least some portion of their marks against these set criteria, it would mean a well played performance couldn't be entirely discounted because they didn't agree with the MD's reading.
Hopefully you are meaning the set of criteria linked in an earlier post of mine. The musicality side of this adjudicator's "guide" covers most of what whould be expected in either solo or ensemble work in my opinion.

“SUPERIOR” PERFORMANCE LEVEL

Interpretation/Style:
Thorough and stylistically valid interpretation at all times. Uniformity of style is consistent at all times. Performers exhibit a thorough understanding of style, tempos and interpretation, and successfully communicate this knowledge throughout the performance.

Phrasing:

Phrasing is always natural and uniformly performed by all sections and individuals.

Expression:

Clear, meaningful and expressive shaping of musical phrases at all times. Expression is natural, sensitive and highly effective. Communication is superior throughout.
Sensitivity:

Superior demonstration of use of artistic subtleties. Sensitivity is achieved throughout the performance.

Dynamics:

Superior dynamic range with excellent control of all levels. Thorough use of all dynamic levels with excellent dynamic sensitivity. Superior use of musical techniques to create a sensitive, effective, naturally communicated artistic performance.

“EXCELLENT” PERFORMANCE LEVEL

Interpretation/Style:

Good uniform and meaningful interpretation most of the time. Some passages may be lacking in interpretation, but do not detract considerably from an otherwise excellent performance. Style is good most of the time, seldom rigid or mechanical. Stylistic accuracy is good and consistent most of the time. Tempos are consistent and stylistically accurate most of the time.

Phrasing:

Phrasing is thorough and natural most of the time. Uniformity of phrasing is consistent throughout most of the performance.

Expression:

Expressive shaping and contouring of phrases and passages is very good with only occasional lapses. Expression is seldom mechanical or contrived. Communication is very good most of the time.

Sensitivity:

Excellent use of accents, stress, rubato and flexibility in phrasing to create a free-flowing performance most of the time. Good demonstration of skills necessary to transcend technical and mechanical aspects creating artistic results most of the time.

Dynamics:

Good use of dynamics throughout the performance with some lack of dynamic control. Good “ff’s” and “pp’s,” but full dynamic range is not completely explored. Overall performance is expressive, sensitive and tasteful most of the time. Overall communication of musical ideas is very good.


“GOOD” PERFORMANCE LEVEL


Interpretation/Style:
Meaningful and uniform interpretation some of the time. Style is good some of the time, but can often be rigid and mechanical. Stylistic accuracy is demonstrated at times. Tempos are consistent and stylistically accurate some of the time.

Phrasing:

Phrasing is basic, uniform and somewhat consistent some of the time although not always natural; often mechanical.
Expression:

Dynamic shaping and contouring of phrases is sometimes apparent. Communication is occasionally good, but with many lapses.

Sensitivity:

Good use of accents and stress at times, but not always consistent. Some demonstration of ability to perform beyond technical and mechanical aspects to create an aesthetic product.

Dynamics:

Some successful attempts at basic dynamic variation though limited in scope and range. Lower dynamic levels not well-used. Upper dynamic levels not always performed tastefully. Performers demonstrate some knowledge of artistic concepts, but with incomplete success.


“FAIR” PERFORMANCE LEVEL


Interpretation/Style:
Little meaningful interpretation of musical passages. Style is undeveloped and inconsistent. Tempos are inconsistent.

Phrasing:

Mostly mechanical and non-musical. Very little uniformity.

Expression:

Some attempts at expressing melodic lines, but with rigid, mechanical and uncomfortable results.

Sensitivity:

Little use of accents & stress. Little ability to perform beyond technical and mechanical aspects of music.

Dynamics:

Some attempts at altering dynamics, but with limited range. Dynamic changes not well controlled and lack uniformity. Little communication of musical ideas.


“NEEDS IMPROVEMENT” PERFORMANCE LEVEL


Interpretation/Style:
Very little meaningful interpretation.

Phrasing:

No uniformity in phrasing.

Expression:

Expression is almost non-existent.

Sensitivity:

Lack of confidence is overriding any attempts at a sensitive performance.
Dynamics: Very little use of dynamics.

Even using those five indicators, constructive and clear critiques can be produced to explain to bands what is good or needing improved musically (complimenting technique). When understood & assimilated by adjudicators, they can be quickly used with specifics to isolate sections, players or MD. Consistency would be achieved from one type of competition to the next.

 
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MoominDave

Well-Known Member
IF the middle placings mattered...? They all matter, relegation issue or not.
Note that in my original post that suggested a judge concentrating on the higher placings plus a judge concentrating on the lower placings, I outlined a system that would, with a little tweaking, cover all the placings from top to bottom.

On the other hand, I CAN conceive of a happily working contest result format where only the top few and bottom few are announced. Does that seem inconceivable to you?

Why can't we trust three judges to come up with an consensus, and accept that from time to time, some might disagree with them.

Yes, ask the question about those who are picked to judge, review new blood, embrace new ideas, but if you think any system can elimante subjectivity and find the perfect result, then you won't find it....because there is no perfect result!
Straw man...
Perfectionist fallacy...

Actually, the perfectionist fallacy rears its head quite a lot in these kinds of discussions... "Why bother trying to improve the system? It's never going to be perfect, so there's no point doing anything"
It's a dismal way of thinking. Nobody here is claiming to have found "The Answer (TM)". We are simply suggesting possible improvements. To pooh-pooh these under the influence of knee-jerk emotion is not helpful.
 
Hopefully you are meaning the set of criteria linked in an earlier post of mine. The musicality side of this adjudicator's "guide" covers most of what whould be expected in either solo or ensemble work in my opinion.
To be honest I meant some future set of criteria, presumably as defined by the ABBA. However I think it would be most useful if they were used to judge the elements of a performance that are least subjective, e.g. intonation, mistakes, togetherness etc, and leave things such as interpretation/style as part of the adjudicator's 'artistic impression' remit.
 

brassneck

Active Member
To be honest I meant some future set of criteria, presumably as defined by the ABBA. However I think it would be most useful if they were used to judge the elements of a performance that are least subjective, e.g. intonation, mistakes, togetherness etc, and leave things such as interpretation/style as part of the adjudicator's 'artistic impression' remit.
... but if you read the set of criteria that is used by the California Association for Music Education then examine their philiosophy and model of adjudication, you will find it is a very open process that is interactive with competitors, teachers and the adjudication board itself. No-one is left in doubt about what is required by the performer at any held event. This system should be considered amongst others by ABBA for any change that is deemed to be clearer and fairer by all involved. It does not break traditional methods but enhances it. Adjudicators can assess potential test-pieces against their remit so 'artistic impression' can be justified from their standpoint.

http://www.cmeabaysection.org/
 
I have followed this thread with interest. But just to go back to the day itself. I fear that I must be living in a parallel world. I make short notes for a very elderly friend who lives far away and is now too old to attend the Open.

Of one band I said;

"This band should be collectively and individually prosecuted under health and safety regulations for assault and battery on the ear-drums. They blasted their way through the piece, harsh, brash and headache making. A brash unmusical mess. It is possible to play loudly and tunefully, Foden's can, I wonder why this lot cannot. They should be relegated instantly."

Now for fear of prosecution, there seem to be threats of writs flying around, I shall not name the band and say that this is of course merely opinion. But the band received wild applause! Subsequently I have seen comment about how unlucky they were in their placement. I thought that the adjudicators were rather kind.

My wife said of Brighouse - "that was a wonderful musical experience, there was music in every phrase" and cannot comprehend why they did not win.

But it just goes to show that we all hear different things from the same performance and that were any of us to be in an adjudicator's seat that the outcome would probably be different.

But, I do wonder why open adjudication is so anathema to the brass band world. The prizes at stake in competitions for individuals elsewhere in music are huge, career changing for the winners: there is open adjudication and never a squeak about the competence or otherwise of the adjudicators. So why should the world of brass be different?

Old Hornblower

PS I heard all but Carlton and Hepworth and I enjoyed most, Brighouse, Foden's, Black Dyke and Desford much in that order.
 

Bayerd

Active Member
IF the middle placings mattered...? They all matter, relegation issue or not.
I disagree. I don't think the middle placements (relegation issue aside) matter a jot. To me it's only the current way of deciding who's relegated that muddies the water.

If it was a straight choice of bottom two relegated, the adjudicators could then simplify things by finding the prizewinners and the relegated. The rest could then be put into groupings along the lines of Excellent, good, average and cr@p without the need for an order of merit.
 

Jonesy

Member
As an impartial spectator I listened to around 15 bands (couldn't manage them all, needed a break). Unfortunately I missed Whitburn, Hammonds and GUS so cannot comment on their performance or placings. Cory, Dyke, Leyland B&R and possibly Grimethorpe deserved to be in the top 6. For me Leyland should have won. Fantastic musical performance, only 1 error (clip on top C for Euph) but didn't distract from the performance. Cory and Dyke played a solid performance, again Cory had that something extra. I think Foden's were very lucky to be placed, lots of errors, and for me, a very disappointing performance. I had them in the bottom half of the table. Rothwell and Fairey's deserved a much higher placing. Hepworth can count themselves very lucky, out of the one's I heard I had them 2nd to last if not last. A very poor performance from a band that can play a lot better. Desford too, should be very pleased with their result. Not deserved in my opinion.

I spoke to many bandspeople on Saturday, and although the actual placings may have differed depending on musical taste, generally, we agreed on the standard of the performances we had heard. What do we base our placings on? Playing what's on the score, playing in tune and together and then the icing is the musical performance, which can be subjective.

What really suprised me was the poor standard of playing at this level by some bands. There were some intonation problems and lots of incorrect entries. It sounded to me like some of the bands were under rehearsed. Before people shout at me, I am sure that all the bands have committed members. But what came across from some performances was a feeling of insecurity. Maybe some had players who were only helping out, brought in for the contest and couldn't make many rehearsals. Unfortunately this appears to be the sign of the times for a lot of bands and this will reflect in the performances given on stage.
As frustrating as poor adjudication can be, there is one thing which gets on my nerves even more....

Armchair adjudicators! Usually average to poor players with little or no top level experience who turn up at Birmingham/London/Bradford etc and give their considered opinion on tmp the next day in such a way as to get one or two backs up. If I was a member of Desford, Hepworth or Fodens (and in fact I am still a registered member of one of those bands!) that had performed at Symphony Hall last weekend, to see comments like these would be more aggravating than getting a bad result from one of the 'official' adjudicators. Yes, I know I know, you pay your money to sit there with your study score pontificating over the finer points of Mahler, and you have a right to your opinion etc etc..... But I think it's pretty patronising to tell Hepworth they were 'very lucky', Fodens that they were 'very disappointing' and that Desford 'did not deserve' their placing. It's easy to criticise from a comfy seat in the stalls.
 

jockinafrock

Active Member
Folks the more I read, the more I despair. People have a right to express their opinons rightly or wrongly. Adjudicators are there to give their opinons rightly or wrongly. We can disagree but who are we to say they are right or wrong! Its all about opinion. And we put our trust in the most experianced of members of our movement to do just that, just to go and slate them for giving us their opinons on what they thought. It must be very difficult to place 18 bands after a long days contesting. Give them some slack.

Give them some slack...? I don't think so....! Whether it's eighteen or eight bands, they're paid to do a job; and if 18 bands are too much then either the number of competitors is reduced, or you find an adjudicator who is up to the job! Can't stand the heat..? Then get out of the kitchen...! :hammer
 

Fat_Bari

Member
Perhaps because if there are 20 bands in your section and you have to come, let's say, at least 10th to avoid relegation, it's hardly reassuring if the adjudicators are going to concentrate on places 1 to 6, and 15 to 20. To them, places 7 to 14 are less important, but they would be vital to you.
Sorry to show my ignorance on this but how would they know who were going to be in the top or bottom six?
 

ibrox

Member
As frustrating as poor adjudication can be, there is one thing which gets on my nerves even more....

Armchair adjudicators! Usually average to poor players with little or no top level experience who turn up at Birmingham/London/Bradford etc and give their considered opinion on tmp the next day in such a way as to get one or two backs up. If I was a member of Desford, Hepworth or Fodens (and in fact I am still a registered member of one of those bands!) that had performed at Symphony Hall last weekend, to see comments like these would be more aggravating than getting a bad result from one of the 'official' adjudicators. Yes, I know I know, you pay your money to sit there with your study score pontificating over the finer points of Mahler, and you have a right to your opinion etc etc..... But I think it's pretty patronising to tell Hepworth they were 'very lucky', Fodens that they were 'very disappointing' and that Desford 'did not deserve' their placing. It's easy to criticise from a comfy seat in the stalls.
Wow! Fortunately for the musical world in general I believe there are some pretty good brass musicians out there who aren't currently playing in a band that competes at the open. And maybe you should have a word with Martin Mortimer and ask him to modify the criteria for audience members - especially those comfy seats in the stalls!
 
Perhaps someone who may know Mr Mortimer might get his views on this subject on tmp?
His father, Harry Mortimer (the Pope) had the perfect answer for this thread:-

"The winners can smile, the others can please themselves" There was an expletive in the middle.

One serious point is that SM would be in deep do doo, if he'd spoken to HM on the stage after the contest they way I'm led to believe he spoke to Martin Mortimer.

David James
 

Jonesy

Member
Wow! Fortunately for the musical world in general I believe there are some pretty good brass musicians out there who aren't currently playing in a band that competes at the open. And maybe you should have a word with Martin Mortimer and ask him to modify the criteria for audience members - especially those comfy seats in the stalls!
Of course there are some decent musicians who attend the contests, equally there are a lot who aren't. I'm making a general point that it isn't half frustrating when you work your nuts off and give up, day, 20 evenings in one month leading up to the event, to find that the assistant sub-principal kabasa player with Netherwhopping Silver Prize 'B' Band thinks you were rubbish/lucky not to come last/etc etc. Generally speaking it seems to be those with no experience of playing in top level contests who like to pass judgment - I have one particular contributor in mind but would not want to 'rattle his cage'....! That's their prerogative and they're free to do it..... and I'm free to say I find it a bit annoying. That's it, really.
 

critic

Member
of course there are some decent musicians who attend the contests, equally there are a lot who aren't. I'm making a general point that it isn't half frustrating when you work your nuts off and give up, day, 20 evenings in one month leading up to the event, to find that the assistant sub-principal kabasa player with netherwhopping silver prize 'b' band thinks you were rubbish/lucky not to come last/etc etc. Generally speaking it seems to be those with no experience of playing in top level contests who like to pass judgment - i have one particular contributor in mind but would not want to 'rattle his cage'....! That's their prerogative and they're free to do it..... And i'm free to say i find it a bit annoying. That's it, really.
well said
 

PeterBale

Moderator
Staff member
Of course there are some decent musicians who attend the contests, equally there are a lot who aren't. I'm making a general point that it isn't half frustrating when you work your nuts off and give up, day, 20 evenings in one month leading up to the event, to find that the assistant sub-principal kabasa player with Netherwhopping Silver Prize 'B' Band thinks you were rubbish/lucky not to come last/etc etc. Generally speaking it seems to be those with no experience of playing in top level contests who like to pass judgment - I have one particular contributor in mind but would not want to 'rattle his cage'....! That's their prerogative and they're free to do it..... and I'm free to say I find it a bit annoying. That's it, really.

I think we should always remember that distinguishing between bands at this level really comes own to minutiae and very small increments, and it is very rare to hear what, in concert terms, you would view as a "bad" performance. As David Read pointed out in his summing up, the very nature of contesting means that someone is bound to be placed in the bottom half, but when you are comparing the "very good", the "excellent" and the "superb" then terms such as "rubbish" are probably inappropriate. There were no "bad bands" at the Open, regardless of whether they failed to find favour with the adjudicators on the day, or where the bands were placed in the pecking order.
 
I don't get it. I have had a little to do with organising band competitions at a State and National level.

What is all this talk about not being able to determine with some accuracy the bottom of 18 bands. In our A grade at a National level there are around about that many competing.

Surely the top 5 and determining who the bottom 4 are is the easy bit. Half way there alreqady

Its the mid pack thats the difficult part to decide.

I guess in Australia its a little easier because you have about 4 or 5 who are raising the level Brisbane Excelsior, Gunnedah Shire, Kew and maybe Holroyd and MPV Brass), a mid pack and maybe two or three who should be B grade (but would disagree on this).
 

Jonesy

Member
I think we should always remember that distinguishing between bands at this level really comes own to minutiae and very small increments, and it is very rare to hear what, in concert terms, you would view as a "bad" performance. As David Read pointed out in his summing up, the very nature of contesting means that someone is bound to be placed in the bottom half, but when you are comparing the "very good", the "excellent" and the "superb" then terms such as "rubbish" are probably inappropriate. There were no "bad bands" at the Open, regardless of whether they failed to find favour with the adjudicators on the day, or where the bands were placed in the pecking order.
Exactly - the standard of top level brass banding, considering it is for the most part a purely amateur pursuit, is absolutely excellent. Even the worst band at the Open are still no mugs in the grand scheme of things.
 
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