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‘But de judges tief!!’.... -- Revisited -- The job of Panorama Judging Realities and Myths

Victor Prescod - Performer, Educator and Adjudicator - In the Spotlight

On judging, Victor believes that one of the things that needs to be looked at is the
criteria for judging. 
“Many times persons fault
the adjudicators for results, but the adjudicators can only work
within the established criteria.  And - competition is a strange thing
when it comes to music.  Because, there are some who say competition
stifles creativity - and in a sense, it may.  Once you enter a
competition there are criteria.  And if you are hopeful of being
successful in the competition, then you  need to address the
criteria.  What I have found is very often - the arrangers of music for
pan, may not fully understand the criteria under which they
are being judged.  So that - arrangers are creative, so they
get into a lot of the creativity which does not necessarily address
the criteria...”

In speaking directly to the competing arrangers, Victor goes on further to say that
“the tendency - for most of the competitions I’ve has judged - you
have 40 points for arrangement, 40 points for general performance,
10 - tone, 10 - rhythm etc.  But under arrangement you look for
things like melodic development, motific development, and
re-harmonization.  A number of times, arrangers will move
the melody around, within the pans.  So you play the melody with
the front line pans, you move it into the midrange, move it into the
background, you bring it back, you might change the key - but you
still have the same melody.   You’ve never developed the
melody.  While you’re doing this, there’s lots of lovely
things happening around the melody with the other pans - but the
melody itself has not been developed.  So that the music sounds
good to the average listener.  But melodic development never
happened.  So you’ve lost points there, and your band does not
win, and you say ‘But de judges tief!!’....”

Victor explains the similar misconceptions arrangers and fans have with
harmonization and the jam session.  “Sometimes
- arrangers simply change the key.  So you have the same basic
chord structure - in a new key.  You have not re-harmonized...
or you go into the jam session - (this is my favorite one), lots of
- lots of creative music happening in the jam session, that has
nothing to do with the piece that’s being arranged.  So that if
you take a jam session from Phase II, and you drop it into an
arrangement by Renegades that happens to be in the same key, it will
work - because it’s just music that has no reference to [the] tune. 
And that may be - a minute and a half of music that really, does
nothing towards the criteria, and no marks are really given for it - but
it sounds good!....”

click for more panonthenet.com/spotlight/2009/vprescod-1-09-09.htm

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I am a pannist, and what about if all the criteria are met but now the work is not well executed whereby, you have ragged phrasing; unbalanced instruments (meaning lack of clarity within voices - pitches); unbalanced selection (meaning the original tune itself is lob-sided); or the band itself is unbalanced?
That is supposed to be covered in the PErformance section of the band. While Arrangement has to do with the relevance of how the director chose to reharmonize, reshape, and reintroduce the raw material of the work, if the placement of the instruments or execution of the material by the players is off, it should be reflected in that area of the scoring. However, there is a compounded issue that arises from this type of judging. An excellent arrangement played badly can not be scored well on arrangement because of the bad performance. So to some degree execution, setup, and orchestration have much more to do with the final outcome than the musical aspect. Consider eating an orange that was cut by a knife that was just used to chop garlic and fish innards. Despite the sweetness of the fruit, it's muddied by the brash taste of garlic and fish.

But that doesn't also mean that a performance of crisp, clean, and dynamically coherent music will equate a strong arrangement. If you were to take a band of skilled players whether Renegades, Skiffle bunch, Mangrove, CASYM, Sonatas (The list goes on) but give them unrefined, amateurish music. It will be brilliantly executed, but the content will be lacking. In this scenario, the knife is clean but the orange is bitter.

Of course, all of this is only relevant if the competition is actually based on music, which I would have to say, I believe it is not.
If that is the case, you agree with the argument that music is inherently subjective. As a result, each adjudicator relies primarily on some type of instinctive motivation to decide superiority in the arrangements.

I've experienced competing as a pianist in the "classical" vein and I've found that the judges are much more worried about emotions, gesture, and affect that they have ever been about execution. While I do think that they go hand in hand (execution and affect), where does the point system explain excitement. My 16 years of performing and 10 years writing for the instrument are barely enough experience for me to consider myself even a novice at what I'm doing, but there are certain things that I know are technically simple on the instrument that to a laymen sound incredibly "exciting". My little sister can play a chromatic scale faster than and cleaner than a great deal of double tenor players I've met and it comes across tantalizing to the spectator, but to other pannists it's a warm up exercise.

My question is whether or not there is a way to reconcile the emotional judgement and the sophisticated judgement of the panorama competition.

Don't get me wrong... I agree with what you're saying, I'm just provoking the discussion a bit.
Hi Sidd, well done. I have been sitting on the side-lines watching this discussion develope and was kind of waiting for a very key phrase to emerge. Finally, a few days ago someone in their commentary metioned the phrase, CARNIVAL SPIRIT. This idea, though not a part of the written criteria plays a huge role in Panorama. It is a part of the un-written criteria, things which are so obvious, that it is just a GIVEN. I first came accross this term around 1971in the Antigua Panorama when Anthony Prospect in his comments praised a band tremendously, but went on to say that he could not give them the win because they did not project a Carnival Spirit. Recently, I read some judge's comments of a competition in, I think 2005, (corect me if I am wrong) where the judge said that Starlift laid down a scintillating performance, but they failed to move the audience. This tells me that the idea of a need to project a Carnival Spirit, in other words, play with the gusto that causes an emotional response in the audience is still a valid non-written panorama requirement. Also, it is fair to say that for those of us who have been involed in pan for a long time, can remember the days when a mediocre band could play a mediocre rendition in panorama and if you could whip the North Stand Posse into a frenzy, would garner a place when the top three bands were announced. Thirty odd years this spirit is still alive today. So for those of my colleagues who think that it is acceptable for any band to sacrifice tempo for clarity, I say that you need to re-think that strategy. As the late Maestro so eloquently put it in his song "TEMPO", people want tempo when they playing mas. Remember that Panorama is not music for your listening pleasure. It is a batlle down in the trenches. That is why Trinidad had Panorama and a seperate Music Festival. They are two different animals. So, let us not stray too far from our roots, let us get back to the days when panorama meant music, excitement, pandemonium. Peace!
Let me first say that I agree with your statement(s). However, would you say that the individuals that have been placed in the adjudication seat have taken these things habitually into their considerations? I take it that, like myself, you've been on both sides of the table as a spectator and participant of the Panorama "animal". As a musician, I've inspected those very same aspects of sonics and emotion while as a amateur abandoning all sense of intellect to be completely possessed by the band and it's music. In complete honesty, while experiencing the excitement and spirit of carnival it is virtually impossible to analysis, grade, or objectively critique the music. That of course does not mean that exciting, enthralling music can not be judged. But I do believe that it takes an advanced perception of art to seperate oneself from the musical experience. Because afterall, The concept of a well constructed building and a good looking building are utterly seperate from one another.
I have danced myself dizzy to the drone of drums at jouvert and been completely swept away been the dense music of a steelband. But I've also been bored to distraction by winning bands and annoyed by well constructed fugues. This is what I most uncertain of in the competition and I believe that you may agree with me. The chasm between personal aesthetic and calculatic intellect is not somethingreadily solved by a score criteria in the hand of opinionated and untrained persons.
Very well said Mr. Rose. However, the approach to judging the panorama must be approved upon.

Sandra, that is an excellent question. Althought it is important to adhere to the criteria, this alone SHOULD NOT & WILL NOT get you into the winner's circle. All of the other elements that you mention has to be taken care of. For a panorama win a band has to pay attention to deatails and deliver the TOTAL package. In an earlier reply I used the term "Unwritten Criteria". The items you mention all falls under that category. They are things that basic common sense tells us has to be taken care of. When a band does not pay attention to these items and they fall short in competition, it is not the judging that should be called into question. It is the band's management that should be held accountable. It is their duty and responsibility to ensure that the choice of tune is appropriate and that the band is thoroughly drilled and ready to compete. "DO NOT PUT AN ILL-PREPARED (HALF-ASS) BAND IN ANY COMPETITION".
Amen, Barnes... Amen
thank you for reactivating this discussion James, I tried to respond last night and don't know what happened but I lost my thread, very sensitive issues and Sophia raised a very important issue "BIAS" another long long story back in my panorama playing days I had the opportunity to scrutinize the score sheets playing with Ray Holman first in Anteallean all Stars then for some years in Carib Tokoyo and it seemed there were Two judges every year willifully ducking Ray Holman whilst the other judges gave him points in the 90's these two scored him in the low 60's, and he was so gentlemanly about it it hurt, the year Exodus won I spoke to some of the judges and found out they had Ray Holman as the winner but imagine 5 out of 7 judges having a band as a winer and the band not wining because two judges scored so incredibly low he could not even place, that is ridiculous, my take on competition is eliminate it all together it is stifling the progress of the music and killing the sweetness, as the prizes get more lucrative and the show gets more and more popular , the bands and arrangers are too caught up in the winning issue, so they are scared to look for new blood, or unknown blood, arrangers are chosen because of their popularity, and ability to attract players, the chosen ones are afraid to think outside the box, and follow trends, people fans and players miss the main ingredient, the judges are at a different location from most of the audience, and they can only asses what is presented to them at that location, as far as crowd reaction, I have stood infront the judges enclosure many times and it is hard to really hear too much crowd reaction from that location, and I have never seen the judges being swayed by it anyway.solution even though it will not elimate bias all together it might help minimise it (since it looks like we are stuck in competition) (1) separate the judges place them in isolated boths so they will not know what each other is doing (that way they will not be able to cook up anything during the performances) (2) eliminate or scrutinise judges who exhibit clear bias, maybe hold a workshop after eavh round so the judges can be cross examined about their choices by the bands, even though there is allways clear cases of bias each year, the results are not too bad,
Quite an interesting discussion by Victor very enlightening I was particularly interested in the judging and assessment at the panarama in trinidad, he mentioned that the criteria for judging seems to be misunderstood by the arrangers which I possibly will agree. I will strongly support that his idea of arranging workshops, providing instruction on the subject is an excellent idea, I also would suggest that judges be included, this should be an ongoing part of the preparation for the steel band competition.
Thank you, Mr Prescod for an informative, thoughtful and intelligent explanation of judging criteria.

I suppose if one must judge art, criteria are necessary.

Personally, I've always been ambivalent about judging things that appeal to our senses, be it food, music, or art.

What may appeal to my taste buds may taste like crap to someone else.

There are many movies that won Academy awards that I had to force myself to watch, and that certainly did not appeal to me.

And don't get me started on art. There are pieces of art worth millions and I just don’t get it.

Maybe it's just me.

I think appreciating art is in the eyes and ears of the beholder, and I don’t think it should diminish a performance if judges say it did not meet certain criteria, when my senses tell me it was the most enjoyable one.

This discussion is as old as the hills and it rages on, which is a good thing.  However, I do not think that we will ever be able to ALL agree with the outcome of any PANORAMA decision.  Judging is just too subjective an exercise in anything, be it sports, skilled events or panorama.  Once there is the human element, therein lies the problem.  It is all good and well that we have a criteria to which the bands perform.  However, this is not the be all and end all.  The judges are human and all are slightly different.  The criteria is merely a start-point especially when the competition is tight.  I have performed in Panoramas judged by Anthony Prospect (single judge).  I have also done the same with Ms. Marjorie Padmore, (single judge).  I am also very aware of the work of Mr. Prescod.  I can tell you that if these three judges were to judge the same Panorama and the competion is tight, we would have three different winners.  Simply because each has a different focus.


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