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Writing With a Musical Purpose – Drill Design Pt. 5

Scott Kurtzweil

Writing With a Musical Purpose Pt. 5
Sccott Kurtzweil
A good visual design should always take work in conjunction with the music book. Not only is it important to match drill pages to the musical phrases but also match the score in terms of density, velocity and dynamic levels.
Another important aspect of a good drill design is the way in which important musical voices are staged. Whenever possible, important melodic or counterpoint lines should be brought downstage and become the visual focus of the movement. In this installment, we will discuss a few common techniques for drawing focus to important musical lines as well as visually interpreting other musical elements including density, counterpoint and dynamics.
Stage important voices to be seen and heard.
In Part 4, we had just concluded our introduction and we are now coming out of the first big hit of the show. The ensuing transition phrase (pages 6 – 7) allows me the luxury of restaging my winds to get the low brass and trumpet sections downstage where they will become both the musical as well as visual focus.
With these two pages, I am able to create a strong, high velocity movement that compliments well the transition phrase but more importantly, set the next important voice (low brass) to pull right through the “power box” center stage. This makes it not only easy for the low brass to project their musical line but it also makes it clear to audience or judges where that musical line is on the stage.
Match the musical texture.
As the music book becomes more homogenous and less exposed, all of the elements are combines into one continuous form. As there is no one single important voice, there is no obvious focal point to this form.
Another common method of matching a homogenous texture is found in many “hits” or “park and blow” moments where the designer pulls the band proper into a solid form. This creates a not only a strong sense of visual focus but also a lot of ensemble power as the voices are stacked and in a tight formation.
Picking up musical progressions:
After a few phrases of this simple, single line manipulation, our music book again becomes exposed and different sections of the band are added into the mix in succession (ala a “Mannheim Steamroller”). For this drill moment, I chose to halt all movement except for the added voice.
The add-on starts with the woodwinds. (Note: The guard pulling through the woodwind set further enhances the sense of focus and motion).
Next added are the mid-voices . . .
 And finale, the brasses . . .
Next Time: More on interpretation and methods of drawing focus.