View Full Version : Millitarism in Pipe bands?
Are piping competions not just that? A contest to see who is the best at piping, not who looks the smartest or who spent the longest polishing their instruments? At pipeband practice emphis is put on marching and standing to attenshun in the name of smartness, yet - in Scotland at least - there is never a lack of army recruitment stalls at highland games. This makes me draw the conclusion that the judging of bands on their apperance is a remanent of the days when pipe bands were mainly part of the army. I don't like it. It worries and scares me, and it is worse in B.B bands. Should us youngsters really be brought up in this manner? Subdues by fierce Drum Majors, taught to obey orders without thought? I'm scared that its a slippery slope and I'd like to see piping being judged on the playing ability and nothing else.
06-06-2002, 11:39 AM
I haven't the foggiest idea what you are talking about.
Army recuitment stalls. What about them? They set them up in all manner of places where large numbers of people gather. In case you haven't noticed, the military is pretty handy to have around some time. Heaven forbid we should encourage people to take part.
If your band is too discipline oriented, find another one. Our band has more very little real discipline. We never have been called to attention. And we don't even have D & D awards in our association, so it gets very little attention from us. We look professional when we have to, get serious when we have to, and the rest of the time, it's pretty helter skelter.
06-06-2002, 01:42 PM
I think then when it comes to taking orders from your PM or DS at a band function, it should be obeyed without question. The Pipe Major, Pipe Sergeant and the Drum Sergeant are usually the most knowledgeable in the band and it is their job to ensure that the band looks and sounds as good as possible. If everyone disregarded the PM's orders (such as his setting the tempo) what chance does the band have at winning a competition??
If the problem is with listening to a DM during massed bands, we do that crap so that the people paying the bills (the spectators) get a show they want to see and that includes 300 people listening to a DM's barked commands such as the call to attention.
In some venues, there is a dress and deportmant prize but if you don't want to win? Don't look good!
06-06-2002, 02:51 PM
There need to be commands that the people directing can say to get the attention of 300+ musicians.
"Focus.," or "Look at me." or "Whenever you're finished with your pint..." might not work too well. :)
I'm afraid that it is probably a good thing that everyone understands the same drill. It is designed to enable a lot of people to do the same thing at the same time. When and where your leadership decides to be strict about it is another matter altogether.
P.S. Rust, isn't that pretty consistent with the Boys Brigade in general? aside from piping and drumming?
06-06-2002, 03:11 PM
Look at any other group of musicians - there will always be some kind of command structure. If not there will be chaos. In an orchestra, there is the conductor, and the section leads.
The military structure works well in a pipe band. You could change the names, but the functions would be the same.
Obviously the whole obeying orders deal is in theme with the B.B but I don't believe it should be. There is no need for such smartness or disipline except in the millitary (anyone who says that the millitary is nessacery is in my mind wrong - however that would be a whole other thread, on whole other site and a very long thread at that). Surely musicians should be commited enough to not require orders to be barked at them. The command "to assume a lazy posture"(barked out by a drum major) is no more than the cry of the power hungry. I can see that I'm out numbered on this topic so I may have to leave it at this...unless anyone agrees with me...enven slightly?
Kevin M. MacHeffner Conquest
06-06-2002, 03:49 PM
You have an interesting point of view.
There's no question that pipe bands are a military invention. That's probably why we still march in/out of contest circles and have M&D judging at certain venues.
That's also why Army recruitment stalls at the contests in Scotland didn't surprise me one bit. Regiments still depend on their bands at times to interface with the public. Why not recruit readily available talent from the source?
Personally, I like being in a band that puts a reasonable effort toward appearance and deportment. Note: reasonable effort. Which civilians really want to drill like perfect soldiers? But at the same time, which serious performers want to disappoint their audience, and themselves with an unprofessional lot of musicians?
Rust, in response to your latest message...
There are good D/Ms, bad D/Ms, and some that are truly awful. Guess what? We can say the same thing for pipers, drummers, guitarists, singers and computer help desk technicians. :D But I don't see barking commands necessarily as a trip for the power hungry. Get out front of a large mob and ask them all to do the same thing at once. Need something to say that's quick, easy to understand, and not foul? :thumb:
06-06-2002, 04:03 PM
</font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by Kevin MacHeffner:
<strong>...But I don't see barking commands necessarily as a trip for the power hungry. Get out front of a large mob and ask them all to do the same thing at once. Need something to say that's quick, easy to understand, and not foul? :thumb:
06-06-2002, 04:08 PM
Originally posted by Rust:
Obviously the whole obeying orders deal is in theme with the B.B but I don't believe it should be. There is no need for such smartness or disipline except in the millitaryWhat do you mean by B.B?
I'll take exception to some of this though. I think it looks better to see people acting in unison. It lends it self to reinforcing the unison in sound we are trying to acheive.
If you have two bands that play equally well, and one marches into the circle with a good turnout, and the other just schlumps along, strolling, not marching, with people all in a mess of uniforms, I know which one makes a better impression on me.
And incidently. I know 2 bands that have won D & D awards in Scottish contests in recent years. Neither one is the slightest bit military in organization, sponsorship, style, dress, or attitude. In fact one is almost chaotic at times, but when it's showtime, they know how to get it done. So I'll agree that discipline and results are not necessarily connected.
To a degree, you do have a point. The Boys Brigade bands (as well as the OTC bands at Universitys) are very much a military outfit. But they're like that by their very nature. No one joins an organization that is connected with the military (as the Boys Brigade is) if they don't expect to be marching, taking orders, and learning to keep the plumes of a feather bonnet out of their throats. You shouldn't be surprised to see the Highlanders or Black Watch at a games either. Regiments have always used festivals for recruiting the youth in Scotland. If anything, its becoming less of an issue these days with the end of the Cold War and increasing budget cuts and amalgamations. As far as bands go, you'll find (in Scotland at least) that plenty of pipers and drummers happily served as bandsmen in the military. I agree with you that it's silly for a civillian band to observe some of the more drill related aspects of an army band, but at the end of the day you have to keep in mind that the pipe band as we know it is an invention of the military, and some of the best players came from and were supported by the military. But just because they served doesn't mean they're going to run a band like a U-boat. Here's a topical example (and I apologize to others who might not get this): Sandy from Big Brother was in the military, and now he buys clothes for other guys and puts loads of gel in his hair. I'm not really sure how that fits in. I think I've been watching too much TV. Cheers.
06-06-2002, 06:43 PM
Call me old fashioned but I actually like the slightly militaristic side of pipe bands. I'm not saying I want to go out wearing "number 1" dress for a competition (or even for a parade for that matter)... but we have to remember who pays the bills.... it's the spectators.
If a band came up to the line and randomly assembled there as opposed to marching in any form... if a band just walked up to the line chatting with each other.. than brough their pipes and drums to the ready. The person relatively in charge set a tempo and said "ready... go" or something to that effect... said band walked into the circle but played perfectly in tempo together...formed the circle as is required by Association Rules... the guy who is sorta in charge helped when tempo changes came... then they all finished exactly together. Then the guy leading said... ok.. that's it and the band literally all just fell out and walked off the field. Could that band win a competition?
If I were judging... I would say yes. If everything that happened from the time their contest piece started to the time it stopped was of appropriate perfection for their grade and better than their competitors.. then yes, they could and would win. Would there be MAJOR complaints following from the spectators... most likely!! Would there be rules instated the very next year which clearly outline how a band is to come to the line, march into the circle, march out of the circle... YOU BET YOUR BUTT!!! Most of the marching for competitive purposes is for the crowd, not your fellow musicians. I couldn't see how a band would ever get hired in a parade if they looked like a bunch of "schmoes".... the whole point of a parade is how you look (we don't barely even tune for the darn things!!).
In my band... we have VERY specific rules about how the uniform is to be worn, what accessories are allowable, even what hairstyles and makeup are allowable. We expect the band to fall into rank and file and look, as someone else on the thread mentioned, to look "smart". We almost always compete wearing our jackets becuase it looks better (unless it's just impractical). We have selected a distinctive electric blue shirt to set ourselves visually aside from other bands. From the time we begin marching up to the line until being dismissed after marching out of the ring we display "game faces" to show that we're serious about what we're doing... and then that night people find out why CCal is THE social band here in the Windy City. For us... the reason that our presentation is so stringent is so that our enjoyment of what we're doing and our energy can be shown through our music. (Though any of you who've seen me play know that I have a bit of dancer in me that comes out when I'm leading my corps.... but I don't allow any of them to do it... hmm... double standard?!... I guess...)
No matter how much you want to argue to the contrary, or what moves are made to attempt to change this.... how a band presents itself at the line visually is part of the first impression the judges get. No... it's not judged... but we have to face the reality that a band that looks "smarter" at the line already has the judges' attention (in a good way) so that they'll get the best listen possible. A band that shows up at the line in the manner described earlier... well, the judge is likely to listen... but only to try to disprove their first impression of the band as slackers or 'trouble'.
Furthermore... I am a Drum Major. And I have to agree with my two favourite D/M's who have already posted (Kev and Danny)... there is NO other way to get a large group of people (in this case musicians) to assemble appropriately and begin and end together without the words "MASSED BANDS..... ATTEN----SHUN!!!!!!" (and then backing up that you mean business by carrying a big shiny-headed stick wrapped in chains) :thumb:
06-06-2002, 08:14 PM
As Kevin and Volcom pointed out, pipe bands came from the British military - structure, format, designation of authority, the whole works. Is there any surprise that some, if not many, pipe bands carry this forward? While I think that bands not affiliated with the military turning out in psuedo-military attire simply look silly, others consider them to be properly attired and the civilian band I play with to be improperly dressed.
As another person pointed out, if you don't like the para-military structure of most pipe bands, don't play in one. If you don't like the military in general, fercryin'-outloud don't even THINK about playing in a Boys Brigade band.
Can this be changed? possibly. Can it be changed in the next 5 years? Probably not. True anarchy is an academic idea that does not lend itself well to more than tiny groups. It certainly does not work with pipe bands.
06-07-2002, 03:25 AM
Originally posted by Rust:
This makes me draw the conclusion that the judging of bands on their apperance is a remanent of the days when pipe bands were mainly part of the army. I don't like it. It worries and scares me, and it is worse in B.B bands. Should us youngsters really be brought up in this manner? Subdues by fierce Drum Majors, taught to obey orders without thought? I'm scared that its a slippery slope and I'd like to see piping being judged on the playing ability and nothing else.Ummm, it's not as if you're going to be required to charge the enemy with a bayonet fixed to the bass drone. As members of bands, we are required to listen to and follow our respective corps leader, and without this leadership and co-operation, I fear the band would be fairly nasty to listen to.
At the risk of deviating slightly from topic, and getting a few miffed at me, IMHO many of our leaders of tomorrow could benefit quite considerably from the self-discipline and social responsibility instilled by many military organizations.
06-07-2002, 06:56 AM
Try to envision anything more perfect than a properly turned out, tuned in and unified group of people, doing something they love to do, under the direction of someone that equally loves doing it, and all for the pleasure of satisfying a lot of people who enjoy seeing and hearing it done with precision.
This just doesn't happen without some sort of " unquestioned" disipline. Hence the military approach.
If there is a better way, lets hear it.
Nova Scotia, Canada
I'm not a military guy. But I like to see a little discipline.
I appreciate the folks at band practice who listen to PM. We have a lot of fun there, and some "horse play" is welcome, but when it comes time to get serious, I like it that everybody pays attention and gets after it. Especially at competition band practice.
I also run a couple of businesses, with a couple hundred people. Letting everybody do what they want to would cause me to be NOT running a business anymore!! You have to have people leading, making decisions and giving directions.
One of the challenges we face today is that many of the younger employees don't have that mindset. It's all about them. Everything needs to be on their terms.
On the other hand, employees who have some sort of military background are appreciated because the understand a little command and control.
Rust, don't worry - it's not a slippery slope. It's good common sense to have people in charge. And those people who listen, generally learn something.
You always need to evaluate your leaders, and if you don't like them, go somewhere else (differen band, different company, different country). In the meantime, learn what it means to pay attention, to present an impressive image, and to learn about not just music, but a little about what make a group succesful.
06-07-2002, 08:02 AM
Originally posted by Andrew Hoinacki:
...Most of the marching for competitive purposes is for the crowd, not your fellow musicians. a minor point of disagreement, andrew--
i think most of the marching and deportment--whether in competition, on parade, or even in practise--is a representation of "game face", i.e., the focus which each individual member brings to their part in the whole.
our band actually made a minor change in the bylaws several years ago. the original bylaws read, (art.II, "purposes", item#2,):..."and to comport ourselves in a strict military manner"; this was change to, "...and comport ourselves in a well-disciplined and professional manner."
one doesn't need to maintain the ramrod-stiff attitude of a soldier to keep an air of discipline and confidence, but the "oh well, guess we'll do this now" performance you described would, in most cases, do as much to fragment the concentration of a band as it would to sour the spectators' perceptions.
06-07-2002, 10:33 AM
Oh, Micheal... I WHOLLY agree with you. To say "militaristic" and to say "disciplined and professional" is a perfectly equivalent descrition of where we're both going and what we're hoping to see of bands including our own.
The ungangly scenario I described would drive me nuts before a contest. I totally agree that how the band approaches the line sets to the mood for the band members as to their concentration and the task ahead. No disagreements here bud, I was just citing a worst-case-scenario and how it COULD work but my point is definitely that it probably just wouldn't.
Look forward to reading more on this and other fine topics when I get home Sunday. For now:
I'm going to... Kansas City...
Kansas City here I come.
(can you year the shuffle?!)
06-07-2002, 10:51 AM
In my band... we have VERY specific rules about how the uniform is to be worn, what accessories are allowable, even what hairstyles and makeup are allowable. We expect the band to fall into rank and file and look, as someone else on the thread mentioned, to look "smart". Ditto for our band. Often the night before a contest we have a "Polish Party" in someone's hotel room, where everyone polishes shoes, belts, sporrans, pipes, drums. If you want to know how serious the big bands take this -- and get a really vehement response -- ask Reid Maxwell about SFU. He'll tell you that a shoddy looking uniform is a good way to end up sitting out, regardless of how well you're playing. It's just a continuation of the professional demeanor they all expect.
From my own point of view, when I've been judging, I've very seldom been surprised by a shoddy looking band coming up to the line and then blowing everyone's doors off. Our attitude is if we're paying attention to all these small details, we create a mindset with the judges that we know what we're doing, so they ought to pay attention when we roll-off. :cool:
Mesa Caledonian PB :wave:
Check out our website at www.mcpb.org (http://www.mcpb.org)
Kevin M. MacHeffner Conquest
06-07-2002, 11:54 AM
Originally posted by Chris Hossack:
Ditto for our band. Often the night before a contest we have a "Polish Party" in someone's hotel room, where everyone polishes shoes, belts, sporrans, pipes, drums.As Chris mentioned, we did this the night before the Worlds and I feel the effort was worth it! :cool: These little parties help to focus the band before competitions and also accomplish the "social aspects" that Andrew has mentioned. Order some pizzas, crank up the music and make a good time of it. The "family" will get closer. The drummers will also have an opportunity to distract the Pipe Major and steal his bed. Isn't that right, Chris? :eek: :mad: :thumb:
06-08-2002, 09:22 AM
The role of the Piper & Drummer in a Military Pipe Band during the First & Second World Wars, in the Canadian Military was a large and varied "JOB". It was there duty to boost the moral of the troops between battles, as well as give instructions to troops by the choice of tunes that were being played, such as "MARCH" "RETREAT" "MEAL CALL" "LIGHTS OUT" "REVEILLE" etc... it was also left the the Band members to collect the wounded from the battle field as "stretcher barers" when they were not playing.
Discipline is not something that is demanded by the P/M or D/M it is something that is earned through respect for the members, by the members and is expected of all members from each other.
If you think that the Military does not rule your every day life even not being associated with the Military ever, think again ... Even down to the way you answer the phone at work is dictated to you by a form of Military command "Company name, so and so speaking" ... the Military as instilled it's Discipline aspect into everyone's life for thousands of years ... and you are not going to change that.
If North America was to have a mandintory service act like that of all European countries, there would be less crime and more respect in the youth of the period ... try standing on the outside and have a look in through the looking glass at any event or large gathering for once and you will see all the disrespect that comes from today's youth, whether it be a push of shoulder as someone walks by or someone telling you to F-off for walking to slow or someone taking the parking stall that just openned up for you and you will start to see that the Military form of "barking orders" as you like to call it would go a long way as to solving all of societies problems today and that a little disicipline in a pipe band is a small thing to ask for.
P.S. "PIPE BAND ... DISMISS" :)