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Thread: Question About Skating Music... (oh, and Backflips)

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    Tripping on the Podium
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    Question About Skating Music... (oh, and Backflips)

    Hello, long time lurker, infrequent poster.

    I have a question for all the experts here. I know there's a rule that skaters aren't allowed to compete to music that has vocals on it (although I believe that ice skaters are an exception to the rule in one phase of competition, and some humming can be allowed, a la Katarina Witt's last Olympic program).

    I'm curious, is there an official reason or explanation for the rule? I assume it's so judges don't get influenced by the song's lyrical content, but I wasn't sure.

    Also what do people think about the rule? Could you ever see yourself supporting the rule being repealed? What would you think about a program where Johnny Weir skates for an Olympic medal to "Poker Face" (like in his exhibition, but with all the necessary technical elements)? I'm not sure how I'd feel about it myself, but it would sure be interesting; that's for sure...

    Oh, and one more question: what's the reasoning behind the ban on backflips? Is it because they're too dangerous, or is it because they're considered mere "tricks" and not really skating moves??
    Last edited by tommyk75; 01-28-2010 at 12:33 PM.

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    Blue-footed Booby aftertherain's Avatar
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    Can't answer your question on vocals, but I found an article of sorts on the backflip:
    http://figureskating.about.com/od/gl...g/backflip.htm
    The Backflip Caused Controversy at the 1976 Olympic Games:

    There was a great controversy about the backflip at the 1976 Winter Olympics. While U.S. men's figure skating champion, Terry Kubicka, was doing another move, a flying sit spin, at one of the practice rinks, his blade went through to a plastic pipe and caused a leak. That accident caused the rink to close for 24 hours.

    Even though the move that caused the leak was not Kubicka's backflip, that may have been part of the reason that the backflip eventually was banned by the ISU. Their "official" reason was because the landing was made on two feet instead of one and was not a "real" jump. Later, Surya Bonaly landed the backflip on one foot at the 1998 Olympics, but the move was still considered illegal.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    For skaters who find it difficult to feel and show emotion on the ice, certain music pieces give them the needed assistance to connect to the audience and judges. The music of Carmen, Madama Butterfly, Swan Lake, etc give the bland skaters a chance to emote with character. Lyrics to pop music would also be an aid to such skaters.

    Music pieces such as Rhapsody in Blue, Violin and piano concertos, etc, stress a certain kind of music, and with their special tempos, challenge skaters to demonstrate to the audience and judges, the character of the music without a story. Much more difficult.

    If singing lyrics are permitted in competitions, I would not object, but it would not show a skater's ability to convey a musical message. It would, however,give the skater a story line to follow for emotional purposes.

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    Re backflips: I hadn't heard the broken pipe story before. Interesting.

    What I've always heard as the official reason that backflips are illegal is that "it's not a skating skill." This is also the reason for banning a number of moves used in pairs and dance, and moves that don't involve blades on the ice, e.g., Philippe Candeloro's shin spin.

    Also, and this would apply to headbanger/bounce spins in pairs as well, which are also illegal in competition, it's potentially very dangerous, more likely during the process of learning the move than in performance after it has been mastered.

    OK, so it's not really a skating skill. Why should that mean it should be banned and not simply ignored in the judging?

    1) Because the move is exciting to watch, it would be confusing for audiences to see skaters who skate well and include such flashy moves lose to skaters who may also skate well but with less flash.

    2) When skaters who do include the move also win on the strength of the rest of their skating, they may be inspired to try to learn the move themselves in the mistake belief that it would help their results.

    3) Some skaters may then try to learn the moves without already possessing sufficient acrobatic skill and without adequate safety precautions or appropriate coaching. Most skating coaches do not have a background in performing or teaching acrobatic skills. So a skater who tries to learn it from a coach who's just trying to figure it out at the same time, or without a coach and without proper off-ice preparation, harnesses, helmets, etc. in the learning process, could risk catastrophic injury all for a move that wasn't going to help his/her skating results anyway.

    Now that all the points gained and lost are spelled in published protocols this would be less of an issue than under the old system. Audiences and other skaters would see how many points the skater gained for everything else they did and how much they lost for including the illegal move. In theory the wording could be changed to convey the message that the moves are allowed but they will always earn negative points.

    Which in effect was always true. Skaters who intentionally broke the rules to perform illegal backflips in competition weren't disqualified. They just received deductions and probably placed lower than they would have if they had just done a simple glide or a single jump at that point of the program.

    Like illegal pair moves such as headbangers and detroiters, backflips are popular moves in show skating, including exhibitions by elite competitive skaters. For those skaters or teams who have the skills and resources to learn these moves safely, they can add to the skater's appeal as a show skater. But there's no need to make an incentive for skaters who shouldn't be attempting them (for safety reasons) to believe they should try.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tommyk75 View Post
    I'm curious, is there an official reason or explanation for the rule? I assume it's so judges don't get influenced by the song's lyrical content, but I wasn't sure.

    Also what do people think about the rule? Could you ever see yourself supporting the rule being repealed? What would you think about a program where Johnny Weir skates for an Olympic medal to "Poker Face" (like in his exbition, but with all the necessary technical elements)? I'm not sure how I'd feel about it myself, but it would sure be interesting; that's for sure...
    The positive sides of allowing music with lyrics would be:

    1) Skaters would have a much wider selection of potential music to choose from.

    2) Especially popular music that skaters and audiences are more likely to relate to.

    3) Skaters who choose to use mainly instrumentals from rock songs or other genres that include lyrics would be better able to use the original arrangements rather than having to resort to symphonic arrangements that lose the feel of the original song.

    I'm not sure what the official reasoning is for not allowing it. I can take a few guesses.

    1) Lyrics in a language that the judges understand can be distracting; part of their brain would be following the meaning of the words instead of focusing on the skater's technique or on how their movement relates to the rhythm and melody.

    2) With some songs, there might be too much temptation for skaters to try to act out the meaning of the lyrics rather than expressing the music by matching their movements to the rhythm and melody, which is the point of skating to music in the first place.

    3) Internationally, skaters who use lyrics in a language that both the skater and the audience understand would have an advantage in terms of connecting with that audience over skaters who don't. Which means that skaters from smaller countries with more obscure languages that rarely host championships would perpetually be at a disadvantage.

    4) Music for skating programs is often edited to meet the time limits and match the phrasing needed for performing elements, variety between slow and fast sections, etc. Good music editing takes care to respect the integrity of the original phrasing, not make unprepared jumps between distant key signatures, etc. Including lyrics would make it even harder to edit intelligently, because there would also need to be an effort not to turn the lyrics into nonsense.

    5) A lot of songs that are popular, especially with kids, tend to be pretty simple and/or repetitive musically. The skater might choose a song because she enjoys it, but there really wouldn't be much there to work with musically. And editing together several different songs to provide variety would be even trickier than combining different instrumental pieces.


    Some of those concerns are mitigated with ice dancing because ice dancers are trained from the very beginning of that discipline to skate to the musical rhythms. That's the main point of that sport, especially in the compulsory dances.

    For freestyle skaters, skating to music is often an afterthought. So the potential for really ineffective music choices is much higher.

    ETA: And not many songs are structured appropriately for including 7-8 jump passes.

    I think something like "Poker Face" would be most effective as an exhibition where the technical content can be chosen to fit the song, next most effective as part of a free dance combined with one or two contrasting but related musical selections, and least effective as part of a freestyle long program.

    Some songs might work well for short programs, in which jumps make up a smaller percentage of the elements.

    If vocal music were allowed in freestyle programs, I'd expect that the best uses would be to start with an instrumental selection to support the big jumps and then to include one vocal section either as a "slow section" in the middle or as a quicker section with footwork and easier jumps near the end.
    Last edited by gkelly; 01-28-2010 at 10:37 AM.

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    Custom Title antmanb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    Also, and this would apply to headbanger/bounce spins in pairs as well, which are also illegal in competition, it's potentially very dangerous, more likely during the process of learning the move than in performance after it has been mastered.
    I have heard that argument used for the head banger but I wonder genuinely how hard a love this is to learn. On Dancing On Ice here in the UK (this is a skating with the stars type programme) every season contains at least one couple who build up to doing a head banger in their routine. It adds drama and weeks of variations, without the bounce. It is always with a "celebrity" female, so the pro is the man who knows how to do it, but if a celebrity non-skater can build up to this move within 3 or four months or first lacing up a pair of skates, I wonder just how difficult and dangerous it is to learn.


    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    For freestyle skaters, skating to music is often an afterthought. So the potential for really ineffective music choices is much higher.

    ETA: And not many songs are structured appropriately for including 7-8 jump passes.
    I'm not sure that this isn't the case right now. Many skaters skate through their music rather than using it, particularly at the lower levels. I have often heard people say that at least the judges are more likely to enjoy a no-lyric piece of music than listening to endless versions of a pop song du jour which may not be to the (often older) judges taste.

    That said I think a younger skater may stand more of a chance of interpretting a song with lyrics than they do a piece of classical music that may require some maturity/real knowledge of music to appreciate and interpret.

    I don't think there are many pieces of music with or without lyrics that are structured to fit 7-8 jumping passes in them without some serious musical editing. I'm not sure that the skaters really ever do all of their jumps at appropriate places musically.

    Ant

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    Go marry the quad if you love it so much DesertRoad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    1) Lyrics in a language that the judges understand can be distracting; part of their brain would be following the meaning of the words instead of focusing on the skater's technique or on how their movement relates to the rhythm and melody.
    If a judge, with all the training and seminars, still can't judge skating while lyrics are sung, they shouldn't be judges.

    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    2) With some songs, there might be too much temptation for skaters to try to act out the meaning of the lyrics rather than expressing the music by matching their movements to the rhythm and melody, which is the point of skating to music in the first place.
    The lack of lyrics doesn't exactly discourage skaters from adding story lines to their programs. And a skater's inability to express the music should be punished in the PCS, not coddled and insulated by rules.

    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    3) Internationally, skaters who use lyrics in a language that both the skater and the audience understand would have an advantage in terms of connecting with that audience over skaters who don't. Which means that skaters from smaller countries with more obscure languages that rarely host championships would perpetually be at a disadvantage.
    Are we seriously going to pretend that instrumental music is more universal than songs with lyrics? Not in the modern world, where popular songs all over the world are ones with words, while instrumental tracks of classical music and movie soundtracks are often much more specific in culture and location.

    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    4) Music for skating programs is often edited to meet the time limits and match the phrasing needed for performing elements, variety between slow and fast sections, etc. Good music editing takes care to respect the integrity of the original phrasing, not make unprepared jumps between distant key signatures, etc. Including lyrics would make it even harder to edit intelligently, because there would also need to be an effort not to turn the lyrics into nonsense.
    Well, we wouldn't want skaters to have to do anything difficult, would we? Not that it's actually difficult to edit songs with lyrics. It's done all the time to get popular songs to fit radio airplay, commercials, movie trailers, remixes, mash-ups and so on. In fact, outside of the insular world of skating, the majority of music editing is done on songs with vocals.

    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    5) A lot of songs that are popular, especially with kids, tend to be pretty simple and/or repetitive musically. The skater might choose a song because she enjoys it, but there really wouldn't be much there to work with musically. And editing together several different songs to provide variety would be even trickier than combining different instrumental pieces.
    Oh, vocal music is "simple" and "repetitive" (you'd think that'd make them easier to edit, not harder) and therefore unworthy, but instrumental stuff is somehow superior? Bolero and Lux Aeterna have as much variety as a desert landscape. And Bach's music by rote has all the complexity of an early 90's ringtone. The human voice is, by far, the most complex, varied and temperamental instrument. It produces vastly more nuances than other instruments do. Skaters can and often do choose simple and repetitive music. If they then skate simple and repetitive programs to it, again, that should be punished in the PCS, not coddled by a rule that doesn't prevent it anyway.
    Last edited by DesertRoad; 01-28-2010 at 12:29 PM.

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    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DesertRoad View Post
    If a judge, with all the training and serminars, still can't judge skating while lyrics are sung, they shouldn't be judges.
    It's not a judge's problem. It's a skater's problem to show the character of the music. If the skater needs lyrics because he can not get emotionally involved otherwise, well the judge has to take that into consideration.

    The lack of lyrics doesn't exactly discourage skaters from adding story lines to their programs.
    Of course not. Many plotless dances and ballets are interpreted differently by different dancers.

    Music is already a part of the PC scores. However, the esthetic value of music is throughout the skater's program. Does it affect the judge's view on the whole program? We can't answer that

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    At the 2009 GC meeting USFSA approved the use of vocal music in singles and pairs up through the Intermediate level. It is my understanding it will come up at the 2010 ISU Congress, where it is sure to be controversial.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    I, too, think that the danger would be that vocal music would overwhelm the skating. Like at professional shows, where the skaters are performing to a live band, the skating is just a kind of side show. Would anyone really care if someone is skating or not when Pavarotti is bellowing out Nessun Dorma?

    Ballets don't usually feature vocal music because you are supposed to be paying attention to the dancing.

    (I might make an exception for Johnny Weir's Poker Face, however, )

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    Go marry the quad if you love it so much DesertRoad's Avatar
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    There are many forms of dances that are traditionally accompanied by singers, from flamenco to capoeira to kuchipudi. It's myopic, ethnocentric and outright silly to suggest that dancing can't be done to singing just because traditional ballet doesn't do it. We're not even asking the skaters to actually sing while they're dancing, like they do in Kabuki, Beijing opera, and Broadway musicals.

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    As a spectator I find music with lyrics very distracting from the skating as far as competitive skating. I have no problems with it in exhibitions, pro-level, etc. I think using music without lyrics gives the skater the opportunity to really interpret the music...unfortunately some don't have the musicality to do that, but when they do it's like watching a ballet.

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    Go marry the quad if you love it so much DesertRoad's Avatar
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    I don't think classical ballet is particularly good at expressing music. Classical ballet is extremely rigid and limited in its dance vocabulary. It is structured to the point of suffocation. And really, seeing dancers repeat a rond de jambe to the same three note motif in the score is as edifying as watching jazzercise. Thank heavens for modern dance.

    In the endeavor to encourage, or at least maintain the level of musical expression in figure skating, there are many other dance forms that should be referenced before ballet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DesertRoad View Post
    I don't think classical ballet is particularly good at expressing music. Classical ballet is extremely rigid and limited in its dance vocabulary. It is structured to the point of suffocation. And really, seeing dancers repeat a rond de jambe to the same three note motif in the score is as edifying as watching jazzercise. Thank heavens for modern dance.

    In the endeavor to encourage, or at least maintain the level of musical expression in figure skating, there are many other dance forms that should be referenced before ballet.
    I didn't mean ballet in a literal sense but in an interpretive sense...although there are also all sorts of ballet...not just the classical variety...but most any sort of intepretive dance would serve as an example.

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    One of the difficulties with skating music is the matter of licensing. Typically, the broadcaster, rather than the skater, arranges to pay the owner of the copyright on the music, if the music has not passed into open, free use. However, using classical music avoids some of the problem, one reason so much classical music is used.

    A current case is with DomShabs Aborigine Dance. Chandra, the composer and performer of the pieces they skate to, both was not asked permission, and is supposed to have said that if asked she would not give it. If this were youtube, and she conveyed that disapproval to youtube, the soundtrack of their performance would be blocked, and in some circumstances the video deleted. What happens with NBC is unclear. Perhaps they pay Chandra. Such negotiations have never been visible to me. Skating to Carmen does not cause this sort of difficulty.

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