A&S Judging: Criteria / Standards

Mike Baker mbaker at rapp.com
Fri Oct 25 17:01:00 PDT 1996

> RE the sound of the music, and can we hear it- most of my fellow music
> majors hated early music history for that exact reason.  I was raised in a
> high-enough Epsicopal Church, I *like* chant.

I was *not* raised in a high-church setting, but I was raised to know what I 
like and to appreciate that others might have other like / don't like 
criteria. (For the record, I happen to like chant too, although some of the 
nuances I no doubt miss from relative ignorance of the form - and I've also 
been known in the recent past** to make the Scripture readings from a King 
James version rather than the "standard" pew-bible BECAUSE of the more 
poetic language / approachability for use AS a reading [**when I served as a 
Methodist lay leader].)

> As for how it should sound, that is a topic for many, many dissertations.
> Realise, of course, that we don't really know how much CPE music should
> really sound and how the recording industry has changed how we play.

Exactly.  As noted in a recent thread on the "minstrel" mail-list, there is 
evidence that the early Welsh preferred non-wire-strung harps and also used 
many different tunings. While some of the tunings may have survived, and 
would be of interest in themselves, I am personally more curious as to what 
the difference in sound becomes when using horsehair strings (TTBOMK, I've 
only been around wire-, nylon-, and *possibly* artificial-gut-strung harps.) 

So much to learn and enjoy, so little time!

>> (Side issue / new topic?: Perhaps even more important was the related
>> discussion of the Calontiri system of formal "teaching events" / 
>>  The structure is not something most Ansteorrans would accept 
>> and might lead some to cry "more cookies", but there were some features 
>> we could certainly consider in our efforts to improve learning and 
>> of the various arts & sciences.)
> I'm just not familiar with my own kingdom (this is embarrassing at times).
> What is this system, and what is wrong with it?

The salient points are the bookkeeping "overlay" to the regularly-scheduled 
scholastic events and the awarded "degrees" (may be inaccurate term: I mean 
the certificates of completion). I make no claim of remembering enough 
detail to permit a full description, but found myself thinking at the time 
"Gee, Ansteorrans will never go for this, sounds like too much work for some 
poor souls and too much recogntion for what will be perceived as not enough 
effort for the others".

Please, as I understand that you are from Calontir, check with your local 
A&S Minister for more complete details.

> While I am unfond of performing, I do love teaching, and know quite a bit 
about later period
> vocal and instrumental forms, plan on knowing more, and gleeful to teach.

For future reference, what would it take to entice you into coming to the 
Steppes, milady? Chocolate? Backrubs? Fermented beverages? <evel gryn!>

Also note that I personally consider teaching as a special class of 
performance, one which we in the SCA would do well to notice more often.

>> 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.
> Documentation is the easy part.  We have standards for that.  One can walk
> up to, say, Master Micheal and say, "where does one start looking for
> period music?" (you can ask me, for that matter).  This is, of course, my
> own opinion.  I am a string player by training, and I worry about having
> too harsh an ear.  This is why I have really had to think about what I
> want to hear when I finally make the classroom.

However, in general it is difficult / intrusive to include documentation as 
part of a performance work. I have been known to generate a lullaby on the 
spot with the introduction "Every time and every culture known to man has 
used song as a way to quiet the young and entertain one another." This in 
lieu of written documentation. (Hey, sometimes it even works - even with my 
voice and choices of tune and un-words.) It is also a comment upon the 
request for documentation of something which my audience already *knows*, 
even if they have not heard my own extemporaneous composition based upon the 
specific theme.

And I admit that it is somewhat lazy on my part to do this. On the other 
side of vocal presentation, I can tell a story and make a vague attribution 
to the Cattle-Raid of Cooley - and be 100% accurate in both, yet receive no 
greater recognition than I might for making up a tale from whole cloth yet 
retaining the proper style.

If I have a point here, it is that a simple request for documentation of ANY 
contest entry is not enough, while a rigorous standard is unrealistic for a 
broad range of interests that are lumped together for A&S competition. Yes, 
I might approach Master Michael or yourself with a request for the location 
of sources.  In performance, how are we as competitors to present the 
results of our labor in tracking those source in the form of documentation? 
How are we as judges to consider a thorough description in verbal form in 
contrast to a page of source citations which have little more than a name to 
associate them with the item being performed? AND remember that we must 
accomplish these twin goals in 5 to 7 minutes per competitor?

The Laurel Prize Tourney format, with the additional special-category areas 
to be recognized by specific Laurels and the emphasis upon artisans 
remaining with their displays in order to discuss their work with the judges 
/ other artisans in attendance, I find to be one method of going beyond 
stiff criteria, allowing efforts to be judged upon individual merit AND 
considering the various components of the presentation to receive comment. 
(I've got some reservations about the whole "Letter of Intent" business, but 
certainly understand the need for planning and for time to review the mass 
of research papers that could be involved.) It still appears to work best 
for static displays, however. The limitations upon group performance make it 
especially difficult for several broad categories of entertainment to 
achieve recognition comparable to that which solo performers may achieve.

> As a side question, does anyone ever do analysis of music for these 

As a research paper, or as a portion of judging a musical performance? Yes 
to the former, and I don't want to think about how poor some of the latter 
attempts have been...

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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