Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Archdruid and I talk drum corps

It's been a while since I've posted a coversation with The Archdruid here.  The last time I quoted his words here was in Paul Wartenberg, Infidel753, and The Archdruid comment on me, which was a conversation about me, not with me.  The last conversation between us that I recreated here formed part of Cthulhu and Pluto plus Mordor and Charon.  That was more than a year ago, so I was wondering if I'd post another.

Fortunately, Greer and I had a conversation last month in the comments to The Emperor's New Art: A Parable that was not only perfect for an entertainment Sunday, but especially this Sunday in particular.  I got Greer to discuss drum corps in much the same way that I elicited him to mention Steampunk, although I don't expect him to write an entire post about the topic.  Since today is the championship for Drum Corps Associates, the all-ages drum corps organization, as well as a Sunday, I can think of no better occasion to post it.  Follow over the jump to read a conversation with The Archdruid about drum corps, of all topics.

In explaining his parable, Greer wrote about how any art could be classified as lowbrow trash, highbrow trash, and canon.  He then elaborated that through deliberate or unintentional self-parody, the two kinds of trash can then become either kitsch for lowbrow trash or what Greer called "warhol" for highbrow trash.  That prompted me to examine my entertainment postings for relevant examples of where I've featured music as a kind of art.
After examining your taxonomy, I realized that I'm an aficianado of music ranging from lowbrow trash to kitsch to canon, but only canon when it comes to music accompanying visual media whether from movies, television shows, or video games.  My music must accompany movement for me to be interested in it.  I guess that means I should enjoy ballet and Broadway musicals, too.
Greer ignored that paragraph.  It was the next one that caught his attention.
As for highbrow trash, I reserve that for my interest in drum and bugle corps.  Yes, even marching music has its own version of highbrow trash, which the older audience who prefers lowbrow trash and kitsch despises.  Speaking of which, this week is the North American drum corps championship.  There will be lots of performances of highbrow trash to impress the judges.  With luck, the audience will find enough lowbrow trash to entertain them and the judges and other insiders will find something from the pretentious shows to elevate into the canon.  I guess I know what art I'll be examining for my homework assignment!
The "North American drum corps championship" I was referring to was that of Drum Corps International (DCI), the youth championship.  The following image displays some of the show concepts from DCI corps this past summer.  My readers can decide for themselves which might be pretentious enough to qualify as "highbrow trash to impress the judges."

DCA is less subject to this phenomenon than DCI, but it still applies.

Greer admitted both his interest and his ignorance.
Pinku-Sensei, how fascinating. I know precisely nothing about drum and bugle corps (corpses? How do you pluralize that?) as an art form, and it's intriguing to learn that the same patterns play out there, too.
I thought about the answer, then posted it after a few days.
@JMG: "drum and bugle corps (corpses? How do you pluralize that?)"  Both the singular and plural are spelled "corps," but the s is silent in the singular but pronounced in the plural; the word is French and the original rules sort of followed along.  Coincidentally enough, a corps played on that very confusion by calling their show "The Drum Corpse Bride."  The program could have been very pretentious, but it ended up being a great crowd pleaser.
First the concept...

Then the reality.

That show was good enough to place eleventh, ahead of Boston Crusaders and Madison Scouts, who didn't even make the final show of the championships.  Too bad, as I had been looking forward to Scouts "Judas" show since I posted A drum corps 'Superstar' for Easter.

I made a serious point about class and history in my final paragraph.
As for the same patterns playing out in drum and bugle corps, that's definitely been the case since the 1970s, when the corps themselves wrested control of the activity from the veterans' organizations, who did their best to keep it lowbrow trash for wage-class youth.  As soon as the directors, instructors, and judges got control of the activity, they did their best to make it more artistic, which meant that pretentious trash was the eventual result.  They also converted into an activity for salary-class youth, which the wage-class alumni have resented.  As you can see, more than one of the societal trends you've decried has occurred in the activity.
I was hearkening back to a post of Greer's from January, Donald Trump and the Politics of Resentment in which he posited that the salary class has benefitted at the expense of the wage class over the past 30+ years.  Greer understood my points quite clearly.
Pinku-sensei, duly noted. And of course it was driven by yet another transfer of things of value from the wage class to the salary class...
I think I got Greer to understand the class politics of drum corps better in that exchange then I have in 25 years of debating them over the Internet with people who know something about the activity.  Then again, as I observed in one of my comments on when I first mentioned drum corps at The Archdruid Report, "as I once wrote about those who tried to write histories of drum and bugle corps during the 20th Century, the people who were interested weren't qualified and those who were qualified weren't interested."  That's almost as true now as when I first wrote it 20 years ago.


  1. Well done.
    My first show was Midwest '75 and it changed my life.
    I miss old school drum corps.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. While "The Night Guard" or "Knight Guard" would make for a great drum corps name, the product being advertised has no relation to the topic of this post, so I'm deleting your comment. Sorry, spammer.