Mad World – Fight It or Embrace It
Show Music (from corpsreps.com):
Mad World by Orazbal, Roland
Harrison’s Dream by Grahm, Peter
Dismantling Utopia by Metheny, Pat
Smile by Chaplin, Charlie
The 2010 Blue Devils’ and Cavaliers’ shows, at first glance, seem to occupy two totally different places in the hearts of the average DCI fan. On the one hand, the discordant, cerebral, and prop filled BD show seemed to have a difficult time making an emotional connection to the majority of fans in the stands. If they did connect, it was sometimes in a negative manner, as some fans questioned the path the Devils took this past season. On the other hand, the Cavaliers were a fan favorite in 2010, and took on the role of dark horse, making a late season surge into championship contention, riding the waves of roaring crowd applause. A closer look, however, shows that both shows had similarities, as well. Both shows featured ballads that were twisted from their original arrangement. Both shows also featured stabbing discordant musical moments. On the visual side of the equation, both shows exhibited two of the best visual designs of the year. Ironically, both shows started the season as shows I didn’t care for, yet came to understand and cheer for by Finals.
“We all live in a Mad World”
Before the season, many drum corps submitted videos to the DCI judging community explaining their respective show concepts and musical selections. The Cavaliers were one of those corps and, after submitting to DCI, released an edited version of the video on YouTube so fans could also gain an early understanding of what Mad World was about. It was a great idea, and something I hope more corps do. Before I review the show, this is a good opportunity to take a look back at that video:
The subtitle of the 2010 Cavaliers (Fight It or Embrace It) is perhaps more important than the main title, as this is the basic journey the corps takes us through. Of course, the theme of Mad World, in it’s musical form and the look of the color guard, is present throughout the show, but the point of the program, after all, is what we do with this mad world we’ve been dropped in. The first of our two options is to fight that madness, and the opening of the show jumps right into that theme. After a pre-show which features corps members “going mad” when stepping into a circle of flags, the corps builds out of a recorded instrumental track from the Donnie Darko soundtrack, from which the ballad version of Mad World comes from, into a fast paced, discordant, angry musical selection, Harrison’s Dream. The guard equipment reflects the music, with flags featuring an image of a screaming man superimposed over a red background. The corps is railing against the madness. That anger becomes more reflective in nature during a short ballad interpretation of Mad World.
We don’t reflect for long, however, as the drum line, in their own little moment of madness, has gone old school, in a fashion, and switched to Mylar drums. Playing a drum solo with martial feel, we see the corps begin to take their journey into madness, with the sounds of explosions and what may be the most iconic visual feature of 2010, This Is My Rifle. Most of us have at least heard The Rifleman’s Creed, most famously used in the movie Full Metal Jacket. Some readers may have even recited this creed themselves while training to become a Marine. The Cavaliers take selected lines from the Creed and, taking up guard rifles of their own, perform a routine involving the full corps yelling out those selections, doing pushups in unison while counting out loud, and marching in squads, calling out cadences. These are all meant to invoke the idea of war, which can be considered one of the few forms of madness that people willingly partake in. It’s no coincidence that the name of the piece during this section of the show is Dismantling Utopia and, as the corps finishes the selection with “screamin’ mad” trumpet soloists, you begin to see that the madness might not be so bad.
It’s the ballad, though, where the corps fully enters the Mad World. They do it subtly, though, as if to say that the brute force of the previous selection wasn’t the best way to bring you over to the dark side. While the horns play Charlie Chaplin’s Smile, you can hear little signs of madness, like the slightly off tune piano from the pit, sounding like a not quite right dream. During a visual interlude where the horns march in expanding and contracting circles intermeshing with one another, the pit plays the melody, featuring another piano, this time an old and busted bar piano, all overlayed by the sounds of mad laughter. It’s almost as if the Joker became a member of the design team, especially when you see all but one guard member don clown masks, beckoning the lone holdout, which the show has focused on as he has resisted the madness up to this point, finally give in, embracing that madness. The corps signifies this decision in an almost celebratory mood, with new flags featuring a clenched fist superimposed over a yellow background, as if pumping their fist in time with the mad beat of the music. The closer also features a reprise of the main themes of the show, including a restatement of the Mad World theme, and plenty of that whiplash Cavalier drill we’ve come to expect from Michael Gaines. With one last mad laugh, the corps kicks into high gear and finishes their journey, almost like they’re flying over a cuckoo’s nest.
Now that you’ve read my thoughts on the 2010 Cavaliers, take another look at the show. Here is their performance from the DCI Southeastern regional in Atlanta, Georgia. Enjoy!