(Originally posted at the Halftime Magazine community, 1/30/2008)
This weekend, the Powers That Be at Drum Corps International were charged with the monumental task of considering some rule changes that could potentially change the fabric of the activity we know and love. When the dust settled, the caucuses had put forth four rules to be voted on, and each of the four was passed and will be put into effect in the 2008 or 2009 season.
And I don't agree.
I suppose let's start with the not-so-bad: I like the addition of an additional GE judge for World Championships; I think it's a timely move and should increase the clarity of the scores given in perhaps the most subjective caption. The water amendment is not offensive at face value. It could be misused, but then, so could just about everything in drum corps as we currently know it, so this one doesn't faze me too much.
The two rules changes regarding electronics, however--allowing brass amplification and electronic instruments--just feel fundamentally wrong to me. The two main arguments I've heard for them (particularly electronic instruments) are thus:
"Other forms of the marching arts have already 'evolved' to include electronics; DCI is just taking the next logical step"
"These additions will add to the creative palate available to directors and show designers"
Allow me to address these. It is true that electronics have made their way into other marching genres, most notably high school marching band. And to be frank, I don't like it there either. I am a fan of many types of music, but I am also a believer that each has its place. I love screaming guitars, a good keyboard riff, even synthesized sounds. But not on a football field, being produced by the world's top junior corps. Some would claim my position is anti-progress, ludditical even. They'd likely point out if it weren't for progress, we'd still all be blowing G horns and have no front ensemble (for the record, this doesn't sound nearly as unappealing to me as people assume it should). To that I say this: change doesn't always equal progress. Regarding the second point, I cannot see the logic in this. The new addition of electronic instruments will allow drum corps musicians to recreate the beating of helicopter blades, the roar of a lion, or the cry of a baby with the press of a button, so long as one hit on the part of the musician produces exactly one response from the electronic instruments. This does not increase creativity to me; in fact, it hinders it. The true creativity lies in the ability to create these effects WITHOUT the use of electronic instrumentation.
Regarding brass amplification, I will say only this, a phrase oft uttered by my high school band director: BLOW THE DAMN HORN!
All that said, however, I have taken the past few days--more than that actually, as I feared, after last year's deadlock on the electronics amendment, that this change was inevitable--to come to relative peace with these changes. I can't say I'm thrilled, and I can't promise I ever will be, but this will not tear the activity of drum corps asunder as some may believe. In fact, I believe (ha!) that 90% of corps out there will use the newfound abilities in a manner that I deem to be responsible, and they will become another usual--maybe, in time, even integral--part of the activity. That said, I believe that that same 90% would be responsible stewards of whatever shape the activity should take. I for one, would prefer the shape its currently in.