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Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Big Brass Set

Soon, the Crossmen may not be the only corps to feature Bones.

At the Winter Meetings Rules Congress, Drum Corps International accepted a proposal that will allow any manner of brass instrument to participate in corps. Gone is the bell front restriction, and organizations are welcome to include trombones, upright baritones, sousaphones, french horns, and whatever other manner of brass instruments, foreign and domestic, they choose to incorporate. It's the biggest instrumentation change in DCI since the last one, which was... well, just five seasons ago, when electronics joined us for the first time.

There are two angles from which one can look at this and really any rules change: 'why' and 'why not'. The loudest opponents will likely point to the slippery slope argument: As each passing rule change pushes the activity to scholastic band, it's only a matter of time before the vile specter that is woodwinds pokes its nose underneath the tent. And then: Chaos! The death of the activity as we know it! The same death that occurred when we forwent G bugles, increased numbers from 135 to 150, added electronics, mic'ed soloists, etc. etc. etc. I will grant that I remain pro acoustic instrumentation, would not mind a return to G bugles, and most certainly do not want woodwinds in drum corps (for reasons I've written about before) but I also believe folks get a little too doomsday about it.

The why not argument may too center around perceived woodwind creep: Why not add these instruments? At least it keeps it in the brass family and doesn't change the color too drastically. Some may see it as a small concession if it keeps reeds at bay.

I'm relatively agnostic as to the change, but my thought is this: with relatively little change in color - trombone glissandi are perhaps the most obvious addition - the decision whether to include previously unused instruments becomes an aesthetic one. My personal preference is the drum corps imagery I'm used to: Dozens of brass bells pointed at me like artillery, with a uniformity that may only be interrupted should trombone slides and french horns enter the fray. That being said, if it's merely a stylistic choice, then we are, in essence, opening up the visual effect palate. Guards are no longer limited to simply flags, rifles, and sabers, so if the overall vision prefers sousaphones to contras, who am I to argue? It's a little less drum corps as we know it and a little more Ohio State, but last I checked, they're doing alright for themselves in the marching arts.

All in all, we'll talk a whole lot about it in the weeks and months to come, but I'm looking cautiously forward to seeing how the change manifests itself come summer.
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