CUMB: “Look At Us Now”

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This is NOT our Marching Band

This is NOT our Marching Band

Last week, a college sports guy wrote about how much he dislikes Ivy League marching bands (or rather, “marching” bands). This past Saturday, the Columbia University Marching Band responded with the below letter. Catch the second promo video for Orgo Night after the jump.

To the Editor:

I am a Columbia University undergraduate and a member of its marching band. I am writing in response to Valley News staff writer Tris Wyke’s Nov. 25 blog post, “The Worst Part of Ivy League Football Games,” which described Ivy League scramble bands as groups of people running around aimlessly while a student spokesperson yells idiotic, inside jokes over the intercom.

“Traditional” marching bands impose themselves on the audience. They play their songs, they march in line, and we, the viewers, sit and watch. They play the part that they are “supposed” to play. Being in a scramble band is a bit like being a street artist. Some will ignore what you do; others will be annoyed or frustrated by it. Some, on the other hand, recognize the fact that you’re injecting a spark of the exceptional into the mundane. A scramble band offers liberty to its audience. Ignore us, insult us, love us — do what you will with what we give you. When I run out on the field with my light-saber and plastic Ninja sword in hand, it isn’t merely to keep the beat; it’s to challenge your expectations of what a band “should” be. Scoff at the idiocy you might think you see, but whether you like it or not, you’re reacting to us.

Here’s a perfect example: For the Cornell half-time show, the Columbia University Marching Band performed John Cage’s masterpiece 4’33 , which consists of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. About a minute into the performance Cornell’s audience started to boo and throw insults at the band. “Bands are supposed to play music!” one man yelled. To that I reply, “Are they? Look at us now.” By performing in absolute silence, the band invited the audience into the show.

Are we naïve, drunken college kids mocking the system? Are we dancing poets playing the pied piper’s flute to anyone who will listen? Am I serious when I lay the philosophical foundations of a scramble band in a letter like this? Whatever we do, we work at it. You can at least appreciate that.

Caleb Alan Oldham


In other news, the band’s second promo video for Orgo Night is out! Watch it in all its sexual glory after the jump.

Absolutely not the point via Shutterstock.

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  1. Anonymous

    Actually 4 33 is not "silence." The music is the incidental sounds that come from the audience and setting of the performance. This way the piece becomes independent of the performer and is always changing. Therefore the audience heckling at Cornell could be considered a great success for the piece's performance.

  2. aBANDa please?  

    so why doesn't the band become a performance art group and kids who actually want to play music for audiences be the band?

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