Recapturing Our Artform

Upon listening to marching percussion clinicians and adjudication tapes of recent high school and corps competitions, I am compelled to raise many serious concerns...for the future integrity of our activities...and if there will continue to be any.

Drum Corps International and Bands of America adjudicators continue to issue these proclamations:  "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts," "The individual should be sacrificed for the whole," and in percussion, "execution and technique does not account for much anymore." Such thinking, or lack of it, is stupid and absurd.  These philosophies allow the adults to compete instead of the student...sacrificing a kids education for some untrained "visual designers" whim.  (many times written the day before it is taught...)  The result is percussionists that cannot effectively perform at a competitive level satiated by ridiculously candied scoring.  (This "self esteem for non-achievement philosophy infects our entire educational enviorment...and is the reason American students cannot read, write, think...or compete.  Do not blame the Japanese.  They have common sense and discipline.)

1)  As an architect, I can tell you if the foundation is flawed, anything built above it will be flawed...the design unstable...execution destroyed...errors greatly magnified.
2)  The current "make the student "feel good" instead of "think or perform good" is politically correct but is a poor philosophy with which to teach life skills to our young.  (America need not fear NAFTA...it needs to fear its own unmotivated populace...)
3)  The artistic visual comedy of modern drum corps reminds me of a commercial for professional wrestling.  Referees look the other way. Everyone tries to cheat.  The winner is booed and the participants boo the audience back.  GREAT FANFARE...LITTLE SUBSTANCE.  Unlike drum corps, the grapplers draw huge consistent audiences.  (Who said DCI ever learned the concept of marketing?)
4)  All great designs are a reflection of nature.  Nature is simple.  All great designs are simple.  We have children sacrificing themselves for visual sporadic nonsense.

Marching "designers" have no paintbrushes, little composition and no perspective.  It's a primitive stick-figure art with tops of plumes and uniformed bodies...usually contorted in odd ways to achieve some whimsical effect.  (HINT:  Great art has controlled transition.  Attempts at combining ballet and circadian marching...West point with the Met...are humorous...oil and water...as one certain corps discovered at the expense of a lot of kids.)  THIS IS NOT AN OUTDOOR GUARD CONTEST.  YOU ARE THE SUPPORTING CAST!  And where my tax dollars are concerned, high school is MUSIC education.  If you want to teach visual design, take the students to someone qualified to teach composition and oil painting.

The first comment I always hear when critizising bad art is this: "You don't understand!" or "you're outdated" or "it is not our fault we are so intellectual."  Consider the following quote: "Most people can today no longer expect to receive consolation from art.  The refined, the rich, the distillers of quintessence (art critics) desire only the peculiar, the eccentric, the scandalous in today's art. And I myself, since the advent of cubism, have fed these fellows what they wanted, and satisfied these critics with all the ridiculous ideas that have passed through my head.  The less they understood them, the more they admired me.  Through amusing myself with all these absurd farces, I became celebrated...but when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand old meaning of the word. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya, they were great painters.  I am only a public clown.  I have understood my time and have exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries.  It is a bitter confession of mine - more painful than it may seem.  But at least and at last, it does have the merit of being honest."
--Pablo Picasso, November 1951

And to the DCI Judges who adjudicated in the state of Michigan this fall, refusing to adhere to the philosophy and education criteria of our percussion sheet, (not to mention ruining tolerances which we worked years to build)...I say this:  Do it again and I will personally sue you for breach of contract...possibly fraud.  We judge the performer's individual achievements...not etch-a-sketch art or adult creativity.  We put emphasis on the student and reward accordingly.  If this strains DCI's capacity, I suggest you hire a good rudimental performer to teach you the ropes...or stay home.

Speaking of rudimental, in the past f10 years I have noticed severe attacks on the rudimental community as adjudicators commit MUSICAL GENOCIDE on rudimental performers with low rankings and scores...stating they are "unmusical"...preferring long tacets and orchestral techniques. You cannot judge what you do not know.  Why penalize excellence?  To rudimentally insecure judges who have mistakenly been hired into our arena and spit such epithets, I say this: The rudimental performer is a time painter with nuances of proportion, volume, accent pattern, duration, texture and (above all) human symmetry.  You paint with frequency.  Therefore, if you venture into our artform you are artistically and conceptually out of your element, technically and musically overmatched and hopelessly lost.  What works indoors does not in all cases work in the outdoor competitive universe (to reach our planet, I suggest you learn to drive the ship). Besides, we have already assimilated all the orchestral instruments and techniques. You have not ours. 

I wrote this for one reason.  It is time to take our art form back.
                            Ken Mazur