A&S Judging: Criteria / Standards

Mike Baker mbaker at rapp.com
Wed Oct 23 17:32:00 PDT 1996

As the one who opened the issue again with regard to an area he is just now 
entering, allow me to address Mstrs, Mara's request with regard to an area 
where I have more experience:

>< Judging criteria is a topic that gets discussed frequently...in the
>< laurels circle and out of it, at A & S and Colleges.  There are no
>< standardized criteria yet for brewing (or any other discipline).  If you
>< have any suggestions...please e-mail them to me and we can discuss it!
>< If any other laurels are out there....PLEASE comment! >>
> I too would like to hear what the artisans have to say about this subject.
> As a Laurel (and yes I know not everyone agree's with me) I want to see 
> standards in place.  As to what these are, I don't know.  Let us know what
> your ideas are.  Not saying that they will be adopted or put in use.  But 
> have to start somewhere.........

In the field of performing & particularly "bardic" arts, I see both service 
and dis-service that could be served by standards.  As a storyteller, 
singer, and bard-in-general-practice, I fear that formal standards may begin 
to skew the material in general circulation in ways that would not 
ultimately improve the arts-as-performed.  Extreme care in the choice of 
criteria which make up the standard can reduce the skew-rate, but even then 
it will never be eliminated.

The skew is particular marked for longer performed works, or individuals 
whose performance style / ability is not really of a nature suited to the 
performance site.  As an example of the latter, consider the lady with the 
small timid voice that is still pitch-perfect and well-phrased -- but who 
just does not have the physique to provide support from the diaphragm. As an 
example for the former, allow me to borrow the excellent presentations of 
tales concerning "the Nine Worthies" as performed by HG Willow. Beautifully 
told tales, with an eye to preserving the flavor of the language as well as 
entertain and educate. And, by many standards, really too long for a 
competition based upon fixed criteria. Willow has received many accolades 
for her performances over the years. Knowing this, a newcomer might expect 
to gain some recognition by emulating the reknowned shanachie - and, 
encountering a standard which has changed to reduce the possible score 
attainable by longer works, receive less recognition than would otherwise be 
right & proper.

This is not to say that every meandering tale told should be allowed into 
competition, or that a thirty-minute recitation of a saga rendered in Old 
Icelandic is or should be directly comparable to a quick quatrain quoted 
querulously. Standards, if created, must be flexible enough to permit 
recognition of unpopular as well as popular forms.  At the same time, they 
must not be so nebulous as to become seen as a needless extra burden.

As regards the entire concept of standards for performance arts, consider 
the nature of judging written poetry in opposition to recited or, better 
yet, sung poetry:
     As a poet, my words upon the page might be judged better by comparison 
to known styles and methods of construction documentable from primary source 
materials dating to (and before) the SCA "period".
     As a _performer_, I must observe that we do not have any truly reliable 
basis upon which to base a standard.  What is pleasant to the trained & to 
the UNtrained ear differs greatly in this modern world which serves as 
backdrop to existence in the Current Middle Ages.  Someone formally trained 
in pre-Renn music is going to have a different approach to music than 
[self-description] "a middle-aged almost-hippie" who grew up on the 
folksongs of the 1950's & '60s, Porter Wagner and Mitch Miller TV 
broadcasts, and other "pop" music *footnote 1*.

I will comment also that any really *good* set of judging standards will 
have to be well-distributed, open to regular revision / amendment, and 
include definite expectations for the feedback to be presented to the 
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 indirectly 
familiar with ...

Robin of Gilwell has a favorite tale concerning A&S judging criteria as they 
have been used in other kingdoms.  It involves the challenge of a sovereign, 
the ingenuity of one of his challenged subjects, and a brick.  If you who 
read my words have not heard the whole of the tale, ask Robin for the 
details some time.

And I would urge anyone or any group who considers the establishment of 
judging standards to remember the lesson of that brick.

> This will probably stir up a big ol mess...............but oh well........

Your Excellency, it seems that you have yet another field in which you can 
honestly claim excellence in practice AND as an example!

<BIG gryn>

Kihe Blackeagle (the Dreamsinger Bard)  s.k.a. Amr ibn Majid al-Bakri 
Mike C. Baker                      mbaker at rapp.com
Any opinions expressed are obviously my own unless explicitly stated 

Footnote 1:  I'm sorry, but in my opinion if a song has definite lyrics and 
is sung in such a way that those lyrics cannot be understood there will be 
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 deduct 
from whatever ranking I might otherwise have considered even if 
theoretically the piece is being presented in thoroughly authentic period 
operatic style
[*please* note that this use of "operatic style" is a convenient descriptor 
only and not a hard&fast comment upon opera-as-vocal-performance; I am still 
learning the appreciation of opera-as-an-artform distinct from general vocal 
performance, and have heard the worst offenders of non-intelligible lyrics 
perpetrated by operatic wannabes].
As an audience member, I'm going to turn to other interests, or even leave 
the presence of the performer. --Amra/Kihe/Mike

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