Noise, Piped-In And Otherwise Comment Count

Brian September 15th, 2009 at 1:53 PM

Apparently it's ND Nation week on MGoBlog. Eh.

eminem_lose_yourself_grammys2    vs    mmb



This is, without question, a first:

I was there too, with a UM friend of mine.  He was at the UM game against WMU the weekend before, and he said the music was not played that weekend. In fact, he said he's never heard music played at any Michigan home game. Yesterday was his first ND/Michigan game in the Big House. Maybe it's just something they do for us. Wouldn't surprise me.

We both thought it was bulls---. With those new press box/fan suite things they've built at the top of the stadium, that place got really loud. The Eminem songs only made it worse.

I guess that's why they call it home field advantage.

Leaving aside this guy's probably-fictional Michigan friend who went to the Western game and didn't notice the RAWK MUSIC, this is an opposing fan complaining about the noise level in the stadium. Even if this is just more complaining to complain, it's still a 180 from the usual laughter at the 110,000 quietest people in America or whatever. As a group of people naturally inclined to laugh at all things Michigan, statements like this are as close to proof as you're ever going to get about the effect of the new boxes:

I thought the place seemed so much more intimidating
by BigEND (2009-09-13 21:09:28)

with the skyboxes there. It was louder and felt like you were really in a "big house". I still can't understand why so many people complained when the plan was originally announced. That stadium will be 10 times better with those boxes finished.

You and me both, BigEND. Meanwhile, email from people who would know confirms the third-party impressions:

Brian -

I attended the WMU game with siblings who are recent graduates and former band members. The word they got from contacts still in the band is that the on-the-field noise is significantly louder, even if it doesn't seem so to the layman sitting in the 67th row.

Without having any sort of technical knowledge, my guess is that the new structures are aiming sound back into the bowl. Clearly not all of it, but enough to make it louder the deeper you are inside. (That's what she said?)

So, it might not seem much louder to us, but clearly LOUDER FIELD > LOUDER STANDS from a competitive standpoint. In other words, my screaming is more directly helping Brandon Graham to murderfy Jimmah this weekend.

Go Blue!

And this was just for Western. The initial take, then, appears to be that the optimistic projections this blog's scoffed at more than once are basically accurate. The luxury boxes are a huge aid to the noise on the field to the point where complaint-inclined opposing fans focus on it. This is a major win.


So, then, the other matter at hand. Last week everyone had a little conniption fit and I posted a poll about whether piped-in music should be slain out of hand or not. The results:

5: I love it.
17% (685 votes)
4: It's better than nothing
26% (1067 votes)
3: It's the same as nothing
14% (573 votes)
2: It's worse than nothing
17% (699 votes)
1: It is the devil.
26% (1090 votes)
Total votes: 4114

Of the 75% who care, respondents were evenly split between pro-and-con, but the con side was more strongly opposed. This was shocking to me, but I guess this blog's readership skews away from bluehairs. I also have one main explanation: it's the band's fault. Multiple band members have sent in emails about the shift in the MMB's focus over the last ten or so years, and 90% are along these lines:


I was in the band for the last few years of Professor Nix's turn at the helm, from 2003-2007*, and I would say that there was plenty of "blame" to spread around for the quieter band. During my years, we frowned upon bands like Notre Dame's that would sacrifice precision for loudness. I believe most of us felt this way, and while it's reasonable to say this mentality started at the top, which would mean Professor Haithcock, I think Professor Nix and his appreciation for the newer, drum corp influenced style of a marching ensemble was the biggest factor. And now, with Director Boerma, who also has strong drum corp ties, I'm sure that influence is just as strong or stronger. But, Haithcock did hire them, so we can just blame him.


I've got other emails claiming Nix was a huge proponent of loud and that Haithcock asked about making the band louder and etc etc etc and I don't care about who is at fault for what, all I know is that the main reason that poll above came out the way it did is because the band is not doing its job. Saturday I could barely make out the Victors on any of Michigan's touchdowns. About the only thing I heard at halftime was the drum corps. I've gotten plenty of complaints from kids in the student section who say they can barely hear the band and it's 30 rows away from them.

This does not have to be the case. I vividly remember going down to Auburn last year. I sat in the upper deck on the 40; the LSU band was stuck in the corner of the opposite endzone, and I could hear them loud and clear. They were blasting it. Auburn's band was also louder than the MMB. Click the link and see where we were, man… we were in orbit around a football game.

And then there's the SWAC:

That's Southern University making a strong argument for Michigan scheduling a SWAC school, any SWAC school, the next time it reaches into the I-AA ranks for an opponent.

What's the point of a marching band? To be audible outside in a stadium of 110,000. If you want musicality, there are a dozen other bands on campus you can join. Scott Boerma and his superiors are completely missing the point, and if the band is being marginalized on gameday it is entirely their fault. Personally, I hate it. I want the band to be awesome and wish piped-in music would die a fiery death. But when "Lose Yourself" gets vastly more reaction than anything you do and large sections of the stadium can't hear you at all, that's on you. What the hell is the point of a piccolo when the only people who can hear it are the ones playing it? Have you ever thought about the poor schmucks in section 16 who have never once heard The Victors after a touchdown? Think of the children, and do this:

On the band:  I used to play clarinet in the Ann Arbor Huron marching band.  (Why?  Beats me.  I should have learned how to play guitar like Slash instead.)  Clarinet, while fine inside, is a waste of time outside.  It cannot be heard.  Ditto the flute and the piccolo. 

What the MMB needs to do is (1) get rid of all the clarinets, flutes and piccolos, and (2) add 150-200 more trumpets and trombones.  Made the band bigger, and sacrifice a measure of technical proficiency (which 98% of the crowd wouldn't notice) in exchange for a big ol' Wall of Sound.


Brandt Goldstein


Or something. Your prime directive should be loud; if it's not no one can help you fight your slide into irrelevance.

PS: and dammit the hockey band director should dance, you communists.



September 15th, 2009 at 7:07 PM ^

I can't hear you because I'm pissed about "RAWK" music. You notice that I annoyingly type "RAWK" as opposed to "rock". This indicates that the music is shitty (see also, "M$U" as opposed to "MSU," "O$U" as opposed to "OSU," and "U$C" vs. "USC"). I do this even though no one born after Chuck Berry would call Sweet Caroline a "rock song."


September 15th, 2009 at 4:30 PM ^

If the statement is true that the musical mugwumps are predisposed to taking a “Drum Corps” style approach to the MMB, I’m not sure that’s a good thing. No doubt it fits their vision stylistically; drum corps is, after all, theatre and storytelling on a football field – musically satisfying and visually appealing. But what I don’t understand is a philosophy that seeks to superimpose a DCI (Drum Corps International) template on the marching band. (NOTE to the uninitiated: “drum corps” is insider parlance for a “drum & bugle corps,” a marching musical ensemble comprised of brass, percussion, and color guard; “drum corps” it is not synonymous with “drum line,” or the percussion instruments in a marching band.)

If you’ve witnessed a high-level DCI event, the combination of power and artistry is literally jaw-dropping. For folks who’ve played in a marching band or have some level of appreciation for the genre, I dare say the tingle factor, or GSI (goosebumps-per-square inch), of a World Class drum & bugle corps is unsurpassed. But there are some thoughts that come to mind when wrestling with the temptation to pattern a marching band philosophy after a drum corps:

1. The purpose of a drum corps. DCI events are entertaining – stunning, in fact (see this excerpt from the 2006 World Champions, the Rosemont Cavaliers). The complexity of the performances requires much better musicians and marchers than the typical marching band and those with an elitist bent (e.g., all former drum corps members) revel in that fact. But don’t forget: they are primarily geared toward competition and the point system strictly judges musicality, technical proficiency, and visual effect. The purpose of the band at a football game is not to higher score points for sticking the landing. True, the entertainment value is increased when they demonstrate a high level of proficiency, particularly the pre-game or halftime show. But technical excellence has to be heard to be appreciated. A symphony orchestra – or, for that matter, a bassoon quartet – is capable of evoking deep passion and intense emotion in the right setting (with the appropriate audience), but is that what’s called for at a football game? 110,000 enthusiastic fans desiring musical accompaniment and motivation while cheering their team to victory deserve something more than an ensemble that places the service of their art above the needs and expectations of the players and fans.

2. The instrumentation of a drum corps. The instrumentation of a Drum Corps is brass and percussion. Period! Color guard are added for visual effect, but there’s not a single member of the brass or drum lines who doesn’t either beat or blow 90 decibels all by themselves. No piccolos. No clarinets. No flutes. No bassoons, oboes, or English horns. There’s not even a baritone sax for Bo’s sake (even though they can honk pretty aggressively and belch quite a blast). A 235-member marching band will create a sound that you can hear a couple blocks away. But when you line up 150 brassers, a marching drumline and pit percussion, even playing at a professional level of technical proficiency, the sound is exponentially greater than the same-sized marching band by sheer virtue of the instrumentation and sound projection. A drum corps dialed up to triple-fff will halt traffic three counties away and part the hair of all those in the same zip code.

3. The “staging” of a drum corps. If you’ve ever seen a DCI event, one of the things that stands out is how the crowd is all seated on one side of the stadium. It’s much like a symphony concert venue except out-of-doors. The performers face the audience, even though they’re in a stadium. Not just that, but the stadium is generally silent. Except for occasional outbursts of applause, the corps is playing to fans focused on their performance. But at a football game, the band is not the main attraction. Sorry! Even at halftime, the band is the background music while the audience awaits the reappearance of the main attraction - the football team. Also, whether the band is in the stands or on the field, the situation is different from a drum corps performance inasmuch as only 40% (or less) of the audience is in the line of fire. At halftime the audience is moving, talking, milling about. During the game they’re cheering, yelling, or otherwise creating some level of distraction from the musical performers. There’s only a couple ways to counter that: Increase the numbers, change the instrumentation, or blow/beat harder!

As a former marching band AND drum corps performer, I understand the temptation to try to morph one into the other – and the elitist in me begs for the audience to focus exclusively on me and appreciate my musical virtuosity and ascendancy over all lesser instrumentalists and quasi-artistes. However, I think the function that a marching band is required to serve at a football game, along with these points (among others), beg for the powers that be to not allow the similarity of the two types of ensembles to confuse their purpose.


September 15th, 2009 at 8:00 PM ^

" A symphony orchestra – or, for that matter, a bassoon quartet – is capable of evoking deep passion and intense emotion in the right setting (with the appropriate audience), but is that what’s called for at a football game? 110,000 enthusiastic fans desiring musical accompaniment and motivation while cheering their team to victory deserve something more than an ensemble that places the service of their art above the needs and expectations of the players and fans."


I would add a few points:

The purpose of Drum Corp is Drum Corp. The purpose of Marching Band is supporting the football team and engaging the fans in the game of football.

You cant do both well. The doctor points out how much work goes into a DCI show. Corps will practice ONE show for an entire year. THe MMB needs a new show for every home game. It is structurally impossible to approach that goose-bump factor when you cant attain the precision. Throw in the requirement to high-step (akin to asking linemen to also hit fast-balls in the third quarter), and the directors that mix high-step and DCI have fated the band to mediocrity. Just what you see, and dont hear every Saturday.

Section 1

September 15th, 2009 at 4:31 PM ^

If I understand correctly, the gripe about the band was that recorded music could do more (than the Marching Band alone) to get the playas -- er, players -- jacked up.

People point to Wisconsin, and Jump Around, as an example of the "good." As kinds of things, and the kinds of atmosphere, that get the "good guys" jazzed up to play harder.

I was in Camp Randall for the UW-OSU game last year, and I witnessed first-hand the legendary Jump Around in the 3rd-to-4th quarter break. And I can tell you who got really jacked; it was Malcolm Jenkins and the Buckeyes:


September 15th, 2009 at 5:24 PM ^

Seriously, this is stupid. And please stop thinking that Piped-In Music = OMG Teh Black People Music, what with your suggestion for a "DJ contest" and your references to "playas." You are not cool, and you never will be when you do things like that.

The goal remains for the stadium to be loud, because Loud(er) Stadium = Tough(er) Place for Opponent to Win. It seems like the band people don't want to be on board with that, in which case you need to just quit. Seriously- the band is there to supplement the team and the game. The team and the game demand something louder than what the band has been producing, therefore there are (AFAIK) two options:

1. Pipe in RAWK music
2. Make the band louder

There is no third way here, if you want the stadium to be louder (which I assume you do). So piss all over piped-in music if you want, I don't care, but remember that if you piss all over option 1, then you have to be ALL IN for option 2 (which may entail getting rid of the fucking clarinets and flutes and whatnot). And as it appears right now, the band itself is not all in for option 2. Without option 2, we have no choice but to pipe in RAWK music. So please, choose your option.

If you don't like either option, then what you're really saying is "I don't support things that will help the team win games at home." I don't think you want to say that.

This whole conversation has annoyed to me to no end. I don't fucking care about the band, and I don't fucking care about the RAWK music. I care about Michigan winning lots of games at home and having a loud, intimidating stadium.

On second thought, I don't really care about either the band or the piped-in music. Never mind.


September 15th, 2009 at 4:54 PM ^

There are multiple issues that have attributed to the band's reduction of sound. Instead of adding to the current laundry list of reasons why, here are some ways to resolve the issues. Some of these issues can be fixed immediately, others will require time and some will require money.

  • Immediately the band can change their orientation. Simply pointing at the band middle of the east side structure (that's up and to the right of their current focal point) should allow the sound to cover more of the stadium. If that doesn't work try other focal points and leverage the new structures and their ability to reflect sound.
  • Get rid of the traveling bands. The traveling bands are cool, but takes the top players from every section away from the MMB for most of the 3rd quarter. So you've effectively taken a smaller ensemble and made it that much smaller. If anything, go back to only having the track band and have them spend less time away from the band.
  • The band needs to increase their numbers. Make membership to the MMB a requirement for more of the MT&D majors. The numbers will regroup as the team gets better (see MMB 2004 & 2005), but a sure thing is to require membership. This obviously won't be able to help this season, but it could for seasons to come.
  • Move the band. Find a better acoustic location for the band regardless of convenience to the field. This may mean putting the band higher into the student section. This could mean giving up the student half of section 25 and claiming section 32 and part of 33 and moving the band around the corner. There's got to be a better place for the MMB to be that, regardless of their numbers, will allow them to be heard throughout the stadium. I know the AD has made a place in the concrete of the stadium for the band, so this will cost money and take time, but it needs to be done.
  • Work on being louder (aka More Damn Sound). I did hear Scott say to the band on Saturday that they need to "fill the stadium". It would seem that some effort is being put towards this issue and as time goes on, they'll be louder.
  • Find a way to connect the band to the team (and Rich Rod). It seems clear that the team likes RAWK music and RR has been a strong proponent of its addition. The MMB needs to find what they can play/do that could connect them with the team. Without this connection, all is lost for the MMB.

I strongly believe that the RAWK music had little to do with getting the crowd into the game. RAWK music did not get section 38 to stand up for the majority of the game. RAWK music didn't make the crowd so pumped that they lost their minds and were loud while we were on offense. The fans have finally figured that their involvement can impact the game. The ND game will remind those in attendance at future games that we can have a home field advantage.


September 15th, 2009 at 6:41 PM ^

Ah, you typed my point and then some in less time, I concede.

I think if you took care of the membership, the traveling band could still exist without issue. I don't recall how far from the student section they travel, but that can alleviate some of the need for directing sound. At least they can move up to around section 30-31 and point right for the students right behind the band.

I hope you're right that it was the game and not the music that pumped up the crowd, maybe a few games like EMU will be a good experiment.

[edit: missed the point about REQUIRED membership, yes that is a bad idea]


September 15th, 2009 at 9:46 PM ^


Western sounds ok, but they look like garbage. Trust me, if you require Music Ed people to do band, they will half-ass it. Revelli's band required 2 years from music ed, and that worked out well, but that was because of Revelli, not because of the music majors. Also, there was a major shift in the school's perspective on the mmb once Reynolds retired, and i don't think it will ever go back (and really nor should it, its a performance school and it requires a high performance standard from Ed guys).

I like your other ideas. I would add playing in tune and getting the band to be rock solid on music memorization to the list of things to do, but volume isn't a major problem. If the band is on the press box side, they will always sound quieter to the students and inter-30 yard line blue hairs. MMB uses primarily uses bell front instruments, its a fact of life.


September 16th, 2009 at 6:36 AM ^

I thought it worked out well for the Bronco Band of the William Pease era. With the proper direction, as you pointed out with Revelli, it can work out well. Those that aren't motivated won't make block leaving those that want to be there to perform while the rest are there to help with the sound in the stands.


September 16th, 2009 at 9:19 AM ^

Another thought on requirement. Maybe we could meet in the middle by providing the choice between membership in the MMB or membership in a "reserves" capacity. They'd get a uniform, march to the stadium, and play in the stands (and post-game). To the public, they'd look like regular reserves, but to those members their time and physical commitment would be siginificantly reduced. I think something could be worked out so that they rehearse music with the band on Friday nights to work on the show music (which should be enough for music majors) after spending some additional time during band week to go over the traditionals and stand tunes.

Choosing membership in the "reserves" would eliminate the possibility of all trips, so it would be up to those members to decide what's important to them.


September 15th, 2009 at 11:30 PM ^

But one quick and easy band fix that I think absolutely needs to happen is to quit playing the Victors Waltz when the clock hits zero. The team may be pumped up and running around after a huge victory, but the crowd has to wait for 20 seconds to join in. That's just silly.

A simple change like this is very much tied into the "Find a way to connect the band to the team" goal.


September 15th, 2009 at 5:05 PM ^

To the fans across from the opposing band: can you at least hear the directional "Let's Go Blue" the MMB plays from their seats? If so, for a temporary solution, maybe we need to focus on asking Profs Boerma and Haithcock to be louder and alternate directions every couple songs or so (I'm guessing making a new formation with everyone pointed outwards in different directions would dilute the sound too much).

Also, since the AD seems pretty high on giving the wireless companies a sales boost with that 3rd/4th quarter song suggestion text message thing, why don't we have the suggestion be for the piped-in music and let the band choose for itself? Then nobody (everybody) will complain about the music choices!

I was typing that second one in jest, but now I wonder if that would actually happen, would everyone make an awful choice like Sweet Caroline, or is the whole draw of the texting that you get to influence the choice of the band, since you can hear the regular music anytime?


September 15th, 2009 at 5:22 PM ^

I would just like to point out that if kvetching over the band/rawk music is the continuing theme of Tuesdays this season, mostly because it means we have nothing else to kvetch about on the field, I am all for it.


September 15th, 2009 at 5:22 PM ^

I am sorry but that is not true at all. I am willing to bet that Boerma could arrange a version of the victors for all brass. With all brass all of the voices (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) are there. You could even add in some piccolo trumpets for a soprano voice. The alto voice is taken care of by mellophones. There is reason when my high school band (Mona Shores) had sectionals, the alto saxes and mellos had sectionals together. It is because we are the same voice.


September 15th, 2009 at 5:49 PM ^

Seven nation army kicks the crap out of anything that comes out of the current MMB stand tune repertoire so far this season. Don't get me started on thriller...I miss much as I loved Boerma when he worked with the Scouts, I cannot stand him with the MMB.

los barcos

September 15th, 2009 at 5:56 PM ^

after being mildly opposed to RAWK music, i hearby change my vote now that i wento the notre dame game. anyone who was there knows that when lose yourself and seven nation army came on the crowd went nuts. it was the loudest i have heard the stadium. ever.


September 15th, 2009 at 6:03 PM ^

I have been going to games since I was a kid.

I have noticed the band get quieter over the last several years as most have. In fact, a few years ago, about 3-5, myself and those around us agreed the tosu band was far superior to the MMB during halftime. Whether it was louder and better or just better I don't recall.

If improving the MMB's presence on gameday is to go to a more brass and less winds and makes it so we can all hear them, THEN MAKE IT HAPPEN!'s where I probably get negged to death, but I for one don't like rap or hiphop and from a tradition side of things don't care for the piped-in music (PIM). I agree it helps get the crowd going during those loooonnnnggg tv timeouts and that is a good thing.

The main differences between college and pro football is the pagentry (MMB) and the passion (playing for your school as opposed to $$$). I would much rather hear the band than piped-in music any day and twice on Saturday, but there are two problems, the band isn't loud enough and the PIM apparently gets the crowd more into things. Too much PIM and the band becomes a non-factor and the really great part of going to the game for the college atmosphere goes away as well.

I think the PIM was overdone against ND. Mainly because they played it while ND was at the line of scrimmage. I think it should end when they break the huddle. If sparty does that to us in a few weeks, we'll all go bananas.

I think PIM and MMB can co-exist, but a few things need to happen. One get the band louder, whether is different instruments or whatever, do it. Also they need to play some songs that get the crowd fired up.

PIM maybe has its place, but that place should not be to singularly disrupt the other team from calling signals. That is the crowd's job. If PIM gets the crowd louder and the crowd is the distraction, great!

I liked the reaction of the crowd to the music on Saturday, but I think it went way too long. My preference for music is more Arena Rock, but that's just me.

I one thing I don't want Michigan Stadium to become is another version of any NFL stadium or NBA arena. If that happens, the magic that is college football at the BIg House will be great diminshed.


September 15th, 2009 at 7:02 PM ^

Excellent post. While some PIM is okay, we may be going a bit overboard. I don't like rap either, and I'm a teenager. I like GNR's Welcome to the Jungle or some ACDC, but let's keep it to a minimum. Only play it before big downs and stop it once they break the huddle. The crowd should be able to take it from there.


September 15th, 2009 at 6:40 PM ^

Maybe we should all wear suits and ties to the games. Then we could all read the newspaper in between quarters and during time outs. After the game we can all go down to the local watering hole and have a scotch, no ice and talk about how fun church is going to be on Sunday.



September 15th, 2009 at 7:16 PM ^

The more noise the better...Whatever it takes to get that place rowdy. PIM is sweet. PIM + a loud bold band + stadium renovations = more intimidating big house.

Jeffy Fresh

September 15th, 2009 at 9:16 PM ^

Agree. The piped in music got everyone all jacked up. It was twice the energy as without the music. I know people like to hold on to tradition but shit the energy was unreal when welcome to the jungle was blasting and everyone was screaming. Never felt like that before.

Ace Deuce

September 15th, 2009 at 7:29 PM ^

FWIW the halftime selection for this week is of the RAWK variety and not of the alumni pleasing variety so we'll see if that makes any difference in the discussion.


September 15th, 2009 at 8:05 PM ^

All this clap trap is the one reason why things should go back to the old way. There is too much disagreement about this music thing. It sound like kids fighting over mom and dad's radio in the car on a long trip.

If the purpose is making Michigan Stadium louder then, there needs to be an overall theme that most people can live with.

If it is for fan enjoyment, it is impossible to please 112,000 rabid Wolverines from a variety of cultures.

One thing you may not have considered is, if recruits are in the stands traditional band music bites. If the mixtape is jumpin' then UM might attract some people to their program. Today's music is for the young unfortunately, not the cultured.