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"first circle" in the marching arena

in 1994 when i marched in the westshoremen, one of the tunes we did was "First circle" by the Pat Metheny Group. The song is pretty fantastic in the context of the Pat Metheny Group, but as a chart for a marching band or drum corps, it's really not that great.

I *want* to like it for the field. And it has some okay moments. It starts out with some rhythmic interest because of the syncopation and yeah, you're marching essentially in 11/4 which is decent "demand", but after the intro, the melody of the song doesn't go anywhere and the structure is such that trying to add other things to make it more interesting is either too complicated for a marching aesthetic or out of context for the flavor of the tune.

Westshore didn't have a great year that year so you could argue that maybe in the hands of a decent group it would be better, but then i take a look at the Crossmen in 1998. They did a pretty outstanding job with First Circle that year; i think that the drum break in that tune is one of my favorite moments in that show and one that sticks out in Crossmen's history, and the horn book spices up the tune to give it more energy; yet even then, sometimes it just feels flat. There's only so much that you can do with a tune like that to make it exciting and yet still make it feel like the original tune. Thus i feel like there's a design flaw in using that entire song for a show.

What's fascinating about it isn't the fact that there are still people that use it for marching shows even now; what's fascinating is that because there's a precedent in the past decade and a half for that tune to be incorporated into the marching arena, the "peer" group of the marching arena both directors and the judging community *accept* it as a legitimate tune to do on the field and end up glossing over its flaw. Use the same formula of song but give it different name and by no one in particular, and the judging community would be all over it as a show design mistake. "the melody doesn't seem to go anywhere for about thirty seconds. This section seems to repeat the same rhythm for about a minute with no melody at all. The recap doesn't do anything at all." But use this song, and it's, "oh! it's First Circle by Pat Metheny! cool!"

I'm not sure what the ultimate message of that is, but it's something to think about.


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March 2017