marching bandFebruary 27, 2008
It’s all true, however. When I was in high school, beginning my marching band life, I had friends that were determined that staying in step with each other was both a bother and a sin, and fought it ruthlessly. I took saxophone lessons with a college student (and now a decent friend and extremely talented musician) who encouraged me to fight to urge to stay in step with the music so that I might understand how rhythm and counter-rhythm worked together to make good sounds. Both of these things helped me developed a lovely neurosis of trying to find the strangest rhythm combinations possible: highly syncopated variantes, four vs. seven patterns, odd hand-clapping patterns. It’s a beautiful kind of crazy.
I learned from marching band a few things:
The foot is round and you are a wheel, and can float: In marching band, you have to learn to “roll your toes” which means to slowly progress from heel to toe in one fluid motion, followed by a gliding step forward with the other foot, and repeating the process. This gives you a floating appearance, and allows you to play even the most difficult passages while in motion without that jaunty “walking” sound. If you’ve ever seen one, this motion will give you the appearance of either having a stick shoved firmly up your rear orifice or one of trying to get a gallon of juice from the grape between your buttcheeks.
It’s a skill very useful in carrying large trays of food. You can roll around like a perfectly crafted tire. Oh, the turns you can execute. Dimes have nothing on you.
Speed is directly connected to your ability to propel yourself with your shoulders: Moving fast has long been equated with having fast legs. In marching band, the speed you have is mostly derived from the upper body. The objective is to remain completely perpendicular to the ground at all times, regardless of tempo or direction. The first evidence that someone is trying to use their upper body for forward motion can be seen just before they start moving: they lean forward, nearly falling over, and suddenly, their feet are beneath them and they fly.
One hundred people in coordinated motion and sound is an exercise in the ultimate of arts: Dance, art, sound, text, sculpture, theatre. These are all incorporated in marching band. The sound the band makes, corresponding with the chiseled form of the individual, the choreographed brilliance of each member and the colorguard, the words that inspire great ideas in the medium, the stories they tell, and the overall visual spectacle make marching band a meta-art, where many mediums collide into genius. If you’ve never seen a Drum Corps International show, you are missing something amazing. In fact, I’ll treat you right now.