Music Composition – Building Simplicity part 1 – Drum Corps & I-IV-V-I ….

Let’s go back in time for a moment. We’re 16 again, in the end-zone of some HS football field. Sixty-five of our brothers and sisters surround us for horn-arc. We attentively wait on our Caption Head … maybe it’s Jim Prime, Jim Ott, Rick South, Gail Royer, Jack or John Meehan, Greg Flores, Gordon Henderson, Jim MacFarlane, Gary Kean or Dean Westman. He raises his hands and our horns come up as one. He does two things-

  1. He gives us a “thumbs up”
  2. He smiles

For the uninitiated, the thumbs up signals the “F Tuning” sequence; the smile indicates his joy in conducting this and hearing us perform it , it is also our joy to play it for you. I’m going to bridge the gap between complexity of musical form, aesthetic & structure with our innate ability to enjoy music – no matter if you are a casual listener, a fan, a performer, a student, a pro, or a snobby hack with OCD.

The director brings up his hands and we breathe deep, from the bottom, set our lips and articulate a a unison C in three octaves. Then (perhaps with index and pinky extended to indicate an interval is about to be laid down, he cues the next fermata). The lead barry and sopranos pop up to the perfect fifth: G. Possibly adding another digit to indicate a completing of the major triad, with the next downbeat, seconds arise to the major third – E. –> The I chord is now constructed.

With four digits to signal the IV chord, he cues it and the line moves to an F Major triad – F, A & C. Now with all digits exposed to signal the V chord – he drops the downbeat and we move into G Major – G, B & D. To complete the progression, he gives another big, happy, open downbeat to signal a return home – to the root – I –> C Major again. It rings, it’s in tune, balanced, glorious…it is a moment of sheer joy for all within hearing range.

Why do we “like” F Tuning so much? What makes it happy? Why is the director, performers and audience smiling? That is a question for signal analysts and the neurosciences – what I CAN tell you is what the I-IV-V-I progression expresses artistically, or…at least what is theoretically “saying.” (Hence the study of music theory). I’ve read hundreds of articles and books on this, I’ll be using my own interpretation of the aesthetic. It is open for debate, difficult to define in words – you may have a better or more succinct or poetic way of putting it…for those who wish to learn basic chord progression and the artistic theory associated with F Tuning, I hope to shed some light on what your ears have been telling you all these years.

  1. As the director, I’m going to present the audience with an idea– in this case, the idea is the “color” C. It is plaintive and simple. Though in three octaves it is really just one note. Sixty-six men & women paint it for you.
  2. By cueing the perfect fifth, I’m telling you that “We are going to paint more for you.” The G’s fit just right, like an old baseball mit.
  3. When I layer in the third, I inform you that I’m continuing to “fill in” the picture of a C Major triad. Can you feel the symmetry? Does it appeal to your logical/analytical side? Your creative side? I hope it appeals to both. I’ve given you the WHAT – this piece of art is based on the key of C Major. – What happens next is a bit of a quandary.
  4. I cue the subdominat IV chord –> F Major….In moving to the IV, it signifies a turn inward…it’s as though I’m communicating internally, or perhaps with the performers, but not you…not exactly…not yet. In lyrical music, a IV following a I often contains 1st-person phrases like “Is this a dream?” “How do I feel?” “I’m unsure of myself.” Perhaps (to the 1st-time listener of F Tuning) you are unsure as well…what will I (we) present next? Even though this chord is major (“happy” — sans dissonance), by following the I it evokes uncertainty.
  5. Moving into V –> G Major, I put you back into the picture. In lyrical passages, V’s that follow I & IV often contain verses in the third or second-person. That is; someone, or some group, is being addressed directly. “This is how you make me feel.” “I’ll always remember Dominique’s smile…” “We love our fans.” Subconciously, you should at least get the following message, “NOW you see (hear). NOW you know what I’m (we’re) doing.”
  6. Psychologically (for reasons unknown to me) the V chord following the I & IV send a strong signal that the I chord is coming back — NEXT. If I were to yell “CUT!” before the resolve to I, you are likely to get an uneasy, uncomfortable feeling. To wit, a “buzz-kill.” It’s like in 2nd grade choir when the teacher would play C, D, E, F, G, A, B …… (?????!!!!!) our seven year old brains freaked out a bit…dying to hear the C! You may remember this exercise… some students sang the C out-loud due to frustration. The want or NEED to hear the V resolve to I is even stronger. Scales and one-note-at-a-time patterns have got bupkis on chord progressions.
  7. With a final downbeat – I signal the return home – to I –> C Major. With the V chord, you “saw” … you “knew.” With the resolve…I publicly said, “Now …you understand.” (and tangentially, did you like it? Hopefully, you did).

I reconstructed “Thumbs Up” from memory (not that it’s hard to remember) about a year ago in MuseScore and exported a wave file so you can digitally stand with me in the arc and hear it once more, just don’t be surprised if I add I7 or I9 (“Amen”) to the second refrain & naturally the double high register in the third. It’s the virtual drum corps that lives in my PC. They’re learning.

These feelings, expressions, emotions and forms of communication innate to chord structure and progression can get quite complex, in future installments I’ll add examples to listen to and we’ll delve into far more complex progressions as we learn this together. It’s about time we understood a little bit about our favorite thing in the world, don’t you agree? -t

“Thumbs Up,” F Tuning! score/.wav presented by Tapper, open source and The Left Coast….

May as well write an arrangement of “Thumbs Up,” and other West Coast favorites…whatevuz….the real issue was…can I transcribe and test a simple arrangement w/o handing >$500 over to Adobe? I still intend to publish a free method book (…what got me 86’d from trumpet_herald_dot_com forums…) my handwriting for music is awful…plus I can’t gather 5-7 people any ol’ time to test harmony.
Musescore is a pretty cool piece of open-source music-arrangement technology, not unlike what Audacity is to CoolEdit.
The graphic was made using Apache OpenOffice. Microsoft Office 369 or whatever? No thanks..I’m good. Sorry Adobe, I like your software but it is too expensive (InDesign is ~$3000) I’ll just develop my own it’s not rocket science.
I did “C Tuning” as well, but it doesnt crescendo or build or the way F does…ill upload both waves for your perusal. Enjoy or hate on it…there’s more to come at no cost courtesy Tapper7.com, Apache.org, (mt), Google, and MuseScore.org
Tapper's arr. of F Tuning...likely by Jack Meehan originally.
here’s the wave file: test me…like the voicing?

‘C’ Tuning: Bb-Bb5-Bbtriad-Bbmin, EbM, FM, BbM(open)…rpts twice. this was my 1st stab at it…sorry not nearly as cool as “Thumbs Up”…still i wrote a 1st-2nd&3rd Earthworm-shooter part, a Fluegel/Mellophone (2 & 3pt harmony) 3 Barry Parts, Euph, and Tooooba wit a split in about 1 hr…I’m likin this. Note: now that we dont all read G-treble anymore, I find it more sensible to write the lead tbn/bar part in Tenor Clef: note I messed up and used Bass Clef for F Tuning…excessive on the ledger lines…may make sense to write 8va——-for about half the lead “tpt.” *ahem* SOPRANO parts for same reason. the double C is what, 6 lines up?
C Tuning for Bb Horns - Bb-Bb5-Bbtriad-Bbmin, EbM, FM, BbMopen. rpts 2x.– I just counted, the way I voiced C tuning you’d need 33 horns to hit all those notes. That’s what we started with at VK….[]

“Thumbs Up,” F Tuning! score/.wav presented by Tapper, open source and The Left Coast….

 
 
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“They’re payin’ for it… YOU EAT IT!!!” Another war story from the front lines @DCI

a gif showing a famous scene from "Full Metal Jacket" Leonard eats his doughnut while the MC recruits shup.

Subtitle: The guy from 89 BD who f—— up the solo on Finals Night. An update.
“When are you gonna post the link about the 89-guy?” OK OK OK … on behalf of the publisher, the editor would like to apologize for the writer who keeps giving the readers what they want…Drum Corps News, Reviews and “Tales of Yore!
Let the West Coast Legacy live for all time…even it’s …….regretable moments. All I’m sayin’ is…I’M NOT THE ONE WHO INSISTS THAT WE WATCH the chum-fest during “If We Were In Love” which is my favorite ballad of all time, at EVERY FUCKING GET-TOGETHER, #amirite? heheh…  the fuckup is NOT posted on this site and you maniacs that don’t have the 1,000 DVD set or a mountain of old VHS tapes and/or bootlegs…use your noodle and search Youtube….the search terms should be obvious…find it there.
(Confession: the troll who tacked “keyboard-cat” on as a stinger – you are unoriginal and an asshole, but you made me laugh so +1 …dick).
Let me also credit the rest of the corps, Including John and Tim Meehan, Rich Skare and scores of others who were SPOT ON Saturday Night…just like every other night.
Click on the truncated pages to read them as PDFs, you may need to use the lil magnifying glass to make it readable.
My apologies, but Office 365 and WP don’t talk to each other all that well. I blame Microsoft.

"I chum them" Nerrr....
chummin it live in  89.pg2
What happens now that’s he’s prob. out? Well Halpern is on PAROLE – jail w/o the bars…one tiny f—up and it’s automatic 90 days in County Jail (SC County? hopefully he moved away…) It’s 45 days, Felons call it a “Flash.” It is compared to “Three-to-Five”
In short – as if he hadn’t fucked over the people and music that made up one of my all-time fav. shows and my all-time fav. ballad…he clipped $800 LARGE that a couple about to divorce entrusted him to keep safe while they hammered out the details of who got what.
Did Halpern keep that $800G’s safe? Nope…he spent it.
The Merc was kind enough to say he put $ “into his failing practice…” ask me and what I know? Most of that mtn. of cash went to a casino. And that’s that.

Fuck you Dan Halpern.
Fuck you for getting high b4 Finals.
Fuck you for chumming your big solo that Wayne, Jack and others trusted you to nail.
Fuck you for jamming their wisdom and guidance in their faces with weak-sauce and irresponsibility.
Fuck you for being the reason BDs “Through the yrs” recordings use 89 as the ONE YEAR they play Semis instead of Game Night cuz you are such an embarrassment.
And now…fuck you for jacking 800 boxes of ziti from a couple w/ a divorce in-process.
JUST….FUCK YOU DUDE.

Mr Halpern, you’ve qualified for the official Tapper7.com shit-list and it’s accompanied to-do list: ($1 to Greg Hughes and Jim Norton)
-STEP ONE: Get AIDs
-STEP TWO: Die.

-STEP THREE: There is no step 3, rpt 1 until you get it then move on to step 2.

In fairness to BD; let us not act like the Red Team is w/o it’s regrettable alumni-list.
Semi’s night-ballad is posted below in all fairness to the staff and members who are NOT Daniel Halpern, Attorney-at-Law (ret.) Don’t count his bs alongside the eloquent beauty of arrangements by Wayne Downey and Tom Float, nor against striking performances by the Meehan Bros., and the Left-Coast Drum Corps Family as a whole…we have bad eggs, but our good eggs BURY the four I KNOW turned rotten. So Halpern is on blast….(Tapper muses to himself) Do I out the SCV alum who almost beat his wife to death or the kid-toucher? OR the alleged (*sigh*…also SCV alum) rapist? maybe after the holidays.
“IF WE WERE IN LOVE” FRIDAY, August…1989: enjoy and forget the bs… just crank it.