Blind Justice

December 29, 2008 on 10:40 pm by Michael Grey | In Music, Pipe Bands, Tips | Comments Off on Blind Justice

To the deaf person in an audience competition pipe bands in full flight must seem pretty dull.  Backs to the audience, motionless but for flying fingers, wrists and the odd twirling tenor stick, bands at play are starchy stiff.  To some extent, the military roots of the pipe band might account for some of the undertaker’s demeanor.  Mostly, though, I think the real reason is the intense physical and mental focus needed to present pipe band music at its best.  Contrary to a well-kent youtube video that has made the rounds, I say it really is hard to do the “hokey-pokey” and deliver a technically and tonally unanimous musical performance.   

We all know pipe band adjudication is subjective.  In the old days the objective piece was the dress and deportment of a band, now, happily, no longer part of the equation.  

There’s no doubt a well turned out band turns out well – or plays well.   And it’s the outcome, the good, confident performance, that’s assessed, not the polished shoes, pressed pleats and buttoned collars that may’ve contributed to a team feeling good and playing well.  I like that the competitive pipe band mirrors competitive orchestral and choral worlds where its the musical performance alone that is adjudicated.  The performance heard – and not seen – is counted in assessment.

We’ve seen recently where tenor drummers (I mean “mid section” minus the bass here) have tapped in to some fine mallet/stick choreography to time rests and rhythm.  This approach is clearly helpful in the creation of well-timed tenor colours.  Some of the finer sections have become pipe band fan favourites, real crowd-pleasers – and ain’t that a good thing for pipe bands!

There’s a breeze blowing about the place that has been gusty in looking to implement a visual component to the adjudication of pipe band “mid sections”.  A difficult one for me to support.  A band is a vehicle for making music, sonorous nirvana made for the lugs, the ears.  It would be incongruous with that truth to give – or take away – marks due to how any one (or seven) members of that team looked.

A blind person who has passed his exams should be fine to judge a pipe band contest anywhere, anytime. 

In fact, that’s a good acid test for pipe band rule-makers.




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