A&S Judging: Criteria / Standards

Mike Baker mbaker at rapp.com
Fri Oct 25 10:14:00 PDT 1996

> People formally trained in Common Practice Era music have problems with
> pre-Renn.  As one must know what to look for in weaving, needlework, and
> carving, one must also learn what to listen for in performance.

Absoposilutely.  Darn it, m'lady Kateryn (yes, I *can* mend my own socks, so 
that wasn't a personal request), my point didn't come through too well. 
Allow me to take another poke at it: in my _personal_ opinion, we do not 
have a reliable standard as to just how pre-Renn (& even some forms of Renn) 
music SHOULD sound.  We may have modern reconstructions, but by and large 
there was no continuity of performance of such material sufficient to 
accurately preserve the original style. IOW, the notes may be right, the 
timing may technically be the same, but the end result has necessarily been 
influenced and changed by knowledge of and greater performing familiarity 
with more recent musical forms.

>> competitors.  In this light, I consider the Calontir model to have some
>> merit and to present one of the more rational systems I am even 
> As it takes wild horses to get me to perform, what are these standards?

The essential element as I understand the Calontiri model is the prior 
creation & distribution of the judging form.  I do not have copies of the 
performance form, but one gentleman was kind enough to forward a (possibly 
adapted/modified) version of the form for brewing/vintning.  A number of 
points are awarded in each of several categories, with sufficient detail as 
to the expected ranges that even someone unfamiliar with a particular art / 
science can make an intelligent judgement of relative worth. (In the case of 
the brewing form, the criteria are very similar to those posted recently by 
Gunnora [?? - I've filed them, and my Swiss-cheese memory may flub proper 
attribution] but with the addition of the point system.)

The current Society A&S Minister, Juelda of Salisbury, speaks well of the 
system (remember that she is from Calontir). During the KW A&S held in 
Steppes last spring, there was a discussion session that compared and 
contrasted competition formats and styles across the Known World.  As 
several prominent Calontiri artisans other than Juelda were present, we 
received a concise and informative summary.

(Side issue / new topic?: Perhaps even more important was the related 
discussion of the Calontiri system of formal "teaching events" / collegia. 
 The structure is not something most Ansteorrans would accept immediately, 
and might lead some to cry "more cookies", but there were some features that 
we could certainly consider in our efforts to improve learning and practise 
of the various arts & sciences.)

>> Robin of Gilwell has a favorite tale concerning A&S judging criteria as 
>> have been used in other kingdoms.  It involves the challenge of a 
> As I am unlikely to have the priviledge of Robin's fine storytelling (and
> I am sorry), could someone please e-mail the story to me?

Alright, I'll consider this at least a *second* gentle chiding & give the 
stripped-down version.  Names have been omitted because I frankly don't 
remember them, and I've reduced the sequence & details unmercifully (I have 
been described as suffering from MLAWS: Mind Like A Wool Sock - moth-eaten & 
full of holes).

     In a distant land of the SCA, where customs apparently vary greatly
     from those here in Ansteorra, a rigid system of judging criteria were
     implemented for the conduct of A&S competition. After several
     simply silly awards were made / competitions won based upon
     people manipulating their entries to take advantage of the scoring
     system, a new-crowned King gave his Knights the task of proving
     how silly some of the system actually was.  One particularly clever
     fellow made a brick, documenting every portion of the process
     but still producing a relatively ugly specimen of the type.  Upon entry 

     in competition, however, the brick was judged as being without
     comparison ("Non Pareil"). When the King used the example to
     ridicule the flaws of the judging system, the upholders of the system
     defended not the system but instead the brick itself as evidence
     that the system worked...

Draw from this whatever lesson you will, and if possible still try and catch 
Robin's far better verbal rendition of the tale.

>> Footnote 1:  I'm sorry, but in my opinion if a song has definite lyrics 
>> is sung in such a way that those lyrics cannot be understood there will 
>> two personal standards kick in. (Foreign or archaic _language_ is not the 

>> issue, recognizable _words_ is the issue.) As a judge, I am going to 
>> from whatever ranking I might otherwise have considered even if
>> theoretically the piece is being presented in thoroughly authentic period 

>> operatic style
> OK.  So I finally get four brave souls who want to take a stab at "Moro
> Lasso, Al Mio Desolo" (madrigal by Gesualdo), an especial favorite of
> mine, and sing it in competition with me.  Will you count me off because
> while we WILL be singing distictly, but it can be hard to sort out 5
> parts.  Those happy distinct beginnings and ends do get lost in the
> stack.

No, _I_ would not necessarily discount the performance because _I_ do 
understand multi-part vocal performance (I learned to sing as part of a 
group and often give an uneven performance as a solo vocalist in part 
because of that; I have much room for improvement as a performer, and I know 

> As a music teacher, and this holds for everything I hear, I am looking for
> pitch sense, steady beat when appropriate (even synchopations must be
> steady), rhythmic accuraccy, good/appropriate diction, phrasing and how it
> points up the melody and words, and effort.  For original composition, I
> would expect a good fit between the rhythms of the words and music and the
> strong beats of both as well.

A good set of criteria for any of us to remember if called upon to judge 
musical presentations. Wanna try and quantify them as the basis for a 
standard? (I wouldn't, myself, as I think they are just fine as criteria.)

For the purposes of SCA A&S competitions, the primary item that your 
criteria fails to address and that most judging systems have included as 
critical is documentation.

The arts and sciences that we indulge in as part of the SCA experience range 
through such an extent that I find it ludicrous that we sometimes force 
ourselves into strange comparisons  in determining "winners".  This is one 
reason that I believe that "body of work" competitions AND category-specific 
comparisons (e.g. some of the specific personally-sponsored item prizes 
being offered at Laurel's Prize Tourney, or similar "my mead's better than 
your mead" simple head-to-head judging) are far better than trying to reduce 
every entry to an arbitrary numerical rating.

Hey, one of these days I *want* to repeat the example of the brick myself, 
but it is because I have a certain fascination with materials science and 
have always wondered about the sun-baked brick. That does not mean that I 
expect any item so produced to be judged favorably in comparison to a fine 
blossom-based cordial.

Or to one of my poems or stories.

Amr ibn Majid al-Bakri al-Amra
     currently residing in Barony of the Steppes, Kingdom of Ansteorra
Mike C. Baker                      mbaker at rapp.com
Any opinions expressed are obviously my own unless explicitly stated 

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